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Toure hopes Cup paints positive picture of Africa

Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure believes the African Nations Cup is a chance for players to paint a positive picture of the continent.

Ebola, terrorism and the violent activities of Islamist militants Boko Haram have all kept Africa in the headlines over the last year.

Even the African Nations Cup itself was affected by the ebola epidemic when original hosts Morocco requested a postponement, which eventually resulted in the tournament being moved to Equatorial Guinea.

It finally kicks off on Saturday with Toure hoping the 14 nations involved can put on a show to make the continent feel proud.

"A lot of us play for top clubs in Europe but when you have the opportunity to make African people happy you have to take it," the 33-year-old said.

"It's one of the continents which suffers every single minute.

"When we go to the Africa Nations Cup they are so proud to see us. You can feel the joy in everybody.

"Nobody will think about ebola or war, or anything else. They will just focus on football.

"For me that's why it's very important to bring them that joy because the continent deserves that." The ebola outbreak has hit western Africa the hardest and while Toure's homeland has escaped the worst ravages of the disease it does not mean he and his team-mates are not acutely aware of the disaster.

SWITCHED

In November they played a qualifier against Sierra Leone, one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak, in November with the match switched to the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan over fears about the spread of the disease.

While the players had to focus on football Toure said they were conscious there was an important message to be relayed.

"As Africans we need to show solidarity," he added.

"I didn't speak to them about how it had been in their country but for me it was really important to show they are part of the continent and that we want to help them. We don't want to push them away. After the game we just talked to them and hugged them to show we were supporting them."

The African Nations Cup will be Toure's international swansong and he will bow out having made more than 120 appearances over 15 years with the national team.


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