Ibrahim Salou’s name will be forever lost when national team footballers past or present are being mentioned around the globe.
Salou’s rise to prominence in Belgium in the late 2000s was no fluke, the Kumasi Aboabo-born striker was the master of all that he surveyed. Perhaps, his introvert nature also shielded him away from all the praises he deserved.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches with great physique and an eye for goal, Salou was the dream arrowhead of all the coaches who watched him, he was the type of player who caught the attention of everyone with his speed, killer passes, dribbles and the eye for goal.
Born on May 29, 1979, in Aboabo, one of the Muslim Communities in the Ashanti Regional capital of Kumasi to Alhaji Ibrahim, onetime chairman of the Asokwa East Constituency of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Salou’s journey to the top was just like a whirlwind. He was spotted by some agents from Belgium whilst playing for Alhaji Gruzah’s King Faisal in February 1998 and was sent to German lower division side Wandsbek 81 that summer.
Salou spent just two season’s at Wandsbek 81 scoring 32 goals in just 26 appearances before Belgian outfit Turnhout came calling in June 2000, he joined them for a fee just in excess of 100,000 Euros.
The then 21-year-old made the move to Belgium and quickly established himself as the club’s tops marksman netting 29 goals in 50 appearances in four seasons. He attained Belgian nationality prior to his move to Kotrijk in 2006 and banged in 10 goals in 28 appearances. The subsequent season saw him moving to Zulte Wargem where he managed 9 goals in 28 games.
Salou’s stock had risen very fast, Anderlecht, Brugge, AEK Athens and Monaco were after his signature and a chance to play for the Belgian national team was also on the cards as René Vandereycken who was handling the team had met him and made his intentions known.
He moved to Club Brugge and started brightly netting three goals in his first couple of games. With a place in Belgium’s squad for Euro 2008 at stake, Salou never bothered when the Black Stars came calling as inwardly, his mind was focused on the European nation.
Ghana was struggling to get attackers for CAN 2008, with Asamoah Gyan who was not even a starter at Udinese and a certain Manuel Junior Agogo who was playing for Championship Club Nottingham Forest in England as our two leading attackers, coach Claude Le Roy who had watched Salou a number of times was bent on getting him to the Black Stars ahead of the African football fiesta.
The striker had previously been called in 2006 by Claude Le Roy which was prior to getting his Belgian nationality but he could not make it due to visa issues. After attaining Belgian nationality, the striker’s heart was fully with the European nation. Claude Le Roy went to Belgium to persuade Salou to play for Ghana in the 2008 African Cup of Nations but the striker declined.
“I respect the coach very much and I hope to resolve this once and for all” Salou stated before his meeting with Le Roy.
Strangely enough, Salou failed to glitter at Club Brugge, he was shipped off just after two seasons and his chance to stay at a top club and play for the Belgium national team was gone. He moved to Duisberg in Germany and after just six months joined Danish outfit Velje.
New York Red Bulls signed him but with just three goals in 19 games, they part ways with him in 2011 following the arrival of Henry Thierry and other top players.
He returned to Belgium and spent his last playing days with OH Leuven, Hoogstraten, Destelbergen, Hoboken before retiring in 2016.
One of the best African strikers to have ever graced the football in Belgium, Salou’s name will forever be in the dark in relations to national team football. He blew his chance to represent Ghana and his number one priority which was the Belgian national team also eluded him.