A nation held its collective breath when Burkina Faso striker Alain Traore fell to the ground clutching his left ankle in agony in a French league game in mid-December.
15 Jan 2013 - 6:00 AM  UPDATED 2 May 2014 - 10:42 AM

Traore's hopes of competing at the African Cup of Nations appeared dashed, as he faced a race to be fit for the 19 January-10 February continental showpiece.

But after three weeks in plaster, an X-ray in early January answered Burkina Faso's prayers, the examination detecting nothing seriously amiss, leaving Traore on target to join his team-mates in South Africa.

If Burkina Faso is to make it out of Group C, where it is up against title holder Zambia and African giant Nigeria, it needs a fully fit Traore.

Such is his significance to the national cause, a high-ranking delegation headed to Brittany in December to pay him a courtesy visit at his club, Lorient.

In the party were sports minister Yacouba Ouedraogo and Federation president Sita Sangare.

Ouedraogo underlined the importance of Traore, who scored a decisive stoppage-time goal to put Burkina Faso through at the expense of Central African Republic in the October qualifier.

"Alain Traore is the star of the Stallions," he said.

"After this goal (in the qualifier), it was delirium in the stadium and in the whole country. He is considered a big star and Burkina Faso is counting on him a lot."

Traore first stirred interest by his performances at the 2005 African Under-17 championship.

After that tournament he was contacted by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but a snag with his work permit prevented a move to Old Trafford.

Instead, he joined French outfit Auxerre, which was forced to offload him to balance the books on its relegation to the second division last season.

Traore, nominated his country's top player of 2012, signed a four-year deal with Lorient as a result.

Traore appreciates the weight of responsibility on his shoulders in South Africa.

"I would really like to put my country in the spotlight during this Africa Cup of Nations," he said.

"We have a very good team and I am convinced that we can have a good campaign.

"People are speaking about Burkina Faso a little more today and I am very proud of it. It is up to us to do the work on the pitch to thrill our nation."