With sixteen goals and sixteen assists Rapha Holzhauser was Beerschot's star player last season, with in his slipstream Tarik Tissoudali who excelled as provider and technical wizzard. But behind these two another player surprised in a positive and pleasant way: Ismaila Coulibaly, 19 years of age, a midfielder from Mali, talented, good vision and determinative from the start. He scored on his debut against AA Gent in the Ghelamco Arena where Beerschot got beaten 5-1. Heavy defeat for our Mannekes, but the Couilbaly train was on track... 

Less than a year later we look back to that blitz start and we learn to know Isma a bit better...

"A nice start of my Beerschot career that was, indeed", he recollects with a smile. "Because of that good debut I was an ever present in the starting XI the following weeks and months. Only tiredness and an injury spoiled the last part of the season.  I adapted well in the squad thanks to Tom Pietermaat, Ryan Sanusi, Fré Frans,... everyone really. They took me under their wings, guided me on and off the field, taught me my first Dutch four letter words. Very important. I felt at home at Beerschot after just a couple of days. On top of that I had the privilige of playing and training under coach Hernan Losada. His influence was pure gold, especially in a tactical way. He taught me the tricks of the trade, made me believe in myself and gave me playing minutes. At the time there was a positive flow at Beerschot: we kept winning, scoring lots of goals. At a certain moment we were even top of the league. It was a fantastic period. Both for the club and for myself."

Isma is, as we say, a fine young man: friendly, well mannered, driven and very ambitious. Before his time at Beerschot he played for Sarpsborg in Norway.

"An outstanding experience", he says. "I was given the opportunity to come and play in Norway and grabbed it with both hands. My very first adventure as a football pro. And also my first time abroad without my family. I learned to be independent, look after myself... sometimes in difficult circumstances. I saw my first snow in Norway. Really, a whole new world opened for me..."

It was there in Norway that Coulibaly appeared on Sheffield United's radar. He was offered a three year contract at Bramall Lane.

"I signed that contract immediately as this was my youth dream come true. The English Premier League is my favourite football competition, my ultimate ambition is to become a regular there. I know I need to have patience to make the grade there and was told I would be loaned out to gain experience and play week in week out in the top Belgian league. Beerschot turns out to be the perfect next step." 

Beerschot's start of the 2021-2022 season is far from excellent. Just 1 point after three games and wooden spoon in the table, compared to 9 out of 9 and top position last year...

"Very disappointing indeed. The reason for that? Difficult to say really. We still have to adapt to the ideas and tactics of the new coach, then a couple of key players got injured and last but not least we lost confidence after that 0-1 home defeat against Cercle Brugge on the opening day. It is a mix of these three items I think. I am sure though we will be making our way up the table the next few weeks. We have the backbone and sporting ambition to bounce back. With Ryan Sanusi back fit our midfield will be stronger; on top of that Ryan and I have a good understanding. It clicks between the two of us."

Your performances and progress are followed by Sheffield United and your family and friends in Mali I presume?

"That's right. I receive regular feedback from England and also the folks at home are interested in my Belgian experiences. During the holidays and after that enerving covid period and its restrictions I was finally allowed to travel to Mali. It was sixteen months since I last saw my family. The reunion with my mum and dad, with my two brothers and six sisters - big family eh?! - was ever so emotional and joyful. I was able to recharge my  batteries there and am ready to perform well again with Beerschot, win points and move away from the relegation zone. Starting on Sunday with our home game against Standard."

Text: Danny Geerts

Jupiler Pro League

1 K. Beerschot V.A. 50 pts
2 SK Lommel 48 pts
3 K.M.S.K Deinze 46 pts
4 F.C.V. Dender E.H 45 pts
5 Patro Eisden Maasmechelen 43 pts