To be a man...: Has life played its last cruel card on Odartey Lamptey?

The former Ghana international has suffered one misfortune after another in his 38-year-old life, and Goal wonders if his latest could prove his worst yet

By Sammie Frimpong

Mention a man toughened by abrasive adversity and the harsh realities of life, and Nii Odartey Lamptey readily comes to mind.

From childhood through his existence as a man and a footballer, Odartey has always received little change from the people he has trusted and expected most from. Disappointments and exploitation by those dearest to his heart has largely been the story of his life.

As a child, Lamptey was raised amidst turbulence. His father, a hopeless alcoholic, regularly beat him, even burning young Lamptey with red-hot cigarette butts whenever he felt like it. Consequently, Lamptey would often spend nights away from home. When aged just eight, his parents split, and his mother - also occasionally abusive of him but generally more protective - had to move in with another man. Lamptey remained with his father, though, but not for long.

While yet a teenager, Lamptey would be practically disowned. Continually hassled by his violent dad and having to deal with a fresh kind of challenge in his bothersome stepmother, he was virtually forced out of home.

The latest unhappy episode in Lamptey's life has developed in the last few days as dramatically as any A-list Hollywood movie could. It involves Lamptey allegedly suspecting infidelity on the part of his wife of 20 years 


Through it all, football was Lamptey's sole solace, providing him with a semblance of the serenity he had been robbed of in his formative years. Yet even here, his bogeyman of a daddy would try to reach him. Not content with domestic abuse, Lamptey senior would often frequent the pitches where his boy played, and would heckle and embarrass him from the touchline. Only years later would father and son be re-united.

His had indeed been a miserable upbringing.

Determined as Lamptey was, though, he was always going to dribble his way out of it all. Feted by the world - with a figure no less than the legendary Brazilian, Pele, leading his praise-singers - for his brilliant displays at the 1991 Under-17 World Cup in Italy, Lamptey seemed well primed to become the biggest thing in football since the offside rule.

Here was a great talent, they said, ready to shine in subsequent years.

And shine he did, at least in his first few seasons playing in Europe, in Belgium and Holland, with Anderlecht and PSV Eindhoven respectively. Then came a move to England's Aston Villa, an ill-fated one as it soon turned out. From the very beginning, that transfer simply failed to make sense. PSV were a far mightier force than Villa at the time, thus the move represented an obvious step backwards for such a promising young man. The motive behind it soon became clear, however. The man who made it happen, Antonio Caliendo, Lamptey’s agent at the time, had bagged his client the wrong deal simply to feed his own greed. Described by a fellow player agent as "a shady character who held Lamptey's transfer rights like a slave owner held his slave," Caliendo had sold the naive and unsuspecting Lamptey a hard bargain when he first landed in Europe, luring him into signing an exclusive marketing contract that ensured he [Caliendo] personally cashed roughly 25% of the fee any transfer of Lamptey commanded. And so he packaged the youngster complete with ticker-tape and pushed him off to Ron Atkinson's Villa.
 COUNT ON US | Lamptey (2nd from right) can only fall on his old friends in trying times like this

That marked the beginning of the end for Lamptey. Scoring just thrice for the Villans represented gross failure for a player whose hype had always preceded him, and Lamptey then embarked on a globe-trotting adventure that saw him play for 10 different clubs on four continents. At two of those stops - Union de Santa Fe in Argentina and German outfit Greuther Furth - he was hit with the shattering heartbreak of losing children; first his son Diego, who he named after the great Argentine legend Maradona, and then Lisa, a girl.

A troubled career over, Lamptey has been seeing out a quiet pension in the Ghanaian capital, enjoying the growth of a world-standard international school, a blossoming football academy, and a cattle farm on the outskirts of Accra.

Until this week, that is.

The latest unhappy episode in Lamptey's life has developed in the last few days as dramatically as any A-list Hollywood movie could. It involves Lamptey allegedly suspecting infidelity on the part of his wife of 20 years and, with his doubts reaching a crux, requesting a DNA-based paternity test to be conducted on his three surviving offspring. The results were brutally spine-tingling and revealing: none had been fathered by him.

Even cruelly, his partner, Gloria, is the reason why Lamptey's siblings remain so hostile to him to this day; the reason why he had to bury his deceased father with little help from anyone. Being of the Ga tribe, Lamptey's immediate family had objected to his marriage to a Fanti lady.

With the dirty laundry of his marital life being washed so publicly and reportedly heading for a divorce that is likely to become muddy and heady as it gets along, Lamptey would be left pondering, hand-on-jaw for the umpteenth time, just how things ever so rarely seem easy on him.

He's never deserved any of it, really.
Not the abuse as a child.
Not the shameless manipulation by his football agent.
Not the untimely death of his kids.
And this neither.
Sorry, Nii.

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