'Erst Heim, dann Hei­mat'

Assimiou Touré autobio­graphy - Well worth a read


The former Bayer 04 player and Togo international writes in his book about how he came to feel at home in Germany, how his sporting career took off at Leverkusen and the highs and lows plus dramatic moments he experienced along the way. And also about how he returned to Leverkusen. The now 33-year-old is a scout at Bayer 04 – and he is also involved in projects in Africa as a 'German Togolese'.

"I've been here for a long time now and this Germany feels good." That is the start of Assimiou Touré's autobiography 'Erst Heim, dann Heimat'. On a gloomy November day back in 1993, when the five-year-old boy from Togo landed in Frankfurt, it didn't yet feel so good to be in Germany. He made the long journey unaccompanied. His mother, who came to the country three years earlier with brothers and sisters and a cousin, picked him up from the airport. The cousin had suffered serious burns in an accident in Togo and was now receiving treatment in Germany. The Tourés had applied for asylum – and so a new life would begin for Assimiou here.

"My life as a German," is the subtitle of Touré's book. In the first part of his autobiography, the 33-year-old provides a very impressive description of how long his journey was. From Frankfurt the next stop was Bergneustadt where his mother was housed as an asylum applicant and that would become Assimiou's new home. "There was no joy of life and laughter here," writes Touré. He would spend the next twelve years of his life here.

He describes every day life through the eyes of a child who experiences "a lack of emotional warmth." He continues: "Those were hard times and nevertheless you somehow get used to everything." In addition, the boy was an unshakeable optimist. And he loves the German language. That proves to be a big plus. With many of the residents of the home the inability to speak the language led to insecurity and aggression. They were lone wolves who you had to be wary of.

I came to realise that people always reacted to me positively even though I didn't speak German very well at the time.

Again and again, Assimiou Touré moves from narration to reflection – and back again. That is also what makes the book attractive. The colour of his skin, which led to him being exposed to the first teasing in the school playgrounds, plays a role in many chapters. But Touré rarely experienced real discrimination. "I came to realise that people always reacted to me positively even though I don't speak German very well at the time," he writes.

The Leverkusen chapter begins

The Falkenberg family become particular friends. Mother Falkenberg is his first coach at SSV 08 Bergneustadt. And her husband is also a coach at the club with her sons Dennis and Kim also playing there. Football became the key to his integration for Touré and Kim his best friend. They were both invited to trials at Bayer 04 in 1999. The duo are 11 years old and they impress on the training ground. The Leverkusen chapter can begin. Their careers went separate ways later. But now the former Leverkusen talents are working closely together again: in the scouting section at Bayer 04. Kim Falkenberg is the head of the section and Assimiou a youth scout. Things can happen twice in football…

There is plenty of space in Touré's book about what the club and city mean to him. "The time at Bayer 04 shaped me very much and I took on the structure and mould that is still with me today," writes Assimiou. The club helped him a lot when the Touré family was suddenly due to be deported in 2004. Assimiou lived with the former Bayer 04 player and youth coach Thomas Hörster and his family for a while. His mother and his sister also left the asylum centre and moved into a normal flat in Leverkusen. Instead of deportation, the Tourés are finally granted permanent residence and Assimiou gains German nationality a short time after that. Now he can play for the Germany youth teams.

Touré again and again expresses its gratitude that Bayer 04 helped him immensely with his gaining German nationality. "I carried on playing for Bayer 04 but now as a German which is something I'll never forget about my favourite club." He made four appearances as a Werkself player.

world cup with Togo

In 2006, he has recently become an adult and just returned from a course in Hennef with the Germany U18 team when the Rudi Völler informs Touré at the BayArena that the Togo coach Otto Pfister has picked him for the World Cup squad for his native country. And even though this announcement and initially sets off an "emotional chaos", he finally says yes. A discussion with Völler helped him reach his decision, writes Assimiou who dedicates a lot of pages to his time as an international player with Togo. He makes two appearances for his country at the World Cup in Germany, a high point in his career. "I was suddenly a bridge between Togo and Germany. Everybody was proud." After the World Cup, he joined the Werkself first-team squad and he made his debut in a 1-1 draw against FC Brugge in the UEFA Cup and that was shortly followed by his first game in the Bundesliga for the Black and Reds against Hamburg SV.


horrific moments at the Africa cup

Touré does not leave out the bad times as a football player in his book. A broken leg in 2007 – when he is on loan at VfL Osnabrück – really sets him back. When he returns to the senior squad at Bayer 04 in 2009 under Jupp Heynckes, he is called up for the Africa Cup. And he experienced his worst moments here in January 2010. The Togo team bus is attacked by Angolan rebels on the journey from Brazzaville (Congo) to Cabinda in Angola. The assistant coach and press officer for the national team plus the bus driver are killed in a hail of bullets. Several teammates were seriously injured. "It was a nightmare, which remains with me today," writes Assimiou who managed to survive the attack uninjured. His description of the dramatic scenes of 8 January 2010 is really moving.

The after-effects of the incident again and again become clear between the lines in the following chapter. Touré, after his contract at Leverkusen ended in the summer of 2010, often changes clubs. Arminia Bielefeld, Babelsberg 04, KFC Uerdingen, Bonner SC and SpVgg Burgbrohl – his other stays are very short.


In high spirits: Assimiou Toure, Renato Augusto and Sascha Dum (left to right) in July 2009.

Back to Bayer

Touré writes very frankly about his financial hardship in a phase of reorientation. At some point, he starts working for UPS at Cologne-Bonn airport. In addition, he worked as the assistant coach for the U19s at Viktoria Köln. And then, by chance at a wedding, he bumps into Frank Ditgens, the head of education at the Kurtekotten Performance Centre. That was the start of a return "to my beloved Leverkusen." One chapter in the book is therefore called, "Back to Bayer, back to Life." Assimiou Touré is now working for Bayer 04 as a youth scout.

What makes ‘Erst Heim, dann Heimat’ particularly worth reading is not only the retrospective and exciting career as a football player with its ups and downs. It is also Toure's thoughts on racism and discrimination, his understanding of integration and Africa that makes his book into a very rewarding read.

Assimiou Touré
Erst Heim, dann Heimat – Mein Leben als Deutscher
Verlag Nagel & Kimche
175 pages