Tales of Africa’s lost talents

By Atsrim Sitsofe Philip

Africa, over the years, has produced amazing young football talent. Some of these make it to the big stage and play for years on the highest stage in Europe. The likes of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Samuel Eto'o Fils, and John Obi Mikel all belong to that elite bracket.

African teams have also been impressive during Fifa-organized tournaments at Under-20 and U-17 levels, with several individuals standing out each time. What, though, happens to all those rising stars we see at these tournaments?

Obstructed by hype, poor choices with regard to career moves, injuries, and devious agents, many of these have failed to shine. Below, Goal considers some of the more notable victims:

The Feyenoord (Ghana) product is one of those who have not yet lived up to expectations. Adiyiah graced our screens with his wonderful positioning and ability to find the net with ease at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Egypt four years ago. He was without doubt the best player at that tournament and deservedly won the Golden Ball award. Adiyiah also picked up the competition's Golden Boot prize with eight goals. His displays earned him a place in the senior national team and Adiyiah formed part of the Black Stars squad that did the whole of Africa proud at the 2010 Fifa World Cup. However, the promising striker has struggled with his choice of clubs since joining Italian giants AC Milan in the aftermath of his exploits at junior level for Ghana. It is a shame that such fine talent like Adiyiah might just not be able to reach the heights he once seemed so destined for.


Another player who was a genuine discovery at the 2009 Fifa U-20 World Cup, Afroto scored the opening goal of the tournament for the hosts. Once the darling of Egyptian football, Afroto now seems all but forgotten to the world. The Egyptian had great pace, trickery, power, and every other attribute required to make a top player. Afroto was tipped to be the main man for the future of the Pharaohs, yet his promising future grew dim after he had issues with his parent club Al-Ahly for not allowing him to return from loan when he asked for it. Afroto said the club treated him as though he were nothing and was looking to move to Europe amid political instability in Egypt. The attacking midfielder was set to move to Greek side Atromitos F.C but finally signed up for Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag. He appeared only in four games for Qarabag, joined Misr El Makasa on a two-and-a-half-year contract, and is now employed by Romania's ACS Poli Timisoara.


At age 20, the talented left-back was already making massive waves in the French Ligue 1 after he was signed by Olympique Marseille to replace former France international Bixente Lizarazu who had departed for Bayern Munich. Taiwo, indeed, enjoyed solid and consistent performances with Marseille for five years. His attacking skill down the left flank as a full-back caught the eye. He had a powerful left foot, good ability from set-pieces, and made the headlines in France as he continued to impress. Taiwo's career has suffered a bad swing, though, after he joined AC Milan in May 2010. The Nigerian spent most of his time in Milan on the bench and secured a season-long loan to England's Queen Park Rangers. Still, his lot failed to improve significantly. He moved to Dynamo Kyiv on another loan deal and is now on the books of Turkish side Bursaspor. Taiwo, once a regular for his country, has now lost his place altogether in the Super Eagles' setup.


Quansah, a winger so fast and skilful, was a member of Ghana’s squad at the U-17 World Cup in Korea, making six impressive appearances at that tournament. He was also a member of the gold-winning Black Satellites' class of 2009. Quansah signed for French club OGC Nice in 2008 but featured rather infrequently before transferring to now defunct Ukrainian team Arsenal Kyiv. Presently with unfashionable El Gouna in Egypt, few Ghanaians remember how good Quansah once was; even fewer are aware he still plays football. Still young, Quansah has some time on his side, and his admirers could only hope he comes good someday.


It might not yet be all over for Macauley in terms of becoming the top footballer many imagined he would blossom into. The 23-year-old has had two good seasons with Spanish lower-tier side Las Palmas, scoring 20 goals in 67 appearances. Macauley had - and maybe still has - enough in his tank to be a great centre-forward. Not so long ago (in 2007) he picked up the Silver Ball and top goalscorer at the U-17 World Cup, scoring seven with his right foot alone. Following his successes, the promising young striker was wanted by big clubs in Europe and he eventually joined Hamburg in the Bundesliga but struggled to find a place in the first team. Prior to his move to Las Palmas, Macauley was sent by Hamburg on two loan spells during which he notched some 19 goals, giving indications that he couldn't yet be written off. A transfer this summer to Turkish club Sivasspor presents a fine opportunity to make further progress.


Opportunistic, blessed with lots of pace and great movement, Osei was recognised as one of the 50 Most Exciting Teenagers on the Planet in November 2007 by World Soccer Magazine. The boy - who said he would love to head the ball just like the legend Patrick Kluivert, control it as well as Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o Fils, and finish moves off as slickly as Thierry Henry does - certainly had plenty of ambition while still young. Likely, then, Osei would be disappointed not to have reached the goals he had set for himself. He was a leader and had all the makings of a great poacher, collecting a host of individual and team laurels for Ghana at youth level. Winning his first senior cap for his country at the age of 17, many saw him as a perfect partner/cover for current Black Stars' lead forward Asamoah Gyan. Osei was selected as part of the Ghanaian national side that won silver at the 2010 African Cup of Nations. After a couple of disappointing spells in Europe, Osei returned to Ghana where he now plays for record domestic champions Asante Kotoko. Like several entries on this list, Osei could still recover, tough though it may seem.

Bringing terror to opponents and joy to his countrymen with amazing strength and skill, Adams was an enticing prospect when featuring for Ghana's Black Starlets back in 2007. Adams signed a pre-contract agreement with Spanish side Atletico Madrid in November 2009 and was allowed to train with the club's reserves as Fifa authorized no international transfers for footballers aged 18 and under. It all looked bright for Adams until he was banned for four months for abandoning a deal with Etoile du Sahel in order to sign for the 2014 Uefa Champions League finalists. Having shot himself in the foot with that error, Adams has since not been able to settle in any top-flight league.