When referee Mike Dean blew the final whistle at the Craven Cottage to call time on the game which had nearly 25,000 fans of Brazilian and Ghanaian descent chant, gyrate and revel for well over 90 minutes, Adam Larsen Kwarasey punched the air in mild celebration, roared at the teeming fans, went over for a few handshakes and headed down the tunnel with infectious pertness. It had been a largely successful evening for him.
Seemingly determined to upstage the Brazilians in what was only his 2nd appearance for Ghana, Kwarasey had among other things in his awesome repertoire of saves on the night, telegraphed a well taken Ronaldinho free-kick all the way before tipping the ball around the post for a corner shortly after he had pushed Alexander Pato’s powerful eight-yard header over the bar superbly with one hand.
He had put up a show and had won many hearts over. The rave reviews which poured out on the streets, in barbering shops, through radio discussions and phone-ins, and through newspaper splurges hinted at one thing: Ghana had just gotten a new favorite to man its post and that after all, it was not going to be orphaned when Richard Kingson finally made the bow on the international stage.
The Blackstars’ goalkeeping position was one Richard Kingson had locked down since displacing Sammy Adjei in the build-up to the 2006 world-cup in Germany. He kept the posts with enviable equanimity and was fast ensuring Sammy Adjei’s previous gallant displays were almost getting sepia-tinted in the minds of many Ghanaian football fans. But the optimism soon got doused in a few errors during the mundial in South Africa. Unpardonable howlers in subsequent games meant the tide public opinion were gradually turning against him and many began calling his sharpness and agility to question. The need for an able back-up became even more pressing. Several goalies were brought in to audition for that role: Daniel Adjei made a big statement after the 2009 U20 world-cup triumph but his form hit an inexorable slide after his move to South Africa, William Amamoo’s woeful outing for the Black Stars in 2008 shattered his confidence and he later slinked away into obscurity; while Goran Stevanovic’s attempt to rope-in Fatau Dauda into that position yielded predictably poor results. Kwarasey’s heroics on that cold windy night in London lit up a flame in the hearts of many and that laid the bed for a very interesting relationship with Ghana.
Born on the 12th of December, 1987, Adam Kwarasey earned the right to represent Ghana –he was born in Oslo– through his father. Indeed, he’d always fancied playing for Black Stars and that provided fodder for the GFA to feed on in processing his nationality switch with FIFA in June 2011. On that night in Fulham, he put to bed, any lingering unease in the minds of doubters and turned even the staunchest of them into believers three days after he made his full international debut against Swaziland in a world-cup qualifier. He redefined the terms of the trust Black Stars fans were willing to repose in him and they in turn, were not ready to entertain any outings shy of the lofty standards he’d already set for himself. It was almost perfect a scenario; the old and weak was making way for the young and fresh and not many scripts come better than this.
With the endorsement and confidence of Ghanaians, Kwarasey made his big tournament debut at the 2012 AFCON hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. While it could be argued that he had a decent outing, his performance didn’t quite measure up to the high benchmark he’d set, but then again, the Black Stars who ended up 4th in the tournament weren’t entirely impressive either but many lost sleep over a childlike mistake which resulted in an Abdul Camara equalizer in the match against Guinea. His performances in that period couldn’t withstand scrutiny. In fact, he oozed nervousness and bore the tag of a goalie in dire need of a psychological fillip throughout the tournament.
Then, Goran Stevanovic – the manager who gave Adam his role – was fired and that probably was the beginning of the end for Norwegian born shot-stopper. Not only was his ‘father figure’ gone but the trust of the next manager as well. Coach Kwesi Appiah simply fancied Fatau Dauda and that meant from thence on end, Kwarasey became virtually part of the furniture. It was barely two years into the marriage and the ‘fairytale’ relationship with the Black Stars seemed to be hitting the rocks. This was heightened at the last world-cup in Brazil, when he felt he was given a raw deal after he’d kept the opener against the USA and for some ‘inexplicable’ reasons lost his place for the two subsequent group games. That didn’t sit well with the Portland Timbers man and he run the gamut of emotions from rage to despair at perceived injustices and particularly blamed the national team goalkeepers’ trainer Nassam Yakubu for his woes.He later asked to be excused.
More than a few attempts were made to get the former Stromgodset captain to rescind decision but it appeared he was determined to stay the course until the ‘right’ thing was done. The Right thing was to get rid of his troubles – Mr. Nassam.
It’s been 16 months and he finally looks to have called a truce.
Whereas it was easy to understand Kwarasey’s pain, it was also imperative for him not to have lost sight of the fact that public sympathy had a limit and he stood the risk of running out of reserves. In that sense, he couldn’t have chosen a better time to announce his decision end his hiatus. He is in fine form, there’s been a managerial change and the Black Stars shot stopper’s role is till up for the taking. Conditions are perfect (well, nearly) and the wisdom in such a move is self-evident.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge. There’s been a balm to his wounded ego it appears. But what remains to be seen is how Adam Kwarasey will take to Nassam Yakubu – the main antagonist in this long and drawn-out clash of egos – who incidentally remains at post.
This promises to be the type of script which requires one to get a bottle of soda, get a cone of popcorn and watch as events unfold.