SoccerKoro Koné: “Obviously I want to taste the Super League again”
The Ivorian from Yverdon-Sport is shining at the start of the season. Before Friday’s derby in Neuchâtel against Xamax, the found striker oscillates between ambition and caution.
Like his team Yverdon-Sport, leader of the Challenge League after three rounds, Koro Koné leads the very provisional ranking of the scorers’ ranking, he who remains on two doubles in Vaduz (3-3) then ahead of Thun (3- 1). All this obviously requires confirmation and the 33-year-old Ivorian has too many bottles not to get carried away. But we feel happy, liberated, at the antipodes of his terrible 2020/21 season with Servette.
You have scored four goals in three league games. Do your teammates start calling you Leo or Cristiano in training?
(He bursts out laughing). Oh no, not at all! I believe that just like me, they know how to make sense of things (he starts laughing again).
Joking aside, this good start to the season, both individually and collectively, should make you want to continue on this path…
We have prepared very well and we are reaping the benefits. The whole team was keen to do everything possible to make a successful start to the season, after what we had experienced last year (note: a small point scored in the first five matches). And now that we are on this good momentum, of course, it makes you want to continue like this.
To continue means to achieve a result on Friday evening in Neuchâtel. Do you go there with the confidence of the leader who visits the Red Lantern or do you fear the reaction of the wounded animal that is Xamax?
We don’t fear them, but we respect them. They are preparing to play a derby at home after three defeats to start this championship, so they will definitely want to show a reaction. We know it will be difficult, especially on their synthetic pitch. But we are not going there to play it small arm, we want to maintain our momentum and take points. Knowing that opposite, Xamax will do everything to beat the leader.
In six matches played against Xamax, with Servette then Yverdon, you scored four times. Is it a coincidence or is there something that makes you better against them?
I don’t know, I don’t believe. But it’s true that I always behave rather well against this team and that constitutes an additional motivation to continue to do well. I hope that the statistics will be confirmed this time again.
And the Super League, knowing that three teams could join it next spring, are you already thinking about it or is it too early?
On the one hand, it’s too early to talk about it. But of course we know that this season is a bit special, with two direct promotions plus a play-off. Personally, yes, of course I want to try the Super League again in my career. But at the level of our team, of our project with all the new players, it’s not yet the time to talk about promotion. We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves and, if we are still well placed in March or April, then it will be time to talk about it. One thing is certain: we know that in this Challenge League championship, where everything is so tight, everything is possible.
On a more personal note, you have been flourishing for a year at Yverdon, after a nightmarish last 2020/21 season in Geneva. Can we speak of rebirth?
No, I wouldn’t say it like that, although it’s true that I completely lost confidence in my last year with Servette – and confidence is so important, for a striker… Despite this difficult season, the leaders d’Yverdon believed in me and I rediscovered the taste and the pleasure of playing football. But more than a rebirth, I see a form of continuity in my career, where I alternated between good and bad times – I had had good years in Geneva, to start with. I am now happier on the pitch and it shows in my performance. I want to prove to my managers that they were right to trust me.
Have you learned any lessons from this difficult time?
Yes. I worked a lot on myself. I know that there are times when one is less well in a career. And it is precisely in these moments when you have to show character, show that you are a man. I wanted to prove that I was still capable of being a good football player and scoring goals.
Are you, at 33, better than ever on the pitch?
It’s not important, I don’t bother with this kind of formula. I have confidence in myself, in my qualities. I don’t feel any better than when I was 23 or 25. But I have gained in maturity, I manage the pressure better, I understand the matches better. And that makes me want to continue like this and, why not, to be able to dream of a rise in the Super League.