By Nii Ayitey Tetteh
There were times when they brought joy to our hearts; had us screaming and punching the air with careless abandon, sometimes they made our hearts beat faster, and then there were the occasions they got under our skin and made us clench our teeth or bite our nails in anxiety.
Such were the emotions of fans of the beautiful game in the past 10 months as footballers in the various European leagues served up sizzling entertainment. For us here in Ghana, our interest lies in how Ghanaian players in particular fared in Europe and on the international scene.
Did they make any significant contribution to the success of their teams or they came up short? Sit back, as I present to you, my picks for esteemed mentions.
DISCOVERY OF THE SEASON
There first time I heard his name on radio I sighed ‘huh!?’ Chibsah!? Well, I would later find out that, it was not Yusif Alhassan Chibsah, the ex-Kotoko and Black Stars player, it was Yusif Rahman Chibsah. Signed originally from Bechem United by Juventus, he was sent on loan to Sassuolo, where he contributed to the team’s promotion to the Serie A, playing 28 matches and scoring 2 goals. A strong performance to claim the discovery of the season title but a certain David Accam makes a stronger case.
Now playing for Swedish top flight campaigners, Helsingborgs IF, David Accam, is a burgeoning talent. In these times when Ghana struggles for an offensive midfielder, Accam’s emergence is as fresh as the countryside air. The 22 year old honed his skills at the Right To Dream Academy in Ghana before moving to England and later to Sweden. He featured for lower-tier sides before moving to Helsingborgs IF.
Accam’s sultry ball skills, vision and creative abilities have propelled him into the limelight. He has already played 17 games and scored 2 goals this year for Helsingborgs IF. It was thus no surprise when Ghana coach, Kwesi Appiah, gave him a call up to the Black Stars in March 2013 for the World Cup Qualifier against Sudan. Ghana have a lot of midfielders and for that matter; a number of defensive midfielders. So for me, the offensive midfield gap that Accam could potentially fill in the national team makes him the ‘find of the season’.
COMEBACK OF THE SEASON
Comeback is the apt title for the tale involving two buddies; one began the season at Chelsea but then things weren’t looking too rosy for the man once known as ‘the Bison’; Michael Essien had been cast aside by then coach Roberto Di Mateo. He had minimal impact the previous season in part to injury and little playing time. The future looked as foggy as the morning dew.
Essien had to look beyond Stamford Bridge, so he quickly swapped his English chips for Spanish tacos when ‘big daddy’ came calling. ‘Daddy’ as Essien likes to call Jose Mourihno, rescued his ‘son’ with a one-year loan offer away from Chelsea. Essien repaid the faith by putting in decent shifts in various positions; right back, left back and across midfield. Pace he clearly lacked, yes, but he made up for it with his football brain. 34 games, 1 goal, with 1 more game to end the season, is commendable from the player who may just return to the Bridge.
Mourinho & Essien
The other player, Sulley Muntari began the season carrying an injury, the most painful of any kind; physically and psychologically. A harmless summer holiday kick about a.k.a ‘Monday Stars’ in Accra resulted in a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament after a tackle on international team mate, Christian Atsu. It looked like it was going to be a long season, but Muntari had other ideas.
He returned to action for AC Milan in January and has since played 19 matches in all competitions scoring 2 goals; the highlight of which was the goal versus Barcelona in the Champions League. He ended his season on a low though, after being sent off for physically trying to restrain the referee from issuing a card to compatriot Kevin-Prince Boateng. But it is not for that bad press that I am picking Essien ahead of Muntari as the comeback king. Essien performed over a longer stretch in a high pressure environment; in multiple positions. For this, Essien is my choice for this award.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
This was always going to be a tough call but at the end of the day the weight of the impact was the deciding factor between nominees.
And the nominees are: Italy based duo of Richmond Boakye-Yiadom of Sassuolo (on loan from Juventus) and Isaac Cofie of Chievo Verona. Then there is Rabiu Mohammed of Évian Thonon Gaillard in France. What do these players have in common? Well for starters, they all had impactful seasons in Italy and France; Boakye Yiadom, the 20 year old Sassuolo striker, was instrumental in Sassuolo winning promotion to the Seria A as he featured in 32 games and scored 11 goals. Isaac Cofie was ever present for Chievo in the Serie A with his quick and strong running in midfield. The 21 year old, featured 28 times and found the net twice. But despite the efforts of the ‘Italians’, it’s Rabiu Mohammed who should claim the Young Player of the Season award for the impact made at club and national level.
When Burkina Faso eliminated Ghana at the last Nations Cup, many believed it was Rabiu’s substitution that changed the complexion of the semifinal game. He has since become a mainstay in the team. His ability to read the game and make vital interceptions, dispossess opponents, and pick passes are some of the attributes that contributed to him making 38 appearances with 2 goals for both club and country.
Rabiu, this award is for you, may it just be the beginning of bigger things ahead.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
A straight battle between Kwadwo Asamoah and Mubarak Wakaso.
Ordinarily, scoring 31 goals and aiding Al Ain to another title should have made Asamoah Gyan a contender, but the level of football in UAE eliminates Gyan.
Wakaso, Wakaso Wakaso! I called him three times.
In the past season, the former Ashanti Gold player, (26 years) brought loads of smiles to Ghana fans and Espanyol, his club in Spain. Despite all the potential, Wakaso only made his Ghana debut in November 2012 against Cape Verde and has since made 9 more, scoring 7 goals in the process! Back at Espanyol, the 23 year old featured 26 times and scored 3 goals.
Kwadwo Asamoah may not have had the same impact for Ghana but he claims the player of the season based on his massive contribution to Juventus’ capture of the Seria A title. In total, Kwadwo played a total of 45 games for Club and country finding the net 5 times. For that, Kwadwo is undoubtedly the player of the season. His season was simply Awe-somoah!
Kwadwo: Simply Awe-somoah-another award for the collection