FEATURE: The injury curse and the unfulfilled career of Ghanaian forward Opoku Agyemang

Published on: 05 May 2019

Having been blessed with the nickname ‘Ronaldo,’ because his style of play was believed to be reminiscent of the Brazilian. Opoku Agyemang had the pace to get away from the quickest of full-backs, the strength to bully the best of centre-backs and the skill to rival much more talented Ghanaian forwards of yore and unmatched power in his magical right foot.

Born and raised in Obuasi, he began his career as an inside-right, his size better suited for playing out wide rather than directly as a centre- forward. A player of great agility, it was his speed and athleticism that were his best attributes, making him a formidable force to come up against.

His performances for Goldfields impressed the selectors of his nation’s National U-17 team and, in 2005, he would receive his first call-up to don the colours of his nation and represent ‘her’ in the CAF U-17 championship and the FIFA U-17 Championship in Peru.

Agyemang’s history of the World Cup is unique. In his first participation, he would feature in all of the Black Starlets’ opening three games as an incoherent, underprepared Ghana side would embarrassingly crash out.

Domestically, his head-turning performances for Goldfields (Ashantigold) would provide the stepping stone and attract many potential suitors across the globe but it was Tunisian side Sfaxien whisked him away and with whom he made 27 appearances and scoring 7 goals that saw his stock rise and tempted Qatar’s most popular side, Al-Sadd where his brilliance and plethora of goals ensured he became a crucial figure of the team earning him a place in Sellas Tetteh Black Satellites team that represented Ghana in FIFA U-20 Championship in 2009.

If his first World Cup was one to forget, although with a solitary souvenir an assist he registered, his second is widely remembered.

Held in Egypt, Opoku Agyemang entered the competition as one of the most feared players in the game. Unlike the U-17 team, Ghana with players like Andre Ayew, Dominic Adiyiah and Ransford Osei et al came into the World Cup as one of the favourites. At the World Cup, Agyemang’s intuitiveness was in full view.

He excelled alongside Ayew and Adiyiah and Osei- cumbersome beasts whose perspicacity appeared to take defenders by surprise.

The Black Satellites walked the talk and proved the connoisseurs right as they were crowned Champions of the competition by beating Brazil on penalties and thus becoming the first African side to win the coveted trophy that had eluded the continent for decades.

After such a momentous and historic feat, some of the players were handed call-ups into the senior national team, the Black Stars for the AFCON 2010 tournament in Angola with Opoku Agyemang among the chosen few. He was limited to a lesser role in Ghana’s second-placed finish as they lost to Egypt in the finals courtesy Ahmed Gedo’s late winner.

At this point, life appeared good for the budding forward. This was curtailed after a terrible challenge by an Al-Hilal defender during an Asian Champions league.

The broken leg suffered by Agyemang was to keep him out until the new year. It was a debilitating injury, one that would leave every professional footballer doubtful of their future.  Agyemang, though, was not one to give in lightly.

Thankfully, he did return but found it extremely difficult to break into the Al-Sadd team and was thus sent out a three-month loan to Al-Ahli Doha. He ended his stint with the Doha based club with just a goal in ten appearances. He returned to his parent club after the loan spell but could still not command a place in the team was subsequently released by the club.

In the summer of 2012, Levski Sofia became home for six months during Agyemang’s first ever spell in Europe, but this came to an uninspiring end almost as quickly as it had begun.

In his debut for the Bulgarian club, he was ineffective and had to be hauled off at half time. This has since been attributed to the challenge from the Al-Hilal defender, which saw Agyemang lose a yard of pace he never got back. He was left with no option than to go back to Qatar with no hope of playing football again.

A couple of days ago, Ghanaian football lovers and neutrals alike woke up to the news of Opoku Agyemang’s imminent return to active football seven years since he last graced the green turf to kick a ball.

“Despite being out these past nine years, I have always felt confident that I will recover fully and play again. I’m still on rehabilitation full of hope that I return soon,” he told Starr FM as quoted by footy-ghana.com

“I have not given up on playing again. When I finally feel there is no chance, I will surely announce the end of my playing career. I love to play football. It is my source of happiness.” He added.

That’s refreshing to hear from the man who could have had a stellar career. It certainly could have been. Opoku Agyemang, unlike many others, was not responsible for his own footballing difficulties. A level-headed, personable character and a devout Christian, there was no hint of arrogance or complacency as he rose to prominence as a young player at Goldfields (Ashantigold).

Many felt the pang of disappointment when news filtered through, too regularly, that the budding Ghanaian forward hopes of playing to the highest echelons of the sport was all but dead due to recurring injuries.

There was a connection between the ordinary football fan and Opoku Agyemang- they might have been on opposite ends of the spectrum but many of the fans who got excited about him as an upcoming sensation with so much promise were equally as dejected when he faltered.

The heights at which he soared at the beginning of his career were euphoric and career-defining, but the depths he plumbed at the behest of injuries to his knee were the lowest he would ever know, and they ended or almost ended his career. At 29, Opoku Agyemang’s football career, exhilarating though it has been, has become irreversibly burdened with a wretched caveat.

That injury will forever shield the player he was and the player he could have become.

Source: kickgh.com