He may not be as famous as some of the top Ghana football stars like Andre Ayew Dede, Jordan Ayew, Asamoah Gyan or Prince Boateng, but Rayon Sports’ Ghanaian striker Micheal Sarpong has proved to be destined for greatness.
Sarpong, 23, has become a household name in local football since joining the Blues last September and has not only won the hearts of millions of Rayon supporters, but also the admiration of his coach, Brazilian Roberto Oliveira Goncalves de Calmo.
Saturday Sport understands that head coach Goncalves was the man behind the signing of the Ghana-born scoring machine and his compatriot Prosper Kuka Donkor who had just been signed one month earlier.
In spite of coming to Rwanda as one of the less-fancied signings, Sarpong made himself known in style, scoring three goals in his first two games for his then-new club Rayon Sports.
The sensational striker scored the consolation goal as Rayon Sports lost 2-1 to Mukura in their Azam Rwanda Premier League opener this season before netting a brace that inspired them to a dramatic 2-1 away victory over Sunrise last October.
He has so far been voted the club’s Player of the Month twice, in October 2018 and January this year, making him the only player to win the accolade twice this season.
In October, Sarpong beat former teammate Bonfils Caleb Bimenyimana (four goals) to the award, having scored three goals and provided two assists. The latter has since departed the club for a lucrative deal in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Born on January 10, 1996, and raised in Mamprobi, a suburb of Accra, Ghana, Sarpong played on the grassless Indafa Park, a venue that is also renowned to have nurtured other well-known Ghanaian footballers such as Micheal Essien and Stephen Appiah.
For Sarpong, life was hard to juggle football and education, initially he says that he wanted to study architecture, but it was not meant to be as passion led him to prioritize football.
“Life usually ends you where you really deserve to be, I was first spotted by a coach during a competition in my senior high school days, that is where it all started,” he recalls.
“Being successful in football during my high schools days gave me an opportunity to join a team in the neighborhood. I later played at the national level in several competitions in Ghana, I was always the fan favorite due to my (then) small size, quick pace and ball skills.” he
The idea of playing professional football was initially not welcomed by Sarpong’s parents, but with Ghana Premier League clubs queuing for the teenager’s signature, they had no choice but to support and respect their son’s dream.
“Initially my family wasn’t sure if I was making the right career choice. But as my passion for football grew stronger and, gracefully, I was signed to a team, they started to progressively support me and attend some of my games,” he adds.
Sarpong’s breakthrough finally came when he joined Ghana Premier League side Liberty Professionals. Club officials watched the young forward for 90 minutes in a local game, and immediately followed up with him. Days later, he was signed.
He believes that famed for nurturing some of Ghana’s most celebrated footballers – including Asamoah Gyan, Derek Boateng and Sulley Muntari – the Liberty academy proved to be a good ground for his development.
''I spent three years at Liberty, before joining Dreams FC in the summer of 2017. That season is my best to date because I could see a lot of improvements – as a person and as a footballer – in my everyday game.''
Even though he was not among the very best in the Ghanaian league, the player believes his exploits were enough to catch the attention of Rayon.
With 9 goals under his belt so far this term, pundits believe the center-forward is already a contender for the player of the year award come to the end of this season.
Talking to Saturday Sport earlier this week, Sarpong only had the ‘amazing fans’ and Rayon Sports teammates to thank for his memorable start to life with the eight-time champions.
''I appreciate my teammates and our amazing fans for bringing the best out of me. I only hope that I maintain the scoring form, and we-as a team-keep the winning momentum. We need to win the league title, and play continental football next season,'' the player says.
''I have enjoyed my stay with Rayon Sports so far, and got to know myself better away from home. My dream for the future is to play in one of the European top leagues and inspire young talents.''
He admits to miss home, but says he has settled well in Kigali and is bent on working hard in order to ensure he maintains his status as the deadliest striker in the Rwandan topflight league.
''You have to play above your strength to make headlines week in and week out, since a lot is expected from you when playing outside your country.''
When asked if he thinks of representing his country in international football, the star forward said it would be ‘a dream-come-true’ to wear the Black Stars jersey.
“I’m ready to represent my country anytime. It will be such a great pride to wear the [Ghana] jersey and make my motherland proud. I am working hard to earn a spot on the national team and I really look forward to be called up one day.”
Currently, second-placed Rayon Sports (44 points) are in a three-horse race for the league title along with leaders APR (48 points) and third-placed Mukura who also have collected 44 points after 20 games, and with six match rounds to go.
Rayon Sports were due to take on SC Kiyovu on Saturday, but the game has been postponed to a yet-to-be-fixed date as a number of players from both sides are part of the national team preparing to face Côte d’ Ivoire in AFCON 2019 qualifiers next week.