Arsenal winger Gervinho has revealed he may never have played football, had his family had their way.
The Emirates Stadium favourite said he had to convince his family to allow him to attend the prestigious Jean-Marc Guillou academy in Abidjan.
Arsene Wenger’s latest Ligue 1 recruit believes he may never have had a career in football if he had not been able to attend the football academy set up by the former France international.
“I don’t know what I would have done had I not become a footballer,” said the 24-year-old.
“I’ve always wanted to do that, even when my family would try to stop me playing football so that I went to school.
“They wanted me to go to a normal school. They felt it was a bit risky as the academy was new and not really known. I had to bring someone who had faith in my skills to convince them.
“I started playing at my local estate club. I used to wake up every morning to go to play in the club. I loved it so much, it brought a lot of wonderful things in my life.
“Back in the days, being able to join the Jean-Marc Guillou academy was one of the best things that could happen to a youngster from Ivory Coast.
“There were thousands of kids who wanted to join that school so it was a great feeling for me.”
The JMG Academy has an outstanding reputation for developing youngsters and is feeder Belgian club Beveren, who have also had a connection with Arsenal in the past.
The academy has developed a number of current Cote D’Ivoire stars such as Kolo and Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Salomon Kalou and Didier Zokora, amongst others.