Paris Saint-Germain striker Moise Kean is making his name away from his native Italy, but the 21-year-old’s success remains a source of ‘pride’ in his hometown of Asti.
The town of 76,000 inhabitants in the northern Piedmont region, south-east of Turin, was last in the footballing spotlight when it hosted Brazil’s training camp during the 1990 World Cup.
These days it has a new-found fame as the town where the former Juventus striker, who hopes to help steer PSG past Manchester City and into the Champions League final on Tuesday, took his first steps in the game.
The local pitch may not be as slick as it was during the World Cup tournament, but it still looks the part with its international dimensions and recent tribune boasting the red and white colours of the town.
But to walk in the footsteps of little Moise Kean, “it’s more like there,” says Renato Biasi, ex-manager of the club’s youth sector, pointing to the more modest arena, right next to the world class pitch.
Moise, then seven or eight years old, was only accompanying his older brother Giovanni, seven years his senior, to training.
It was therefore on the sidelines that the youngster was having fun, alone, with a ball and studs borrowed from “grown-ups”.
But already, the qualities of the young Kean did not escape Biasi, a former professional goalkeeper at Torino, who made a Serie A appearance in 1986.
“Only a blind man would not have seen that he had qualities superior to others. From there to say that a boy will be able to make a career as he does, it’s difficult to predict. But he had qualities,” Biasi told AFP.
The son of an Ivorian couple who emigrated to Piedmont, Kean was born on February 28, 2000 in nearby Vercelli.
He arrived in Asti, about 60km south-east of Turin, at the age of five.
His mother raised him and his two brothers alone after her separation from his father.
‘Owe it to their mother’
“Everything these two boys have done, they owe to their mother,” Remo Turello, former Asti club manager, told AFP.
At a more modest level, Giovanni has also made football his profession.
“Their mother did everything to raise them in a correct way, giving them an education perhaps even better than other families with more means. She made sure that they did not take the wrong path.”
No video games at home, for Moise his main occupation was hard-fought matches on the concrete ground of the Don Bosco parish, where the local children meet after school, when he was not at the stadium with his brother.
“In a way, he was lucky to be less well off financially, because his life was all about playing football,” said Biasi.
“It was his only release, unlike other kids, and it certainly has helped to develop his physical capacities.
“When a youngster scores three or four goals per game against players two years older, that means he has something more.”
Silvano Benedetti, a former footballer still based at Torino, remembers Kean’s time at their youth team.
“He played sharp, he was a little (Romelu) Lukaku!” said Benedetti.
A sense of the goal, physical power, but also a lively character.
“The family had difficulty accompanying him to training in Turin, a coach came to pick him up or another parent would bring him, but he was never on time,” he said.
“All credit to his later clubs, they built him and made him become a professional.”
Because Torino, then in Serie B, did not have the means, powerful city rivals Juventus would soon take the promising youngster under their wing.
At 13, Kean left Asti for the Juventus facilities.
So began the dazzling rise.
A first appearances in Serie A and the Champions League at 16, first goal in Serie A at 17, first selection with Italy at 18.
Progress continues this season with PSG after a more anonymous season with Everton in England.
Examining all the jerseys signed by Kean, city councillor Mario Bovino, and Mayor Maurizio Rasero cannot hide their pride.
“Moise Kean is one of us, and he and his mother remain close to the city, including during the pandemic.”