Controlling the game: How Desmond Ofei’s coaching philosophy is transforming Ghana’s U20 side

Published on: 21 March 2024

Desmond Ofei is one match away from leading Ghana to their first African Games gold in men’s football in 13 years.

His Black Satellites side face Uganda in the final on Friday but the 36-year-old’s journey to coaching has been swift, but more importantly a learning curve.

Hailing from Mampong-Akuapim, Desmond Ofei harboured aspirations akin to numerous young Ghanaians – to pursue a professional football career at the highest echelons.

However, unlike many, Ofei had the opportunity to realize his dreams, albeit fleetingly.

He was privileged to ply his trade in Belgium at a tender age before venturing to the United Kingdom. Regrettably, a severe groin injury curtailed his promising journey, forcing him into premature retirement in his early 20s.

Ofei faced a crossroads – undergo surgery or bid farewell to his beloved sport. The once-pacey winger opted for the latter, abruptly concluding a career brimming with potential.

After years of arduous work and investment, it was a disheartening conclusion for someone whose passion for football ran deep from birth. His late father, Eric Asiedu, affectionately known as ‘Big Boss,’ had immersed himself in the football ecosystem, serving as the kit manager for Chelsea’s youth team for nearly a decade.

Leveraging his father’s connections and profound knowledge of the game, Ofei adroitly pivoted to scouting before transitioning into coaching. He started with coaching internships at Chelsea and went on to work as a youth coach for Sporting Lokeren.

He moved to Portugal and became head coach of Lusitano Ginasio Clube SAD but had to return to Belgium due to family issues. Back in Belgium, he coached Antwerp’s under-18s and served as assistant coach for the under-21s.

After years in Europe, he returned to Ghana to work with the technical directorate of the GFA as a manager for high performance before being appointed as head coach of the Black Satellites.

He joined a Ghana U20 side that had lost to Nigeria in the WAFU sub-regional tournament and as a result, couldn’t qualify for the 2023 U20 AFCON. The team was also eliminated in the group stages of the WAFU Zone B Boys Championship in Ivory Coast.

So far, he has only conceded once at the African Games and won three out of the four matches played. The journey to revitalize Ghanaian football didn’t just begin for Ofei.

He was intrinsically involved in the meticulous process of developing the national football philosophy for Ghana – a blueprint outlining the country’s footballing DNA.

Ofei describes his philosophy as “controlling the game with and without the ball, understanding space-time, awareness, making the right decision, placing the right positions, and dominating and dictating the game.”

His mentor is Jose Mourinho, but he adds, “I’m a more technical coach.” Both share the commonality of retiring relatively early from playing to concentrate on coaching. To Ofei, every world-class coach was once a top youth coach. He is currently treading the path to ascend to the pinnacle, aiming to restore Ghana’s youth teams to continental prominence.

By Owuraku Ampfo | 3Sports

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