Simon Adingra: From Getting Duped to Washing Bowls in Benin at Age 12 to Becoming an AFCON Champion

Simon Adingra: From Getting Duped to Washing Bowls in Benin at Age 12 to Becoming an AFCON Champion

Lukman Mumuni
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
  • Simon Adingra is one of the revelations at AFCON 2023
  • The Brighton star has been an impact player for the host
  • Adingra served two assists as Ivory Coast won AFCON 2023

Ivory Coast went from the brink of elimination to winning the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.

Their journey to the final has the markings of hard work, dedication and determination.

Having lost 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea in their final group game, the AFCON host had to rely on results from other matches to determine their faith in the competition.

Simon Adingra, CAF, AFCON, Ivory Coast, Nigeria
Simon Adingra celebrates his goal for Ivory Coast against Mali at AFCON. Credit: @CAF_Online @FirstMagLeVrai
Source: Twitter

Luckily, Morocco did them a favour after beating Zambia in the final game of the group stages, as Ivory Coast sneaked into the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed teams.

In their run to the final, it is Brighton's 21-year-old winger Simon Adingra who has sparkled for the Elephants.

His introduction in the Round of 16 against Senegal proved crucial as Ivory Coast forced the game into extra time and eventually won on penalties.

Again, stand-in coach Emerse Fae trusted the youngster, making him his secret weapon on the bench. Adingra changed the game when he came on in the second half of the quarter-final game against Mali.

With the Ivorians a man down and a goal down, Adingra forced the game into extra-time with a poachers goal in the 90th minute. Oumar Diakite stole the winner at the death with a flick from Seko Fofana's strike, per Euro Sport.

He was the Man of the Match in the semi-final against DR Congo and delivered two assists in the final against Nigeria.

Adingra, before becoming a Premier League player and an Ivorian pearl, had to go through an ordeal at just the age of 12 before realizing his dream.

The Simon Adingra story

The Yamoussoukro-born forward has always had dreams of becoming a footballer at a very tender age. Adingra combined school and football while growing up but everything changed when a man came to his father with the promise of sending his son to an Academy in Benin. Adingra's family had to raise 300 Euros to pay the man as part of the deal for his son to pursue his football career.

"I was playing in the street in Ivory Coast. A crook took 300 euros from me to take me to a training center in Benin. There, I washed plates in restaurants in exchange for some money and meals," he said, as reported by First Mag LeVrai.
"One day, a coach came to see my parents saying that he knew a good academy in Benin that needed young talents like me. My father, who has since passed away, always wanted me to become a footballer and agreed for me to leave. We had to pay a sum of around 300 euros to this guy, and I left for Benin with nine other young Ivorians.
"Except this guy was a crook. He made it all up and left with our money. There was no academy or accommodation for us there. All ten of us were in Benin, at the age of 12, left to our own devices without anyone's help. We didn't even have money to feed ourselves... There were then two possibilities: either return to Ivory Coast or wait and see if an opportunity came along We decided to all stay together and do odd jobs to start earning money, such as washing plates in restaurants in exchange for some money and meals."

Saved by Grace

While planning to return home, Adingra and his friends met their guardian angel. Things went from bad to good as the man identified the talents of the young Ivorians. He started an academy with them.

"One day, we were walking down the street and a guy who studied in Ivory Coast recognized our Ivorian accent. He was surprised to find around ten young Ivorians in Benin. We explained the situation to him, and he was scandalized by the conditions in which we lived," he continued.
"He did everything to find us another house and had the idea of ​​creating a small football academy with the nine young people and me. Over time, other players joined the center and it became a real academy in Benin. One day he saw on the Internet that there was a tournament in Accra, Ghana, and we went to play there. I am still in contact with him; he actually came to see me play at Union-Zulte Waregem at the beginning of February."

From Benin to the Right to Dream

Adingra began to polish his talent at the Academy in Benin. Little did he know that it was the beginning of greatness for him as the team got invited to a youth tournament in Ghana.

"During the tournament in Ghana, recruiters from the 'Right To Dream' Academy were charmed by my performances and offered me a two-week test at their fairly renowned training center. There, everything was very professional with a great organization and qualified coaches, even if it was not easy for me at the beginning, because I did not speak English. In the morning, we had a moment of prayer all together before going to the "school. In the afternoon we had training. I stayed there for two years and played with Kamaldeen Sulemana, who currently plays for Southampton, and Mohamed Kudus from Ajax (at West Ham Currently)," concluded the Brighton star.

Dorgeles refuses to celebrate goal

Earlier, Sports Brief reported that Mali winger Nene Dorgeles refused to celebrate after scoring a screamer in the quarter-final clash against Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Dorgeles announced his presence moments after replacing Adama Traoré by firing from outside the box with 19 minutes remaining.

However, the host nation forced the game into extra time after Brighton winger Simon Adingra levelled in the final minute before Oumar Diakite stole the winner with the final kick of the game.

Lukman Mumuni photo
Lukman Mumuni
Lukman Abdul Mumin is a Sports Journalist based in Accra, Ghana. He has been writing for the past five years. Lukman joined Sports Brief as an Editor for the Local Desk in 2022.