Stuttgart - VfB Stuttgart have a strong African connection, and that is not only because they are the first Bundesliga representatives to be staging a winter training camp in Cape Town.
Several players from the continent have already played for the German club with a glorious tradition.
Right now, there are three African internationals playing for the Swabians: , and . Traore, an attacking midfielder from Guinea, had to miss out on the training camp in South Africa, staying instead in Stuttgart to recover from a small operation on his knee. However, he sent his greetings to his team mates from the treatment room back in Germany
“It's a shame I couldn't travel to the training camp," he said. "Especially since it's being staged in Africa. It would have been something special for me. But I'm working hard on getting back. The recovery is going well. I don't have any more pain. The knee also doesn't swell up when I put pressure on it.” Good news, then, for the VfB entourage at the Cape of Good Hope.
Fine life in Stuttgart
Cote d'Ivoire international Boka is on the trip, on the other hand. One of the longest serving players at VfB having been at the club since 2006, winning the Bundesliga with them in 2007, the 30-year-old is a regular in Thomas Schneider's side, and the left full-back is enjoying being just that little bit closer to home.
“It's nice that a German team have their training camp in Africa," he said. "South Africa is one of the continent's best countries. I'm very happy in the Bundesliga and I've also got to know many great people. I've experienced and learned a lot with VfB. I like it in Stuttgart.” Boka, part of a golden generation of Cote d'Ivoire talent, was part of the Elephants' team for the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, and is now looking ahead to Brazil.
Bundesliga and World Cup ambitions
After a bitter defeat to Gabon in the final of the African Cup of Nations last year, impressing in South America is one of Boka's ambitions. "At the World Cup, we've supposedly got an easier group than in previous tournaments, but it's still a World Cup and every game will be difficult," he said, looking forwards. "For us older players, this will probably be our last chance to show what we can do."
"We know that we're a big team in Africa and we'll show what we're capable of. We'll give everything for Africa, after all the people here expect a lot from us.” With the expectations of the VfB fans also high, he has a job to do between now and May before thinking of an event that, unfortunately, Karim Haggui just missed out on. His Egypt lost to Ghana in the play-offs.
This means the 29-year-old central defender, who joined VfB in the summer, can focus fully on his job in the Bundesliga. VfB can still achieve a lot in the second half of the season, and that is why such a perfect preparation in South Africa is so important. VfB want to rise from their 10th place, and to do that, they can rely on the African forces within their ranks.