For a country that only played its first World Cup qualifier in 2000 and is perhaps best known in these parts as the home of Timbuktu, the list of footballers from Mali (or of Malian descent) is long and surprisingly impressive.
The current squad is bolstered by the presence of Momo Sissoko (Juventus), Seydou Keita (Barcelona) and Mahamadou Diarra (Real Madrid). French football legend and former Fulham manager Jean Tigana was born in the capital city, Bamako and Salif Keita, formerly of Valencia, Marseille and Saint Etienne, is considered to be one of the greatest African players of all time.
But their most celebrated son of the modern era was born to Malian parents in Lyon, in the south of France. Despite representing France at youth levels, though, there can be no doubting which nation Frédéric Kanouté considers home. He opted to turn out for Mali rather than France in 2004, going on to top score in that year's African Cup of Nations.
His goalscoring record for the national side was better than one in two (meeting the Football Ramble's golden ratio for a top striker), but it's Kanouté's club career in England and Spain for which he'll be best remembered.
His spell with hometown club Lyon was relatively forgettable, but earned him an initial loan spell in London with West Ham which then manager Harry Redknapp quickly made permanent.
As they watched Carlton Cole and Franck Nouble lumbering about up top last season, Hammers fans must've been yearning for the days when Kanouté partnered Paolo Di Canio at the Boleyn Ground. But nostalgia can be misleading. Despite Kanouté consistently finding the back of the net, he was unable to stop his side slipping out of the top flight.
Frédi jumped ship for Tottenham, where he joined fellow recruits Helder Postiga, Robbie Keane and Bobby Zamora as part of a new look strikeforce at White Hart Lane. Only he and Keane could be considered successes, though. His return for Spurs was solid, but his lackadaisical stylings were often construed as laziness.
His decision to attend the African Nations Cup in 2004, earned the ire of the Spurs faithful, too, who berated him with the chant "you're French, and you know you are." It was the beginning of the end for Kanouté in England. His form dipped and just as his career looked to be on the slide, his finest performances were yet to come.
A move to Spain rejuvenated Kanouté. With Sevilla, he has hit double figures in all but his début season at the club (2005-06) and established himself as one of the most consistent strikers in La Liga.
He was a member of Juande Ramos' double UEFA Cup winning squad and has hit well over a century of goals for the Andalusians. As he reaches the twilight of his career, a move to the Middle East has been mooted (which would certainly make sense on a personal level), but Sevilla have publicly stated their desire to keep hold of their man.
Kanouté is a devout Muslim. He hit the headlines when he refused to don the Sevilla shirt because of their sponsorship deal with a betting firm. He regularly takes time out of training to pray and donated £700,000 of his own money to buy a mosque in Sevilla.
As a representative of the Islamic community, an ambassador for African football and a striker who has scored goals at the top level in three countries for almost 15 years, Frédéric Kanouté is Icons' first forward for Friday.
We're delighted to add Kanouté products to our collection for the first time this week, you can view them here.