From Grass to Grace: Back to the present – Episode 9

By Nana Frimpong

Well, he did rise again – and this time for good. He had gone through too much to permit this latest misfortune to slap him down flat. And so he got back on his feet.

Straight up.

It never came easily, though. The portions of his time not taken up by physiotherapy were spent with a reputable shrink hired by his club to nurture their best player back to optimum form and fitness.

Before very long, he was up and delivering as only he knew how. And while he didn’t recover in time to help his club stage a successful title defence, his performances did catch the eye of the national team selectors.

At this point, his progress got fast-tracked and, as he realised to his delighted surprise, the only way was up.

A couple of friendlies and competitive games later, he had grown into an instant national star and steadily went on to claim a regular place in the team, even being granted custody of t he No.10 shirt that had belonged to arguably his country’s finest footballer ever, himself a creative midfielder.

Eight months after his debut, he represented the national side to much acclaim at the Nations’ Cup where he helped the team reach the semi-finals and eventually claim bronze.

Then came his bow on the biggest stage of all: the Fifa World Cup, where he played a starring role as his country became the first from Africa to reach the last-four in the Mundial’s history. Almost overnight, his life had been transformed immensely.

His success had been news-worthy alright, but the tale behind it proved even more intriguing.

Across tabloids and major football websites around the world splashed the story about the boy who had risen from the dusty fields of his hometown to grace the modern game’s pristine pitches.

The boy who had been rejected by family.

The boy who had sacrificed his formal education on the altar of football.

The boy who had fallen into bad company and regained his senses just in time.

The boy who had been ejected from the first proper football team he ever played for because he had declined to take the shortcut to ‘success’ offered by his coach/guardian and a corrupt junior national team official.

The boy who had suffered the ignominy of being chased out of his own hometown for being a scoundrel and yet survived the gloom that depressing incident threatened to have on his career.

Put simply, the boy who had risen from grass to grace.

Not long after his exploits at the World Cup, scouts of several big European clubs came calling and serenading football’s ‘next big thing’, and he eventually settled for the one option that offered him the brightest career prospects – the very club in whose dressing room he sat now and for whom he was about to make his debut in a few minutes.

Away from the pitch, things were running smoothly, too. His family and village had finally found reason to be proud of their long-lost son, even as they watched and cheered his displays at the World Cup from behind their sole black-and-white television set.

He had also heard of how his mentor and former coach Smith often would, over a glass of beer at the local pub, brag about how his lad had matured into a ‘big man’ right under his watch. He would forever be grateful to the man, of course, and had even sent him a handsome remittance from his cut of the hefty transfer fee along with a postcard. Partly due to his newly-acquired fame and wealth, too, he had found for himself a fine lady with whom he would commence the next chapter of his life.

‘A life that had held so little promise just under a decade ago yet which couldn’t have seemed better now,’ he smirked while finally d rifting out of his reverie and wiping a stray tear off his face…

Even as he waited for the seconds remaining before kick-off to tick down, Kojo Baah couldn’t help but reflect on these memories of his past.

Impossibly dreamy as his present circumstances appeared, though, he did realise the need to focus on the future by learning from all he had endured and enjoyed en route to reaching this level.

And that future, as he knew it presently, would start in just a few minutes.

Click to read episode 8 – The prodigal son returns

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