GIDEON BAAH v BABA RAHMAN: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Two of Ghana’s most naturally gifted left-backs in recent
times swapped places and dreams years ago, but the pendulum hasn’t yet
swung its last

In 2011, the destinies of two Ghanaian defenders, hitherto completely
independent of each other, crossed on a path that would lead their
respective careers in divergent directions.

That was when Ghana’s greatest club, Asante Kotoko, had brought in a
fresh-faced 17-year-old, Baba Rahman, on loan from then lower-tier
side Dreams FC. The Porcupine Warriors’ regular left-back option
sometime prior to Rahman’s recruitment had been Gideon Baah, a lad who
had emerged from Ghana’s first high-profile football reality show, had
risen through the layers, but had seen his star dimmed by a horrific
leg break — one he’d take several months to fully recover from. And
so it was that Rahman’s introduction to the big stage co-incided with
the final laps of Baah’s recuperation; at the time, it seemed there
was little more to it, such was the apparent irrelevance of this
backstory that it never really came up until Baah himself shed light
on it in an interview with The Guardian sometime last week.

image
New York Red Bulls defender Gideon Baah was the first choice Left-back for Asante Kotoko in 2011

“I had a fractured tibia and fibula,” Baah narrated. “I was out for
almost a year, and they tried to find my replacement. [Kotoko] found
Baba Rahman, and the rest as they say is history.”

As fate would have it, the club against whom Baah got knocked out,
Kotoko’s archrivals Hearts of Oak, was the same versus which Rahman
debuted and impressed. Baah would re-emerge yet remain beneath Rahman
in the pecking order, while the latter himself would stay in the
Garden City no longer than a year. Before long, Europe came knocking
and, despite interest from some of the Old Continent’s bigger sides,
Rahman settled for a small fish, Greuther Furth, then freshly promoted
to the Bundesliga. One thing led to another — during which period it
seemed Baah (who had secured for himself a move to a certain FC Honka
in Finland) and Rahman had little more to do with each other — and
Rahman earned a big-money move to English giants Chelsea in summer of
2015. . . and then, when everyone least expected, the stories of both
players intersected once more.

image
Baba Rahman pictured with Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard during a training session at Cohbams training centre after securing a move to the English Champions last summer

You see, as part of his reward for winning the aforementioned reality
show, Baah enjoyed a two-week trial at Chelsea, even receiving some
favorable reviews in the end. That notwithstanding, a dream move to
join the Blues never materialized, and he’s had to work his way to the
top not so easily, having only recently moved from Scandinavia to the
brighter lights of American soccer. The sum of all these factors is
probably why Rahman is the Black Stars’ current first-choice
left-back, while Baah has only just began trying to break into the
set-up.

image
Gideon Baah for HJK Helsinki
image
Baba Rahman has not been able to lock-down a role yet, eight months into his Chelsea FC career

Still, Rahman isn’t necessarily entitled to the last laugh, is he?

As Rahman has struggled for quality and  consistent action at Stamford
Bridge, Ghana head coach Avram Grant has shown a willigness to
consider other viable alternatives, an experiment of which Baah was a
beneficiary when Ghana played Canada in a friendly late last year. A
second call-up [and subsequent ones] hasn’t come yet, but it’s safe to
assume, with the early impressions Baah has made in the U.S for New
York Red Bulls, that it could only be a matter of time.

Whichever way you look at it, or on whoever’s side you are, the Baah-Rahman battle for supremacy is far from over. Watch this space.

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