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FEATURE: Ghana's Prosper Kasim remains hungry at Birmingham Legion

Published on: 04 May 2022
FEATURE: Ghana's Prosper Kasim remains hungry at Birmingham Legion
160316 IFK Göteborgs Prosper Kasim poserar för ett porträtt den 16 mars 2016 i Göteborg.Foto: Carl Sandin / BILDBYRÅN / kod CS / 57858

When Prosper Kasim was young, his mom didn’t want him playing soccer.

Helicopter parents in the U.S. funnel their kids into specific sports, but for Kasim it wasn’t like that. He was forbidden to play soccer because his family in Ghana was too poor.

He did it anyway.

Kasim might be soft-spoken, but he has always been hard-driven.

Talk to Kasim for a couple minutes, and have the quiet 25-year-old player for Birmingham Legion FC open up about his childhood, and perspective hits harder than the forward’s divine left-footed shots ever could. Kasim’s left foot has always been the stuff of legend among his Legion teammates, but so has his path from Ghana to Alabama.

For the first time since arriving in Birmingham four years ago, Kasim recently sat down for a one-on-one interview about his journey from one of the most crowded slums in West Africa to where he is now. Kasim is one of Birmingham Legion FC’s original players, and at this point he has lived in Birmingham longer than anywhere else besides Ghana. He still doesn’t have a car, but that’s only because he sends so much money home for the family.

I’m just going to come out and say it. Mercedes-Benz of Alabama, which is a major sponsor of the team, needs to step up its game. Kasim is an emerging star in this town, and Birmingham needs to take care of its own.

Over the past four years, Kasim has developed from a skinny prospect with talent to Birmingham Legion FC’s most beloved player. Now he might be the team’s best, too. Kasim’s goals in last week’s 2-1 victory against Charleston Battery were stunning strikes and some of the most exciting signs we’ve seen from this club to date that it is building a strong framework for long-term success.

The first goal was nice, but I’m still replaying the second rocket shot a few times every day.

Kasim has been in Birmingham since the club’s beginning season, and in that time he has developed steadily alongside more established pros. First it was Chandler Hoffman and then Brian Wright. Neco Brett was the target forward after that and Junior Flemmings shared in the leading role, too.

This season, it’s supposed to be Juan Agudelo, but the former U.S. international has been slow to find his form in Birmingham. Meanwhile, Kasim is stepping into a leading role that coach Tommy Soehn and president Jay Heaps always envisioned. It was Kasim who scored Legion’s first goal in club history way back in 2018, and it is Kasim who looked like an unstoppable force last week against Charleston Battery.

Legion is back at Protective Stadium at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night against Miami FC (4-3-1). It’s a big match for Legion (3-3-2), which has won two games in a row after a slow start to the season. The team is finding its identity, though. Agudelo will be available for Birmingham for the first time in several weeks, and Legion traded striker Macky Diop to Detroit City FC last week.

Agudelo is the nationally recognizable name, but the face of this team is Kasim. He best represents the club’s team culture, and everything it has done in Birmingham. Three Sparks started from nothing, but it is now one of the most respected franchises in the USL Championship. Thanks to Legion’s support system, Kasim has put in the work and transformed his body.

This might sound crazy, but when Kasim came to the U.S. in 2018 he had to learn how to eat more food. That was never an option before.

When he was young, there was never enough food. Life was so different back in Ghana that it’s hard for people in the U.S. to even understand. For Kasim’s mother, soccer was a waste of time and resources. She wanted Prosper to go to school. All he wanted to do was play soccer. To punish Prosper for playing soccer, Momma Kasim wouldn’t feed him.

“I told you not to go and you went,” Kasim recalls his mother saying, “so there is no food for you.”

That’s hard to imagine, but Kasim said that’s the way it is sometimes in Africa. His family was accustomed to not eating, or not eating enough. Kasim maybe starved a little more.

He was good at soccer, though, and everyone in his neighborhood knew it, and so they took care of him.

Kasim is the seventh of eight siblings from the sprawling migrant town of Nima on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Nima gets a bad rep in Ghana, explained Kasim, but the people there are loving and take care of each other. Community ties are strong. It’s the slums, though, and one of the most impoverished and overpopulated places in West Africa.

“Everyone there has to hustle,” Kasim said.

King Maestro, they would call him in Nima when he was younger. All of his teammates for Birmingham Legion FC now just call him Peezy.

Call him Legion’s first true star. Kasim is still playing hungry, and now it’s finally time to eat.

 By Joseph Goodman | [email protected]

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