Exodus, swindling... Simon Adingra's tortuous itinerary

Simon Adingra parcours
Exodus, swindling... Simon Adingra's tortuous itinerary

Best player of the AFCON 2023 final, Simon Adingra's career path was far from straightforward. The victim of a crooked agent when he was just 11, the teenager soon left his native Côte d'Ivoire and wandered to Benin before finding salvation in Ghana.

Simon Adingra's career

Simon Adingra hasn't spent much time in Bonoua, the town a few kilometers from the Ghanaian border where his parents live. The Yamoussoukro native from Tangamourou, a village in the commune of Tanda on the Tanda-Sandegué axis in eastern Côte d'Ivoire, quickly left the family cocoon. At the heart of a vast swindle
He had always dreamed of becoming a footballer, but got off to a rocky start. After taking up soccer on the streets of Abobo, Abidjan's most populous district, he found himself at the heart of a vast swindle. Just as many young footballers are victims today, forced into exodus and shipped off to unknown destinations by crooked players' agents or intermediaries.

Simon Adingra
Simon Adingra

Simon Adingra's parents were approached by one of his friends, who promised them a Mbappé-style destiny if they let him take their boy to a top European academy for cash. Concerned about their kid's future, they gave in to the pitch and Simon ended up not in Europe but in Benin. At the time, the 11-year-old had no idea what was going on. He made the trip with nine other toddlers, all equally gifted at soccer.

The year is 2018. A few months after landing in the land of the Amazons, Adingra and his friends are abandoned by their supposed benefactor. Left to their own devices, they wait for a helping hand from Providence, wandering the streets of Benin's capital with a vague feeling in their souls.

Saved by Wilfried Sourou

One of Adingra's first Ivorian coaches, whom Sports News Africa met in Abobo on February 18, 2024, recounted the misadventure that could have tipped the destiny of these youngsters to the dark side.

"When they arrived in Benin, the man pretended to be there with them for two or three days before taking off.Alone, without any family in this unknown country, they resolved, after drying their tears, to do odd jobs to survive. Their strength was their solidarity. There were about ten of them. They did everything together. And one day, as they wandered around in search of their daily bread, their Ivorian accent, recognizable a thousand miles away, attracted a gentleman. His name was Wilfried Sourou. He was a banker from Benin. He had lived in Côte d'Ivoire for fifteen years. He was even married to an Ivorian. So he knew Ivorians when he saw them. He took care of the kids. So he created his academy called ABI Sports with this core of 10 young Ivorians to whom he grafted young Beninese," explains Keita Kassoum, aka Coach Saviola.


"Despite his shyness, his talent spoke loud and clear".

From that moment on, Simon Adingra and his mates felt a real change. He was part of a real project, even if he was just starting out. Their only voice from then on was their talent, which they expressed on the wastelands of Cotonou and in official tournaments. One of the scouts from Right To Dream, a highly successful Ghanaian training academy, came to Benin on a scouting trip and came across the prodigies the whole town was talking about. His name is Jeremy Seethaal. He's a South African. He took them all to Accra for two weeks of testing.

"At the end of the test, only Simon was selected," says Sourou."We were happy, all of us happy to have him with us. Despite his shyness, his talent spoke very loudly," confides Seethaal.

After three years of training, Adingra was transferred to Danish club Nordsjaelland in 2020. There, he made 38 appearances for 11 goals over two seasons, before signing for Brighton and subsequently being loaned out to Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium. The rest is history for the 22-year-old African champion...




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