Accra, Ghana – In Nima, Mohammed Kudus orders to be like a god. In the area of Accra that he calls home, you are proud of the voice of the locals when his name is mentioned.
Fans of his club Ajax know him for scoring goals, playing the ball, creating chances and sometimes pulling the trigger on football.
However, to the people of Nima, he will be an innocent, innocent child, who charmed them with his magical left foot at Kawukudi Park for years.
One episode from his time there with his boyhood club Strong Tower FC sticks out in the minds of many of his hometown fans.
In the top flight against Powerlines FC at the junior level, 11-year-old Kudus carried the team on his shoulders, dominating the game and showing the accuracy natural to footballers of his age. In the end, they scored six goals as Strong Tower drew 6-6 with their opponents.
To this day, the memory of the young star beating his opponents on the same day in 2011 remains a hot topic in these circles.
“I first saw Kudus playing on the street, and immediately I saw a good player,” says Joshua ‘Ayoba’ Awuah, who is the manager of Strong Tower, who discovered Kudus and put him on the path to greatness.
“I invited him to my training camp, and he was exciting from day one,” Awuah said. “I called him ‘the best in the world’. He was only 10 years old when I met him, but his character was clear.”
‘Books and Shoes’
Nima, a suburb of Accra, is often associated with gangs, crime and drug use. Until recently, anyone born or raised there was considered a bad person.
In recent years, many residents of the area have opposed this idea, including President Nana Akufo-Addo, and Kudus who has been using football to light up the neighborhood.
For King Osei Gyan, head of the Right to Dream Academy in Akosombo in eastern Ghana where Kudus visited, “he represents the next generation of talent from Africa who consider themselves important and will fight and represent. this”.
The athlete’s willingness to combine football and education also contributed to his success, those who knew him said. Young Kudus was gifted on the pitch and smart in the classroom. Something that helped him do all this was a football tournament organized in Nima by a non-profit organization called Books and Shoes.
The organization focuses on areas facing poverty, crime, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy with the aim of using football to encourage reading among children.
Nima copied all the boxes.
“Kudus must have been 12 years old and he was very young,” recalled Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah, CEO of Books and Boots. “He wasn’t a famous player, but he had talent. Apparently, he crossed the road from Nima with his brothers and cousins to play.”
“However, those who were watching him were very interested, and after the incident, a Right to Dream researcher approached me and asked for permission to speak to the boy’s representatives,” he said.
This is how Kudus ended up at Right to Dream Academy. He was raw but fit in his new position, his coaches said.
“Kudus showed great potential the first day he joined,” said Oman Abdul Rabi, Right to Dream’s talent development coach. “The way he takes his touch, his movement and his play, you can see he has potential.”
In his six years at the academy, Kudus has done it all, playing in the middle and sometimes being moved up top because of his versatility. After his talent, his strong character made him popular among his peers.
Gyan, one of the first players to join the academy when it was founded in 1999, went on to play for Fulham and was selected by Ghana once before returning to the academy as a manager.
All these experiences taught the 33-year-old to see that Kudus had a positive attitude, football skills, and hard work – qualities that Gyan says made him the player he is today.
“From day one, Ayoba kept saying if Kudus could be the best player in the world,” Gyan said. “For me, communication was his ability to try things, to turn the ball over people’s heads and try to create things in the game and make a difference.”
Of his many memories of Kudus’ time at Right to Dream, one, from the second episode, stands out.
“You know how team sports go down in Ghana with big men,” Gyan said. “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the man.” Kudus was about 16 years old at the time, but what made him special was his technical ability to be very high against men and to have the kind of grace to compete physically and not get drawn into every fight or get angry, even if he was pushed all the time, and still be victorious. very good. It said a lot about him as a young man.”
Kudus was a key member of the training team that went undefeated on its European tour, winning four trophies, including the Nike World U15 Premier Cup.
“He was very difficult to play with,” said Emmanuel Ogura, Kudus’ former colleague at Right to Dream. “He was very dangerous because he always wanted to break down and create something. I hope to see him at his best.”
By the time FC Nordsjaelland came calling in 2018, Kudus was ready to take on the world. A few days after his 18th birthday, he became the ninth starter for Nordsjaelland and managed to score 11 goals in his only season with the club.
In the middle of 2020, after 18 months in Denmark, he dreamed of going to Ajax and since then he has grown both mentally and physically.
In 2020, he was nominated by Italian newspaper Tuttosport to receive its Golden Boy award for being one of the most exciting young players to play in Europe that year.
Although serious injuries interrupted his first two seasons at Ajax, he has regained his strength and is playing the best football of his career.
New manager Alfred Schreuder has installed him as a false nine, rather than a playmaker. However, the 22-year-old has shone, scoring 10 goals and providing two assists in all competitions this season, including four appearances in the UEFA Champions League.
Such is the quality of Kudus that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has described as a “wonderful” player. French legend Thierry Henry was also impressed, saying: “He came from the Right to Dream school from Ghana, and he is living his dream.”
In Ghana, Kudus has also been a key member of the Black Stars since scoring his international debut against South Africa in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers and is seen as a target for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Lamp bearer, statue
In Nima, his story continues to inspire many people, and he often visits his youth club, Strong Tower, to donate shoes and other items.
His uncle Abdul Fatawu Alhassan said: “Kudus is now not a member of the family, he belongs to everyone. “When you enter Nima, they call him ‘Nima’s pride’, and we are happy that he will represent us at the World Cup.
“He’s a big inspiration for the kids too – not just the upcoming footballers. A lot of them see him as a good role model. A few years ago, he was with them here, so seeing him playing with the Black Stars, in the UEFA Champions League and scoring, it’s encouraging to know that they can do it too.
Ramadan Osman, who is 9 years old, who likes to train at Kawukudi Park in Nima, agreed with Alhassan’s opinion. “I am number 10, and I want to be the next Mohammed Kudus,” he announced confidently.
Friends and family say he remains calm, but on the field he displays the arrogance and temper that most players harbor in their locker rooms.
Gyan, who watched Kudus’ football odyssey closely, appreciates the young man’s humble nature.
“In terms of personality or character, I would say Kudus brought Nima with him,” he said. “Nima’s can-do spirit – known for being stubborn. It’s that stubbornness that goes hand in hand with flexible, practical ways to achieve success.”
Over 30 million Ghanaians will be cheering for Kudus and the Black Stars in Qatar, but the loudest noise will probably come from Nima. Although the world sees Kudus as a talented footballer, they see him as much more – a torch bearer, an idol.