Gideon Amponsah looks straight at me through his screen and mind during our
virtual interview between Ghana’s port city, Takoradi, and Paris, France. He’s more than a good
prospect for a football career, he says, unblinking.
«I’m extraordinary. What you will see, mainly, is an attacking player. I’m talented with my left foot,
with my right foot. I have good style. I’m extraordinary,» says Mr. Amponsah, who goes by
He’s been extraordinary since third grade, playing in southern Ghana. Nearly 21 years old, he’s a
man-sized talent and much appreciated.
«Most of the little kids, when they see me playing, they are really happy to see me playing.»
He’s ‘Got game’ and declares it in the style of Muhammad Ali, who visited Ghana in 1964. The
footballer’s introduction to Ali comes from his uncle when they happened to be in front of the
television in the home they share.
«My uncle and I are watching boxing, and he was talking about Ali. I asked, ‘Who is this guy?’
Since I saw Muhammad Ali that day, the determination I had was to win the game at all costs. The
first perception in my mind was that I would like to imitate him in order to gain that success.»
Owusu drank in Ali’s boundless confidence in the ring, and he watched in rapt attention when The
Champ walked through Ghana in the royal Ashanti cloth. Owusu felt incredible brotherhood with a
man who changed his own life and extended blessings to many others.
This essay could focus on one athlete’s quest, but it instead turns to the mechanics of getting
there for talented athletes from around the world.
Enter two entrepreneurs behind Search Your Team, a recruiting platform for teenage boys and
girls. The founders, who are not much older than Owusu, created an App to connect an athlete’s
desire with the real world tangible needs: continued training and a fitness regime, financial
stability, and safe exposure to teams and coaches.
These are the major obstacles, as Owusu sees them. «I need help to travel and play football
outside of my country. Mr. Wesley has been a great help, a great friend. I put all my trust in him
and here I am speaking to you.»
In 2018, internet-age innovators Wesley Mukerinkindi and Gaetan Ekoondo set up Search Your
Team. Step one is for athletes from anywhere in the world to upload videos of their games on the
platform. Even cell phone videos! SYT will edit the videos and send them to their network of
coaches at schools and at pro teams.
In this way, SYT removes the stubborn obstacle players have: getting seen.
«I went against what my mom wanted for my career to work on this entrepreneurship. It was a
struggle to convince my family in the beginning, but now they see the result,» says Mr.
Mukerinkindi. Nine athletes, women and men, have found either a soccer or basketball
scholarship at a university or signed a pro/semi-pro contract.
Mr. Mukerinkindi studied in the U.S., from Rwanda, thanks to a soccer scholarship. Mr. Ekoondo
studied at Harvard.
«Everything I am experiencing, I would love to share. I would love to see people having the same
story as me. I would love to see people working on themselves, showing them that everything is
possible,» says Mr. Ekoondo. «Changing a life— I know how important this is because this
happened to me.»
Owusu agrees: «I know football can change my life. What I want to become is a great player to
change my life and to change some people’s life in the society where I was born.
«’Gideon, push hard. Gideon, fight.’ That’s what my uncle tells me. He has also bought me my ball
boots for training. When I get the phone call to change my life, I’ll give thanks to Almighty God,
then call my uncle. It will be a 100% shock for him. He has helped me since childhood, and I’ll
give him thanks for all the support,» says Owusu.
By Nita Wiggins
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