Mohammed Kudus needed one official game to conquer Ajax's hearts and now the clash with Liverpool beckons for the world to see. A moving life story preceded the promising Ghanaian playmaker's first season with the European giants. "He's comfortable doing extraordinary things."
Mohammed Kudus (born August 2 in 2000) reveals a large part of his past on his first working day in Amsterdam. During his presentation he wears a black shirt with the text 'Nima Native' on it.
Nima (City of the King) is a popular and populated neighborhood in Accra, where a large nubmer of the people, mostly Muslims and speak the Hausa language, work hard to make a living. In the Kudus' household there is an example.
His mother and grandmother, who all helped to raise him, worked extremely hard to support Mohammed and his three older siblings sometimes selling a local delicacy called Tuo Zaafi and hashtags his mum as #meituo on Instagram which means the Seller of Tuo Zaafi.
That brand new Ajax player has not forgotten and it is evident from the video he posted on Instagram. While his popular countryman Shatta Wale pays a vocal tribute to his mother through his songs, Kudus does same with a self-compiled clip of highlights and family photos.
For example, his mother can be seen selling food in Accra, praying and getting an arm of her youngest son around her at every photo moment. At the end of the song, Kudus himself can be heard: "She risked her life to take care of me and my family ..."
In an earlier interview in Denmark, where he played for Nordsjaelland, Kudus hinted that his family was neither rich nor poor in Nima. He never went to bed hungry, but probably because someone else often sacrificed himself for it. "It is not up to me to elaborate on his private life," said Jan Laursen, sports director of Nordsjaelland.
“What the video does say is that he will always remember where he comes from. Apart from the player who is Kudus, he is also very smart for his age. He is always aware of what is happening around him. He is in full swing. ''
For example, Kudus also posts photos of a book, a Paralympian or his continent, accompanied by a profound message. The gifted playmaker is only 20, but has been through enough to provide his fans with wise life lessons.
His football dream starts with Dynamic Heroes in Nima. At the age of 12, Kudus leaves his family to find out a few hundred kilometers away whether the 'Right to Dream Academy' would be his springboard to Europe.
It will be, courtesy of former Manchester United chief scout for Sir Alex Ferguson. Tom Vernon has an eye for talent. "Most importantly," adds Laursen, "he has a very big heart."
Since 1999, the philanthropist and football player in Vernon has literally brought African young people into his home to lift them out of struggles of life (by providing them with food, shelter and education) to offer them the opportunity to capitalize on their talent.
"There is a good chance that the new Lionel Messi or Usain Bolt will be in Africa, but will not get the chance to develop his talent," Vernon said in 2017, two years after he became owner and president of the Danish club Nordsjaelland.
Because Nordsjaelland forges a collaboration between the Danish team and Right to Dream academy players for youth tournaments, Kudus has been active in Europe before moving permanently to Denmark in 2018.
From then on, Kudus prays five times a day in Denmark. He combines his faith as a Muslim with Danish life, which he assimilates fairly silently. According to old acquaintances also because Kudus is aware that mastering the basics of the Danish (football) language and customs benefits his game.
“On the field he mastered the Danish style, which is less wild than in Africa, quite quickly”, claims Andreas Skovgaard, currently on loan from Heerenveen to the Swedish side Orebro. “In training we immediately saw how fast, strong and technical he was. The trainers too. They couldn't wait to line it up. ”
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Kudus was then awaiting a work permit, Laursen recalls. “Then he played with the Under 23 against Liverpool. He claimed all the balls, was fantastic and scored. We won 5-2. Whether he's playing a friendly or important game, pressure doesn't get to him. He is not at all arrogant but already very self-aware and independent. He plays with such confidence. ”
When Skovgaard gets questions about Nordsjaelland at Heerenveen, he invariably states that, despite his eighteen years, Kudus would immediately be the best player in Denamrk. “He was that good already. What you in the Netherlands don't know about him yet? He is caring and humble. With the months he crawls out of his shell. Just watch his dancing later. ”
Kudus will also adapt quickly in the Netherlands, predicts Laursen. “I say that because he has a lot of discipline. He never missed a workout here in his time. In fact, he has never been too late. ”
In Farum they enjoy Kudus' dances with and without the ball for two years. Then the top clubs from the Bundesliga and Premier League have been in line for a while.
In July, Ajax will get one of the greatest African talents for nine million euros. “I understand that choice from his side. He wants to find the right path and with the way Ajax plays football and develops talents, this is a logical step ”, says Laursen, who honestly admits that he already misses Kudus. "He gave training a little something extra because he is so comfortable doing extraordinary things."
This is evident during his baptism of fire against Waalwijk in the Dutch top-flight which Ajax won 3-0. The Ghanaian international Kudus immediately crowned himself the match winner for Ajax with his performance as he delights fans with interceptions and cunning passes. Former teammate Skovgaard also sees this. “The praise that is now being released in the Netherlands does not surprise me. It doesn't affect him. I think that is the character of big players. ”