By Ing. George-Patrick Bediaku | Accra, Ghana
Part II of this series continues the story of Tom Boakye, from his days in college to his first professional contract.
“When I got back from Sweden, Tom Vernon called me and told me that I would be going to Manchester City on trial. And within two weeks, I moved to Manchester for the trials, which turned out to be very successful. One Scott Silas over saw my performance. Unfortunately, they didn’t have an opening for a Right Back at that moment.
Tom Boakye on trial at Manchester City
“They tried me in other positions and honestly, I don’t feel that I failed. But every coach has an idea about how to pick his players and which to use. The coaches were happy with me, my attitude, how I play. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sign for them but Tom told me not to worry because he was certain that I would get a club. I kept working hard and, God being so good, I ended up in Sweden.”
Sankofa. A twi word which means “reach back and get it”. Exactly what he did. Tom had to come back to Ghana to stay active. And through that, his opportunity came.
“After that, I returned to Right to Dream, to play with them as they helped me to get a team. Fortunately, Östersunds FK coach Graham Potter came to Ghana to watch me, liked me and I signed a two-and-a-half year contract right here in Ghana. I mean usually, people would go outside to sign but I signed right here in Ghana before going there.”
Boakye mentioned his two countrymen and teammates earlier. Well, former teammates. Laryea and Shaze have both left Östersunds for Örebro SK and Umeå FC respectively. Tom has made it a point not to be pressured to make a move too. At least, not just yet.
“Football can take you anywhere. It can take you away from your friends and family. It’s just unfortunate that Laryea and Shaze are leaving the club because they have done very well for the club. From Division 2 to the Superettan League. Such a big achievement. They leaving is a new challenge and new phase of their careers. I will miss them a lot. They are the ones who made me feel at home when I came. It’ll be tough losing them but they are still in Sweden so we will definitely keep in touch.
“I don’t feel any pressure at all. I need to do my job on the pitch and other things will come naturally. If I start to think about transfers and moving, that can affect my focus, I can’t afford that. They are moving out, yes, but I will keep working hard and my right time will come. Right now, I respect the club and fans for all they have done for me. My focus now is for Östersunds.”
And his one-and-a-half years at the club has come with good and bad memories. He recounts some.
“When we got the promotion. That will be my best ‘high’ so far. It was a dream come true, in 2012, when I first came here on my first ever professional contract. The aim of the club was to gain promotion into the Superettan. I played the remaining half of the season and fortunately, we reached that goal. The coach, the board members, they were so happy.
“My low…hmmm…during the Superettan league, things were not going on as we wanted. We lost about four games in a row. That had to be my low. But the silver lining to it was that Östersunds rose from that and went on to survive the drop. “We kept the team work, we stayed together and we came back and won about nine games in a row.”
Boakye donning the 'band'
Boakye touches on one of the misconceptions about him being a captain, and explains.
“Most of my friends and people in Ghana thought I was the captain of Östersunds. No. I am not. A couple of times in the season, I wore a band on my arm. This is meant for the youngest player in the team. There is the band for the captain but this one is meant to help boost your morale. No, I was not captain.”
Maja Hemmingsson, who works in Sweden with Forex Bank, is Tom’s partner. She wandered off to stroll around the mall when the interview began. We call her over to talk to her as well, but before she comes, Tom says: “Maja is my girlfriend. She came along with me on this holiday. She has had a great time and can’t stop talking about it.”
Maja Hemmingsson with her partner, Boakye
When a smiling Maja finally takes her seat, she echoes this. But not without a few choice words about her man.
“Ghana is lovely. Everyone is very to me and they always give me a smile when I look at them. The food is amazing and the country is nice. I would love to come back. It’s nice to see where Tom comes from.
“I always go to his games to support him. He says I scream too much.
“He always makes me smile and he’s got a big heart. He even makes people who don’t know him feel comfortable. He’s a good person.”
For someone who is seen as having a big heart, it is no surprise that Tom has showed the trait for the second year running. In his native community Bremang, in the Ashanti Region, Tom organizes a football tournament.
“Giving back is a major priority for me. This is one of the main things that is in Right to Dream’s plan. Not to give back to Right to Dream but to your family and society. I organised a little tournament in my community in. This was meant to encourage them, to not just play football for fun. They can look at me and know that they can become like me even as I mentor them to know the best possible way to get there.
Boakye addressing participants in the 'Östersunds FK tournament' he organised in Bremang
“This year’s was the second tournament. Last year’s was the U15’s and this year’s was the U17’s, which was much, much bigger. This year’s involved four teams and was named after Östersunds FK, because of the help that I got from them. They donated full sets of jerseys and kits and I think it’s just right that I did it in their honour.”
Tom is one of the many bright products that Right to Dream has produced and it sure goes without saying that he is living his dream.