First, Burkina Faso and the legend that is Aristide Bance – who has played for 19 clubs, in 12 different countries
Aristide Bance is an unlikely talisman for any team. Now 32, the striker is playing at a 19th different club.
His journey has taken him to 12 different countries; Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Belgium, Ukraine, Germany, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Finland, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Latvia.
During that time he has appeared in Europe’s elite leagues for just two seasons, managing three Bundesliga goals in 23 appearances.
And yet, defying all logic, the giant striker with the dyed blond mop of hair, remains a legend of the international game, a favourite with Burkina Faso fans, and indeed almost anyone who follows the sport in Africa.
The noise that erupts around any stadium in this country when Bance so much as emerges to warm up is remarkable.
There are plenty of Burkinabe expats in Gabon, but it goes beyond that, the excitement spreading to the opposing fans and even the press box. There is something special about Bance.
This is a golden age for Burkinabe football. Before 1996 they had never qualified for a Cup of Nations. In 2013, when they were runners up, it was the first time they had escaped the groups outside their own country.
And yet here they are, group winners, dominant in their quarter-final, and in a second semi-final in four years.
Bance cannot be credited with this transformation.
He is possibly the least talented of the attacking players on show, which include Chelsea’s loanee Bertrand Traore, his older brother Alain, now playing in Turkey after a good career in France, Jonathan Pitroipa who spent most of a decade in the Bundesliga, and Jonathan Zongo, once a La Liga regular.
Current striker Prejuce Nakoulma is also a handful.
But the big moments always seem to revolve around the big man. In 2013 it was Bance who equalised against Ghana in the semi-final, and his cheeky, chipped penalty that sent the Stallions into their first final.
On Saturday, it was his introduction from the bench that turned the game. Before it, Burkina Faso had dominated Tunisia, but not had a single shot on target.
Within three minutes Bance had won a free kick, smashed it into the bottom corner, and hit the post with his next touch.
Bance’s impact only served to add to his cult status, one that he attributes to his own humility.
‘I’m not really a great player,’ he said after the quarter-final. ‘But I’m always willing to learn and they appreciate that.
‘We have to show the fans that we want it. They also like a humble person, and I’m humble.’
That humility, a theme running throughout this Burkina Faso side, has brought them to the semi-finals. Beat Egypt on Wednesday night and they will have established themselves, with two finals in three tournaments, as veritable giants of African football.
Captain Charles Kabore has already said that this will be his final international tournament – his absence at the base of midfield will be a huge loss.
But the future remains bright, and, with Bance sticking around, the present promises, at the very least, to be a lot of fun.