Kelvin Yeboah: The Ghana-born Italy Under-21 ace hoping to follow in uncle Tony's footsteps

Kelvin Yeboah Tony Yeboah Leeds Liverpool goal GFXGetty/GOAL

It remains one of the most iconic goals in Premier League history.

A hopeful punt forward by Leeds left-back Tony Dorigo, a cushioned header back from Rod Wallace and the most thunderous volley imaginable from Tony Teboah, with ball flying past Liverpool goalkeeper David James and cannoning off the crossbar into the ground and then back up into the roof of the net.

Trevor Francis was on co-commentary duty for Sky Sports that night and he immediately declared the goal of the season competition over.

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It was August 21, 1995. The new season was only three days old. 

Incredibly, Yeboah's goal was bettered – even more unbelievably by the same man, with the striker scoring another stunner against Wimbledon just over a month later.

Again, the ball was hammered home via the underside of the crossbar.

Both goals are burned in the brains of Premier League followers of a certain vintage. Hell, most of us can still hear the sound of the ball smacking off the bar.

Kelvin Yeboah remembers those two goals vividly too, even though he wasn't even born when his uncle Tony was taking English football by storm.

Tony Yeboah Kelvin Yeboah Leeds Genoa GFXGetty/GOAL

"Growing up, I remember my Dad putting on videos of my uncle playing football, and singing songs about him!" the 22-year-old tells GOAL, laughing.

"Me and my brothers would watch these goals all the time. I especially remember seeing the goal against Liverpool.

"It was a beautiful image to have in the back of your mind all the time, of my uncle scoring goals in the Premier League. 

"It was a great source of inspiration. To have someone close to you that's already done it, it just makes you believe that maybe you can make it as a professional too."

And that's exactly what Kelvin is doing: carving out a career for himself in the paid ranks. 

Indeed, he's presently training with Italy's Under-21s ahead of their decisive batch of Euro 2023 qualifiers against Luxembourg (June 6), Sweden (June 9) and Republic of Ireland (June 14).

Of arguably even greater significance, though, is the fact that Yeboah was also a part of a special training camp organised by Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini.

As so painfully underlined by their failure to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup, Italian football is in dire need of rejuvenation, particularly in attack.

"This match is the end of a cycle," Mancini said before Wednesday night's loss to Argentina. "From here on, we will include youngsters and start thinking about the future."

Yeboah could be one of those youngsters.

Although born in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Yeboah's family moved to Piemonte when he was still only a toddler.

It was in Italy, then, that he took his first steps towards becoming a professional footballer.

And it's interesting that while his uncle Tony was a source of inspiration, his childhood idols were Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Robinho and Alexandre Pato.

Fair to say, then, that he had a fondness for Brazilian attackers?

"Oh, definitely, come on, man, how could you not?" he exclaims. "They're one of the best football nations on earth."

So, how did a kid who spent his days trying to imitate players renowned for flair and flamboyance fare in a country renowned for defending and dark arts?

"It was definitely a good challenge," he admits. "Italy is a country of a lot of great defenders, a lot of great tactical coaches, so I think it forces you to be more creative, to try to trick opponents and make space for yourself.

"In that way, it was actually a great place for an attacker, because you had to work so hard to score goals."

His approach quickly paid off at under-age level, with Yeboah quickly making a name for himself at Novara, thanks to his mix of industry and innovation.

However, when opportunity knocked, his family, including uncle Tony, felt he would be best served by a move away from Italy.

"My brother moved to London to study and I had another uncle there," he explains, "and my dad said, 'I think England will suit you more, so maybe we should try to find you a club there.'

"So, I moved there at like 15 or 16, and I attended a couple of trials. Then, I joined West Ham, but not for long.

"It was only two or three months because I had an agent there and he said, 'I think you're ready to play in a more senior league'. And it's true that I was getting physically stronger. 

"So, from there, I went on trials, back and forth, here and there, and then I ended up in Austria."

Joining WSG Tirol in 2018 proved an inspired choice for a kid desperate for a taste of first-team football.

"Austria was a very positive experience for me at such a young age," he says. "I learned a lot, and not just in terms of football. It taught me a lot about living by myself and just being alone. 

"You learn a lot about yourself that way, so it was a fantastic journey in that sense. I really grew up. 

"On the pitch, it helped me as I got so many minutes, as that really builds your confidence as a young player."

Indeed, right from the start, Yeboah featured regularly for Tirol in Austria's second tier before then impressing in his debut season in the Bundesliga, netting four goals in a stunning cup win over Austria Wien in September 2019.

Yeboah's potential was obvious and he was snapped up by Sturm Graz in February of last year.

Twenty goals later and he was on the move again, only this time back to Italy, to sign for Genoa during the January transfer window.

It's fair to say that Yeboah's half-season in Serie A didn't go according to plan. He featured often but in a struggling side that ended up being relegated. 

"It was a hard season, very intense, on and off the pitch," he concedes. "We didn't achieve what we wanted as a team but I always try to look on the bright side, and focus on what I have taken from each experience.

"Despite being here for just four or five months, I learned a lot, because you learn so much about how to get around the defence in Italy.

"I think as a young player you should play in as many leagues as possible, because it gives you the experience you need to become a top player when you're older.

"So, tactically and mentally, I think this tough half-season at Genoa has given me a lot of strength for the next challenges."

And who knows where they lie? He openly admits he's a fan of English football.

Kelvin Yeboah Genoa Serie A 2021-22 GFXGetty/GOAL

"I think the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world, if not the best," he says. "The speed is incredible. In terms of physicality and intensity, I think it's my kind of football."

However, there has also been interest in his services among Bundesliga clubs.

It makes sense, of course: he already speaks German and his uncle Tony enjoyed spells at Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburg either side of achieving cult hero status at Leeds.

"For sure, because of my uncle, and having played in Austria, it could be nice, as it's a similar type of football, and I don't think I would have too much trouble adapting," he admits. 

"But, for now, I'm just focusing on the Under-21s. I just want to give my best, and then we'll see. 

"I haven't really given that much thought to my next move. So, after playing these games with the national team, me and the club will talk and see what the best option is for everyone."

Staying in Italy is also an attractive option, too, of course, with his short spell in Serie A having already caught Mancini's eye.

However, it's also worth remembering that he's still eligible to represent Ghana at senior level. 

And whereas Italy failed to qualify for this year's World Cup, the Black Stars booked their place in Qatar by upsetting Nigeria in the play-offs.

He could soon have a difficult choice to make.

Unsurprisingly for such a well-travelled young man, Yeboah is reluctant to be drawn on where his long-term future lies, but he will admit that he'll be supporting Ghana at the World Cup no matter what happens.

"I grew up in Italy, so it's part of me," he says, "but so is Ghana.

"Italy and Ghana are both my country, I suppose, and nobody knows what will happen in the future."

For now, the boy who used to watch his uncle Tony's goals on TV just wants to concentrate on magical memories of his own.

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