What became of them… Issa Traoré dit Laïs: Great actor and witness to the history of Malian football

What became of them… Issa Traoré dit Laïs: Great actor and witness to the history of Malian football

At the end of our interview with Issa Traoré dit Laïs, it is difficult to find the right words for the dimension of its value at the risk of devaluing it. Should he be called a monument, an icon or an encyclopedia of Malian football? To be precise, there are not too many words to label it. Laïs is one of the first players of the national team at the independence of Mali in 1960. In short, it is rare to meet former glories like him. Married and father of eight children, he enjoys iron health despite his 85 years. Son of a marabout and very educated in the Koran, his schedule is devoted to the maximum practice of the Muslim religion, a daily morning walk of 45 minutes. Laïs has an almost infallible memory and remains passionate about Malian football and Djoliba AC. As part of the “What happened to them?” section, Issa Traoré dit Laïs gave us an interview at his home in Ouolofobougou-Bolibana. Need we remind you that he is a childhood companion of compol Yacouba Coulibaly (former commissioner of the 2nd arrondissement, arrested and sentenced with Tiécoro Bagayoko in 1978) and Moctar Koureichi. These two personalities are also passed in the section “What became of them?” because they have a story. Who is Lais? How the Djoliba was created? The meaning of the name Djoliba? What vision does he have of today’s Reds? The first captain of Djoliba AC was well inspired to mark his passage in your favorite column.

The fact for us to constantly evoke the sports newspaper “Podium” of Amap is justified by the history of Malian football that it restores to us through its comments and photos. In 1961, the date of the first Mali Cup final – we weren’t yet born – a Podium poster nevertheless lets us know that it opposed Djoliba to the Malian stadium in Bamako.

It is especially this exchange of pennants between the two captains Laïs and Piantoni which holds our attention and constitutes a reason to keep this number nowadays. Too bad the captain of Stade Malien died before we took service at the newspaper Today Mali. But that of Djoliba is alive and well, and thank God we have the opportunity today to talk about his career.

Final of the 1961 Mali Cup. Exchange of pennants: Laïs on the left.

Issa Laïs Traoré is a thoroughbred Djolibiste, having been one of the architects of the merger that led to the creation of Djoliba in 1960. This first turning point in the history of the club is worth a gold mine for him as good memory of his life. Added to this the first Mali Cup final between Djoliba and the Malian stadium in Bamako. The Whites won by three goals to two.

Despite the fair play he has always imposed on himself, Laïs contests this stadium victory, regretting the bias of the central referee. In what then? “I still remember the action that led to the penalty. The stadium striker in his attempts to overflow, ends up firing a shot. The ball cushions on my stomach. Now the referee points to the penalty spot, and I asked him what happened? He maintained his decision and the Stade won the first Mali Cup. A few days after this final, he apologized to me and admitted that the penalty was not justified. Shame ! The damage was already done”.

How did he experience the arrest of Tiécoro Bagayoko? In addition to being childhood friends, they have special relationships with their respective wives. Laïs says that this event was dramatic and regrets that Tiécoro had harbored false hopes regarding his release. He met the former director general of the security services thanks to the late ATT, in his time commander of the Para Company.

The origin of “Djoliba”

It was his childhood friend Yacouba Coulibaly who gave him the nickname Laïs. They evolved together in the FC Bayard (knight without fear and without reproach in the history of France) in the years 1948-1949. This neighborhood club, created at the instigation of Moctar Koureichi, has experienced its rise in local competitions. VS’

Laïs on the right with the Workers’ Life Cup in 1966 in Paris

is above all the district youth league, created by Modibo Traoré dit Modibo Djan from Bagadadji, which was a trigger for this team by the performances recorded.

In 1955, FC Bayard merged with the Jeunesse ardente de Bamako-Coura to give birth to Africa whose tenors in addition to Laïs were Karounga Kéita dit Kéké, M’Baye Niambélé, Minamba Kéita, Samba Sangaré dit Johnny, Mamadou Kassa Traoré, Abdoulaye Traoré aka Miss-Miche, Moustaph Coulibaly, Bourama Traoré aka Gilmar, Yacouba Coulibaly, Seydou Bamba, Abdoulaye Maïga, etc.

This new baby who is starting to grow stronger teeth represented French Sudan at the French West African Cup (AOF) in 1958. His promoter future unexpectedly darkened. And for good reason ! But in the right way. President Modibo Kéita on a state visit to Dakar witnesses the defeat of Joan of Arc of Bamako. This shocks him.

A convinced patriot, he instructed the merger of clubs to reduce their number in order to have representative formations. Now the Djoliba AC is created with conditionalities. The two merged teams: Africa and the Hearth must give up their name, for another in the consensus. Fousseyni Diabaté, a supporter of the Foyer, and a great trade unionist proposes the appellation “Djoliba”.

His historic demonstration of the Djoliba River moves the audience because the African finds himself with this name. Immediately a provisional office headed by Tiéba Coulibaly is set up. It is from this date that the history of the Reds begins with as first captain Issa Traoré dit Laïs. He is one of the nuclei of the first national team of Mali which is illustrated with the Kwame Nkrumah Cup. What parallel between the Djoliba of yesterday and that of today? A big difference in mentalities, he argues. The club had values ​​that are no longer relevant. This was the strength of Djoliba and was the difference with other clubs. The players had a passion for the team.

Today Laïs says he has a big problem, a concern because the Djoliba suffers from an internal problem, which is why he no longer recognizes himself in his favorite club.

Thus, in his capacity as libero, he directs the central djolibist axis. But only for four seasons. Yes, because he leaves the country never to return. How ? What caused this final departure?


Having become the pillar of the defensive bastion of the Reds, Issa Traoré was logically selected for the national team, from the first hours of independence. He was already working as an accounting assistant at the FAO Company. His repeated absences linked to boarding school time and trips to the national team annoy his hierarchy. Which did not hide his disapproval.

Laïs eventually complied following the instructions of Minister Jean-Marie Koné. Despite everything Laïs, to avoid administrative problems, decides to boycott a trip of the national team, where Mali was to meet Upper Volta in the framework of the Kwamé Nkrumah Cup.

To put a stop to all these actions, the Minister of Youth and Sports assigns him to Civic Service. This is where Laïs benefits from a scholarship on Germany. From this new adventure, according to himself, he deserted, that is to say that he no longer returns to Mali and is removed from the public service.

After eight months, the former captain of the Reds arrives in France. The content of the course does not suit him because he wants to be a coach and not a football administrator. In Paris, Issa comes across a former COB player, Mamourou Sangaré, who offers him exquisite hospitality. Karounga Kéita said Kéké who was playing in Bordeaux at the time, advised his coach for a ten-day trial. Laïs passes the test, but he can only have trainee status with only bonuses. Such a proposal does not delight him, especially since he has a family in charge and must also take care of his elderly father. He necessarily needed a stable and consistent source of income. Laïs leaves the Girondas of Bordeaux and joins Mamourou Sangaré in Paris, who offers him his team “The Greens and Whites” of the Hachette Group. Issa Traoré accepts for having been hired by the club as an accounting assistant, in addition to housing and match bonuses.

Thereafter he became coach of the same team until 1976. In the meantime, he passed his coaching diplomas with Jacques Broussier and Michel Mersier. During all this time much water has flowed under the bridge. The love of the country forces him to return to Mali.

Laïs’ career is also linked on the one hand to good memories: the Kwame Nkrumah Cup and Mali’s victory against Senegal in 1962 (3 to 1), and on the other hand to bad memories: the final of the Mali in 1961 and the defeat of the national team in the final of the Kwame Nkrumah Cup against Ghana who won by 4 goals to 0.

In life, Issa Traoré dit Laïs loves his family, Djoliba, football. He hates betrayal, wickedness. The man is married and the father of eight children.

O. Roger Tel (00223) 63 88 24 23

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