By Joe Brewin
A life in football may not have happened for Gervinho if his parents had got their way.
So says the Arsenal winger himself, whose intriguing career path was almost halted before it had even begun.
Eventually the Ivorian won over his family to join the prestigious Jean-Marc Guillou academy in his home country - famous for producing the likes of Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou and former Arsenal man Emmanuel Eboue.
“I don’t know what I would have done had I not become a footballer,” Gervinho told Arsenal.com. “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.”
From there on, it was onwards and upwards for Gervinho. The winger joined Belgian outfit Beveren, once more following in the footsteps of Toure and Eboue.
The Belgian Second Division club have become known for bringing through several Ivorians - and the Arsenal winger was no different.
“The transfer from Africa to Beveren was part of the training,” he said. “Most of the players would leave the centre for Belgium. We all met again there in Beveren.
“It was a way to adjust to European football and having us all together made the move easier for all of us.
“We were all happy to leave Africa for Europe, we knew how lucky we were to move to Europe at a young age. Someone was looking after us.
“Beveren helped me a lot to adjust to Europe.”
You can watch the full version of Gervinho's 'Close Up' on Arsenal PlayerCopyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source