Feature: From the streets to the World Cup for Ghana youngster Afriyie Acquah

Published on: 05 June 2014
Feature: From the streets to the World Cup for Ghana youngster Afriyie Acquah
Afriyie Acquah

It is often said that sport in general and football in particular can be used as an agent for social change, and for an unlikely figure set to figure at the 2014 FIFA World Cupâ„¢, that is very true. Not too long ago, Afriyie Acquah was living on the streets of Sunyani, a town north-west of Kumasi in Ghana. The youngster was facing a difficult future, when a fateful meeting took place: he was spotted playing football.

Although only 12 at the time, Acquah showed promise that belied his age, and scouts of the Glentoran Academy were excited about his potential. "The academy saw me one day and decided to help me. [Christopher Antoh] praised my talent and soon gave me a chance to travel and train at Glentoran in Belfast [Northern Ireland], where I had the opportunity of training with the senior team," Acquah explains.

Like Acquah, Antoh was a homeless child living on the streets in Ghana and as with Acquah, fate intervened in Antoh's life. He was adopted by a Belfast school teacher and was hence known as Christopher Antoh Forsythe. Antoh loved football, but unlike Acquah, he did not possess as much talent and his involvement with the sport confined itself to being a supporter of Belfast club Glentoran. He returned to Sunyani as an adult and established the Glentoran academy to help other children.

Although Acquah made a huge impression with the Glens, stringent regulations prevented him from being signed, and he returned to Ghana. But far from it being the end of the dream for the shy 15-year-old, it was merely the beginning. "Everything happened so quickly and fast and soon my dream looked to be in sight. At some point, I trained with Bechem United and joined them on tour in Italy where my first contact with Palermo happened. They took me in, gave me opportunities which I took with both hands. Times were hard when I was growing up, but God has been good to me. I told myself the moment to make my dreams count had arrived, and I was unwilling to lose it; not to anyone, not to anything."

Settling down in Serie A

The midfielder signed a contract with Palermo and played his first Serie A match in February 2011. He spent two seasons with the Sicilian club before being loaned to Parma. After spending just half a season with Parma, big-spending Bundesliga club Hoffenheim made an offer and the Ghanaian was on the move again. Unlike his time with Palermo and Parma, Acquah struggled in Germany, although he arrived with high hopes. "Moving to Hoffenheim was a very exciting moment for me. I have always dreamed of playing at the highest level and that for me was a step on that journey.

"It was very frustrating for me when I could not lock down playing time. I love to play; football is my passion. When I arrived in Germany, I had the opportunity of playing with the first team only days after my arrival. Soon I was named in the team for that weekend's game. That was very exciting for me but it was short lived because I never had the opportunity to play once in six months. It was difficult to take because I had not come all the way from the streets in Sunyani straight to Italy and then to Germany only to warm the bench."

Unable to break into the first team, Acquah asked for a loan and was allowed to move back to Parma, where he encountered a change of fortune, playing 27 Serie A matches and scoring his first professional goal in Europe. His success in Italy also saw him return back to the Black Stars' fold – having first played for his country in February 2012 in a friendly against Chile. He said that once back with Parma he started dreaming about the World Cup and said that he believed he had done enough to merit a call-up, without taking anything for granted. "Ghana has a lot of good players so I didn't think it was automatic for me to expect a call up.”

But just as scouts from the Glentoran Academy saw something in him all those years ago in Sunyami, Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah also saw something in Acquah and called him up into the squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. This prompted the 22-year-old to dream a different dream. “Playing at the World Cup will open more doors for me. It is such a big level and after that, one can be sure of attracting interest from bigger clubs. I dream of moving to a big club after the World Cup."

If he manages that, it will be another step in a remarkable journey that has taken the homeless boy from the streets of Sunyani to the biggest stage in world football: the FIFA World Cup.

Source: FIFA

Comments

  • Asem
    says: 5 years ago
    Good for you Acquah. Now go and take responsibilities of the baby u have with that Amsterdam Ashawo Zena Yankey.. She claims the baby is yours..
  • keith from germany
    says: 5 years ago
    A very interesting piece. Afriyie Aqcuah didnt get anything in life for free. he worked very hard and he surely derserves to be in brasil. In the second half of the holland game,i realy liked the way he controlled the midfield and alongside Kwadwo Asamoah,they brought stability to the central defence. Eventhough he has a different style of play,he has got some similarities with Anthony Annan,in terms of accurate passing and the interception of opponent movement. I would start afriyie Aqcuah together with eighther Kwadwo asamoah or sulley ali muntari. More grease to your elbows Aqcuah. It was quite unfortunate that the people(Manager Andreas Müller and coach Markus Babbel)who bought you at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim were sacked after u arrived. when coach markus Gisdol came,he had his own idea of players so they didnt give u the chance to prove yourself and that was a big mistake,they will regret after the worldcup.
  • bin gbagbo
    says: 5 years ago
    a midfield pair of acquah, essien, kwadwo and andre is classic
  • Elvis
    says: 5 years ago
    I am touch heavily by this page.That was Afriyie Acquah's dedication in football.From the street of Sunyani to Brasil 2014,God is very marvelous and wonderful.All these came by his devotion,prayers,trainin and disciplin.
  • [email protected]
    says: 5 years ago
    why have pipol soon forgoten about agyemang badu.. is badu no more much important for stater.. ghana really got midfielders.. rabiu.. essien..acquar..badu..muntari.. we need to do samtin great in this world cup. kwarasey opare afful boye mensa essien dede muntari gyan kp boat k asamoah .
  • African Consciousness
    says: 5 years ago
    If it was up to Ghana Fa President Nyantakyi this talented player will never play for the Black Stars. If he had never been discovered by the Glentoran Academy and given a formal education, there will be no place for him on the Black Stars and that is bull shit. The Black Stars should belong to every Ghanaian, rich poor or indifferent. Formal education or lack thereof. Poor young Ghanaian kids on the streets and hovels of Accra, Sunyani, Kumasi and villages across the country have as much of a right to play at the highest level. The dream of playing for the Black Stars and in Europe animates a lot of poor kids who cannot afford a formal education. What if we were to say the Presidency of the Ghana FA or the Minister of Sports should be limited only to former professional soccer players, former professional athletes? or former Black Stars players? That would eliminate Nyantakyi wouldn't it? Leave the kids alone and let them hope and dream of a better future regardless of wether they have a formal education or not. If the Ministry of youth and sports wants to help educate young Ghanaians then provide the funds to make formal education available for every Ghanaian kid then if they refuse to take advantage you can penalize them.
  • African Consciousness
    says: 5 years ago
    Corporations should never be allowed to interfere with the hopes and dreams of Africa's youth it should be the sole domain of the governments in Africa! They are only interested in $$$!
  • Morkeh
    says: 5 years ago
    9c piece. I believe he will become great. Pray n Hope the best
  • no no
    says: 5 years ago
    charley keep quiet we talking about football here
  • Jesse
    says: 5 years ago
    Hey Keith nice to read your comments. Acquah is a huge talent and a good addition to the stars fold.