Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Small posts and the probable making of Kwadwo Asamoah.

Many many nations have vast storehouses of football talent. Ghana, it must be said, is no exception. Especially in the midfield. Someone once said that Ghana has the most promising talent in midfield because of the hugely popular 'small posts' which is played across the country.

This game is played on any strip of land of any size, with two teams, a ball and make shifts posts made from wood, different pairs of shoes or whatever is suitable for the demarcation. And then the game begins.

Whoever wins a game of 'small posts' is most likely to be largely successful because it has an identifiable playmaker. He (or she, as is sometimes the case) is responsible for co-ordinating the movement of the ball from the back to the front.

And it is because of this reliance on the midfielder that, I feel, that Ghana has produced more players in that position than in any other. Maybe, this model may be true for many African nations as well because it seems the continent is awash with players in this position.

Past and present

From 'small posts' have come legends in the Ghanaian game today. Going further back, Karim Abdul Razak was one of Africa’s premier midfielders during the 1980s, whereas former Marseille and Torino playmaker Abedi Pele, the ‘African Maradona’, is an undisputed legend of the game.

Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari have both starred for top Italian clubs Juventus and Inter, respectively, while Chelsea’s Michael Essien can currently claim to be one of the world’s best enforcers.

And maybe, Ghana may be having another one.

Kwadwo Asamoah

Until just a couple of months ago, Kwadwo Asamoah was quite a nobody. The 21-year-old had moved to Torino on loan in January 2008 from Swiss side Bellinzona, and then on loan again to Udinese last summer.

For years, he played 'small posts' and 'gutter to gutter' in the Ashanti region. And then he moved to Liberty Professionals where I first met him and had an interview with him in 2007.

Until January of this year, Asamoah had yet to make his Serie A debut, and anyone dedicated enough to study squad rosters would probably have written off the youngster as a nonentity.

Finally, he made his debut on January 11, as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 home draw with Sampdoria. He has since been a virtual ever-present, starting 13 matches, and scoring one goal – a superb effort during the 3-1 win over Fiorentina last season.

In the space of just three months, Asamoah’s transfer value has risen from a five-figure sum to at least €15 million. Every major Italian club, particularly Inter and Juventus, are said to be interested in signing the starlet, while it is surely only a matter of time before Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, and other Premier League giants, start passing over a few admiring glances.

In many ways, Asamoah is the complete modern midfielder. He has explosive pace, everlasting stamina, bull-like strength, and moves tirelessly from box-to-box. Yet, unlike your Essien or Muntari, he also possesses some exciting technical skills. Asamoah dribbles and surges past opponents, passes the ball well, has good awareness, and possesses a sweet left foot.

If you had to compare him to a player, you would say he is a mix between Edgar Davids and Manchester United’s Anderson, only less robust and defensive-minded than the former, and not as tactical as the latter.

Juventus and Inter both desperately need a top-class midfielder this summer, and they could do a lot worse than Asamoah. He may only have three months' top-class experience under his belt, but there is no replacement for raw talent, and Asamoah certainly has the makings of a really special player. He is also very versatile, as he is so complete and supple, and could probably fit into any tactical system.

If he were not, Udinese coach Pasquale Marino would not have fielded him on such a regualr basis, for the starlet to have given him 6 Uefa Cup goals and 19 Serie A goals in total.

At next summer’s World Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has already vowed that an African nation can make it to the semi-finals. Ivory Coast are perhaps the best equipped to fulfil this prophecy, but one should not rule out Ghana.

The Black Stars may be lacking a bit of quality in defence and attack, but in a year’s time their midfield will be able to hold its own against most teams. Essien, Muntari and Asamoah have the potential to form a fearsome trident. Were Mario Balotelli to follow Anthony Baffoe’s advice and pledge his allegiance too, then Ghana really could cause a stir in South Africa.

With a player who scored such a good goal against Sudan and did it again with Mali, Ghana may yet have a key.

One can only hope that his injury situation is not so dire and that maybe his estimated 1-month layoff would be better. So that he can give us more of these!

1 comment:

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