90 Minutes columnist Nii Ayi Tetteh looks at the humble beginning of Ghana defender Samuel Inkoom to his present status.
Football would hardly jump to your mind at the mention of Greece. You are more likely than not to associate the Greeks with ancient history, folklore and tourism.
That is understandable; from Hercules, Socrates through Archimedes, Plato, Achilles and the Olympic Games, Greece carved the path of western civilization.
In present day Greece, precisely in the small town of Planatias, another man, whose big heart belies his petit frame, is plotting a unique story of his own, it may not be as grand as the famous Greek legends but it is laced with values of redemption and faith.
The football field is his battleground and you will find him suited up in Jerseys and boots, clearing his lines. When he is not there, you will find him spending time with his wife Omega and three kids. How do I know?
He keeps us constantly updated on Twitter and Instagram. Those pictures show a man content and little troubled, well, at least that is what you see, what you don’t see or don’t know is that Inkoom has come a long way.
A FATHER’S INSPIRATION:
Born on June 1, 1989 to Victor Inkoom, an ex footballer and Comfort Adams, the junior Inkoom at about age 10, started taking his football seriously while growing up in Sekondi-Takoradi environs.
Victor Inkoom, who later became a headmaster, was a stickler for education and though he ensured that emphasis was placed on education, young Samuel’s ambition of following in his father’s footstep grew by the day.
Fortunately for Samuel, his dad took a personal interest in his promising football career. Indeed, Victor Inkoom acted as his manager and personally arranged for Samuel to join Windy Professionals from Junior Juventus, another youth club.
Samuel Inkoom will soon attract attention of the selectors of the 2005 national U-17 team, the Black starlets. Inkoom however didn’t make the cut for the final tournament in Peru that year.
But while he didn’t make the cut in the national selectors’ eye, coach Joseph De-Graft saw beyond the tournament, and recommended Inkoom to local club Sekondi Hasaacas in 2007.
It was at Hasaacas that Inkoom enjoyed a break out year in the Ghanaian top flight making and most importantly claiming a man of the match performance against his boyhood club Asante Kotoko, arguably Ghana’s most successful club. That prompted a transfer to Kotoko where he had a successful 2008/2009.
From that time, the football gods, “Greekly speaking” surely smiled on Inkoom. Due to his ability to completely take charge of his defensive area and clear his lines, he was variously called “Adwuma Wura” and Zoomlion.
The next couple of years marked a busy period. He got called up to the Black Stars, the national U-20 team, the Satellites and even the local Black stars for 2009 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in Ivory Coast.
By February 2010 when the Black Stars participated in the Africa Nations Cup (AFCON) in Angola, Inkoom had won gold medals in the 2009 U-20 African and World Championships, silver medals in the 2009 CHAN and 2010 AFCON.
The 2009 World U-20 gold was the most remarkable; Inkoom played at right back and was an outlet for many of the goals the Satellites scored en-route to glory. That Inkoom played in itself was credit to him after a fiercely competing for the right back spot with the much more accomplished Daniel Opare.
Though a right back by trade, Inkoom demonstrated his versatility and it was no surprise he not only made the Ghana World Cup squad for the 2010 edition in South Africa but played 2 games mostly operating as a makeshift right winger.
Ghana’s journey ended in the famous quarterfinal defeat on penalties to Uruguay but earlier that season, Inkoom who had transferred from Asante Kotoko to Swiss side FC Basel won the domestic double; the Swiss Super League and the Cup.
It marked a remarkable season and Inkoom was definitely enjoying his time in the sun. A big move had to be in the offing. That big move came in 2011.
The move was not a big European team as expected but it was big in monetary terms as he transferred to Ukrainian outfit Dnipro for a reported $10 million. However, with the history of African players struggling to adapt in Ukraine, that move was not quite popular with fans and pundits. But Inkoom was determined to prove his critics wrong.
A PLAYER’S PATRIOTISM:
Contrary to expectations that Inkoom might struggle at Dnipro, he settled in rather well and was playing in week in week out until a call came to serve his country. Kwesi Appiah, Then coach of the Black Meteors, the national U-23 called Inkoom up and made him captain in an All Africa games qualifier against arch rivals Nigeria.
What was supposed to be a routine answer to a national duty turned ugly when the then Dnipro coach Juande Ramos refused to release Inkoom citing that the qualifier fell outside the FIFA calendar.
Inkoom stuck to his guns to fly over to feature for his nation but Juande also will not flinch. The compromise? A cut in Inkoom’s pay. Or so Inkoom thought.
A pay cut will have been enough sacrifice but Juande apparently wasn’t pleased and it is alleged that he resolved to frustrate Inkoom’s Dnipro career by signing a new player in Inkoom’s stead.
Inkoom became surplus as he spent time warming the bench. Clearly that period hit his confidence and his form dipped. It showed in Black Stars games but Kwesi Appiah kept faith with him, perhaps returning the favour for the All Africa games qualifier.
Naturally Inkoom sought moves away from Dnipro to have more playing time. He had a stint with French club Bastia but he returned to Dnipro for the 2013/2014 season.
By January 2014, his fortunes hadn’t changed and with a World Cup on the cards Inkoom sought another move away from Dnipro for playing time. Greece was perhaps the last place anybody thought Inkoom will end up.
But he took the chance and has made consistent appearances. While he has worked hard, he credits his coach Angelos Anastasiadi and support of his family for the turnaround in his fortunes. Injury barring, Inkoom should be in the 2014 Ghana World Cup Squad for Brazil where he will hope to add to his 44 caps.
That would cap redemption of sort for the man accustomed to second chances. Until then, Inkoom is enjoying his Greek adventure and you can be sure that if this story was told in Greek, the title; Samuel Inkoom: the second coming, wouldn’t be far off, it would be in keeping with a true Greek fable.