When the soccer boots are hung up

2010-05-15 12:46

His eyes twinkle when he speaks about his dreams for Africa in the

Fifa World Cup tournament.

Former professional soccer player-turned businessman, Jean-Marc

­Iyango has big plans to create a bona fide African experience for the soccer

tourists that will visit South Africa for the event.

It is this ambition, coupled with his passion for soccer that

created Ambassade – a restaurant nestling in the heart of the African diaspora

community in Yeoville, Joburg.

Ambassade, a French word for embassy, heralds a new era in

­Yeoville eating houses – classy, filled with ambience and a mouth-watering menu

featuring authentic ­African food.

Iyango offers a diverse menu that will literally be the ‘visa’, for

people to travel across borders. He features dishes from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory

Coast, South Africa, Cameroon and other.

“Even though I’m from Cameroon, I wanted to do something special to

show off my continent. Everyone is welcome here, I’m doing it for all the

African people living in Africa and abroad,’’ he says.

Honing an in-built spirit of entrepreneurship, Iyango has evolved

from a successful 15-year European soccer career to be the founder and managing

director of Marco Sports International – a sports management company which he

says is designed to create sustainable wealth for a new generation of players.

“So many players of my generation made a lot of money during their

careers but once they hang up their boots, they don’t have a cent to live on or

a roof over their heads. I knew that with support and the right advice this

could change for the next generation.

‘‘So I set up my company Marco Sports International to provide

­specialised services to footballers from Africa.”

During his time on the soccer pitch, Iyango developed a keen eye

for the business of football. He uses his international network to source and

place soccer talent in international clubs.

Once the deal is signed, the company also provides financial

counsel, marketing and image management for the players.

Iyango has also been hoisting the flag for the Fifa World Cup as

part of the local organising committee of the Pan-African campaign to raise

awareness, build confidence and excitement about the World Cup.

“For the first time, Africans are saying this is our opportunity.

We’re going through to the finals! From what I’ve seen on the Fifa tour, people

are planning to come in numbers.

“This is going to be one of the best World Cup tournaments that

Fifa has ever seen,” he says.

Ambassade Restaurant is at 23 Rockey Street, Yeoville.

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