Ghana’s footballers are finding America’s top-flight an
increasingly attractive destination and may yet feel even more
Ah, America — land of the free, home of the brave!
For long, Ghanaians have identified the world’s third most populous
country with a lot: Arnold Schwarznegger, the Gates, McDonalds, KFC,
fast-paced thrillers, basketball, baseball, Denzel Washington and
everything else ‘American’ — just not football, especially when, on
our first two Fifa World Cup appearances, we cut the Stars and Stripes
to size. And, really, who’s to blame us for not thinking much of a
country that prefers to call football, ‘soccer’?
It’s why not many may readily recall — assuming they are even
conscious of the fact — that some of Ghana’s biggest stars of
all-time, notably Nations Cup winners Karim Abdul Razak and
Wilberforce Mfum, all once graced the dressing room of the now defunct
New York Cosmos, the franchise World Cup legends Pele, Carlos Alberto
and Franz Beckenbauer, among other footballing royalty, represented
circa that era. For any ‘serious’ Ghanaian footballer, then, the ideal
destination had always been Europe; America, it seemed, never really
was an option.
The trend is changing, however, with a strong breeze blowing a growing
swarm of Ghanaian players to the U.S. The MLS currently boasts some
nine Ghanaians, eight of whom have earned an international cap or more
for the Black Stars. And the number could have gone one higher this
month, had centre-back Jerry Akaminko’s contract talks with Real Salt
Lake — after a successful two-week trial — with respect to a move
from his Turkey base not gone south courtesy some last-minute glitch.
And while some [like Patrick Nyarko (D.C. United) and Dominic Oduro
(Montreal Impact)] may not get to add to their tallies of Ghana
appearances (one apiece in the case of the aforementioned duo) anytime
soon, there are some Stars’ regulars [Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew)
and David Accam (Chicago Fire)] strutting their stuff out there, as
well as others [like Gideon Baah (who only recently joined New York
Red Bulls) and Kwadwo Poku (New York City] who remain fresh prospects
for the national team’s future.
The allure of playing with some of the world’s finest footballers, albeit
mostly ones on the decline, and literally earning top-dollar doing so, is far too
strong, while the successes of some of those Ghanaians who’ve already
played in the USA — defender Afful and Portland Timbers goalkeeper
Adam Kwarasey were instrumental as their respective sides reached the
MLS Cup final last season, with the latter emerging tops — could
inspire many to take the same course.
American football, with its many limitations, may still not be
Paradise but, to many a Ghanaian footballer, it isn’t so bad anymore.