Boubacar Barry: Hero of the Elephants and Belgium’s returning lost club

Last weekend, fourth division Lokeren-Temse won promotion to the third tier of Belgian football. For those who don’t know, this may feel insignificant. Yet, this marked the return of a club that for many years had punched above its weight in the Belgian Pro League. It feels fitting that, as they return, we should look back at the history of K.S.C Lokeren, the side that merged with KSV Temse back in 2020 after bankruptcy, and focus on one of their more famous players.

Anyone who watched the 2015 AFCON final will remember Cote d’Ivoire’s Boubacar Barry. The goalkeeper, who made his debut for the Elephants 2000, was the hero as the always fancied side finally won the coveted trophy. Despite suffering from cramp, the keeper was the hero of the penalty shoot out as he made two penalty saves before converting the winning spot-kick.

Yet, despite the pressure on during that 2015 final, Barry’s club career had given him the chance to experience pressurised games. The Ivorian keeper, going by the name of Copa, began his career with the talent factory that is ASEC Mimosas in the Cote d’Ivoire. After coming through the academy at ASEC, he was picked up by Rennes in France to play for their academy in 2001. He spent time on loan at Beveren, a side that had seen the likes of Yaya Toure pass through their facilities. After one seasons with the Belgian side he joined permanently, making 121 appearances for the club and keeping 25 clean sheets.

His form caught the eye of fellow Belgian side Lokeren, who managed to snap up the Ivorian international on a free in 2007. It was at Lokeren that the keeper would really make a name for himself. Over the 10 years he spent at the club he made an impressive 273 appearances, keeping 77 clean sheets. Overall, he made 317 Pro League appearances with 80 clean sheets to his name.

However, it was in the cup that he saw success. In 2011/2012 the side made the cup final, where they would face Kortrijk. Copa started in goal, keeping a clean sheet as the side won the cup for the first time in their history. Copa made a great save during the second half to keep the game at 0-0, crucial with Lokeren down to 10 men. This save meant that Tunisian striker Hamdi Harbaoui’s 77th minute strike proved to be the winner.

Unfortunately for Copa and Lokeren, their European reward for winning the cup was a short lived Europa League campaign which saw them lose out to Viktoria Plzen in the play-offs. However, two years later they were once again in the cup-final, this time facing Zulte Waregem. Copa was the hero in the semi-finals, as his save during the penalty shoot-out against Oostende to deny Laurent Depoitre saw Lokeren through to the final. In the final at the King Daoudouin, Copa once again kept a clean sheet, denying the likes of Thorgen Hazard and Sven Kums. Alexander Sholz 57th minute header from a Hans Vanaken corner provided decisive, as Lokeren won their second cup-final 1-0.

This time, in Europe, Copa and Lokeren had a more successful campaign. They beat Hull City in the play-offs, before joining Legia Warsaw, Metalist Kharkiv and Trabzonspor in the group stages of the 2014/2015 tournament. Unfortunately they could not get out of the group, despite winning three of their six games. Goal difference meant that the Turkish side progressed at the expense of Lokeren.

Copa remained with the club until 2017, after a 10 year period he joined OH Leuven. Lokeren were relegated, and as finances continued to worsen the club was finally declared bankrupt during the 2019/2020 season. At Leuven, then in the second tier, Copa made no appearances for the side as he transitioned into coaching.

Now, the former Ivorian international is working with the newly formed Lokeren-Temse as a goalkeeper coach. Meanwhile, his son, Kais Barry is playing for Anderlecht U18. Unlike his dad, the 17-year-old has not gone for playing as the last line of defence. Instead, he operates as a central defender. The teenager is also capped by Belgian youth teams, although he will clearly be eligible to play for the Cote d’Ivoire in the future.

Many will be interested to see how Lokeren-Temse do in the third tier of Belgian football. It will also be worth seeing if the goalkeeping class at the club have taken on any of the entertaining traits of their coach.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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