Few footballers in the history of the English game have had the honour of hearing their name belted out in stadiums up and down the country years since retiring. Even after a decade of hearing the same rhythmic chant repeated ad nauseam, Kolo Toure still swells with pride.
“If somebody had told me 15 years ago: ‘Kolo, people will sing your name at every ground in the UK,’ I would have thought they were joking,” the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool centre-back said. “I have never had the chance to thank the people who do that. It touches my heart.”
However, Kolo is not the only Toure serenaded on the terraces. The two lyrical syllables of his younger brother Yaya make up the second half of a chant which has burrowed into the consciousness of this country’s footballing sphere.
Everyone knows how the song goes, but where does it originate from and how was it propelled beyond the hymn sheet of Manchester City fans?
(Hands in the air) YAYA, YAYA YAYA, YAYA YAYA, YAYA YAYA TOURE
(Hands to the ground) KOLO, KOLO KOLO, KOLO KOLO, KOLO KOLO TOURE
The deconstructed beat which serves as the basis of Kolo and Yaya Toure’s anthem was originally produced by the Belgian/Dutch techno/dance-pop group, 2 Unlimited with their 1993 release No Limit. The United Kingdom was one of 35 countries in which the banger rose to number one in the charts.
Other clubs have flirted with the distinctive tune but Manchester City fans appear to have assigned it to the Toure brothers during the 2012/13 campaign.
Kolo and Yaya Toure had played 82 matches together for club and country before this memorable chant first broke onto the scene in September 2012. Ahead of a match at Stoke City’s bet365 Stadium – in which Yaya started and Kolo watched on as an unused substitute – the travelling City support congregated on the concourses to belt this earworm of a chant.
The exact origin of the chant is often erroneously attributed to a video of well-lubricated City fans performing the song – and accompanying dance – in front of a sandwich bar in Madrid, when the Sky Blues faced Real Madrid on 18 September 2012 in the Champions League group stages.
However, two days before that European tie – which City lost to a 90th-minute winner from Cristiano Ronaldo – James Martin posted a video of his fellow supports cheering on the Ivorian brothers in Stoke.
Footage of fans in the Spanish capital gained more traction than Martin’s earlier post but it all contributed to infecting the footballing world with the remorselessly catchy chant. By 22 September 2012, the song was added to the club’s anthology of chants.
Three years after it first emerged into the public consciousness, Steven Gerrard was filmed performing a spirited rendition of the chant towards the end of his playing days at Liverpool, where he could call Kolo Toure a teammate for two seasons.
In 2012, the brothers had the song played to them by the club’s media team. Yaya Toure’s reaction to the fan footage, amid bursts of laughter, was: “They drink too much.” In the background of the video, Kolo is replicating the arm movements of his adoring public, joyfully bopping along to the hymn he still hears.