Ing. George-Patrick Bediaku
Osu, Accra | Ghana
We make our way into Asanka Locals, a famous local food joint in Osu, and get ourselves comfortably seated. Amartey has been beaming with smiles since we exchanged pleasantries outside. His bright smile, undoubtedly one of his many traits that have endeared him to the fans of Swedish side Djurgården FC.
But it wasn’t just the smile. This 19-year old midfielder took the Swedish Allsvenskan League by storm and enchanted the fans, especially those in Johanneshov, Stockholm.
“I have played one professional season with Djurgården as a senior player and it has been amazing.” he says, after taking a sip of the juice in front of him.
And what a year it was for Amartey. The Swedish weather was mostly cold, very different from the warm climate he was used to in Accra, Ghana. But Amartey, along with fellow countrymen Yussif Chibsah and on-loan Godsway Donyoh, helped his new side rise through the season.
“It was a good year. We were down when the league started but we started winning matches and coming back and we rose high.”
Before this whirlwind of a debut European outing, Amartey had been preparing himself in Ghana, waiting for that opportunity.
“I played colts football, I played Teshie-based Zenaps FC. After that I moved on to Inter Allies and played Division One.”
How many players can boast of being poached into European teams straight out of Ghana? Very few. Amartey, however, is fortunate to count himself among the very few.
“The coach that came to Ghana, one Magnus…forgotten his name… [Magnus Pehrsson is the name evading him]…it was one tournament that Inter Allies took part in. I was invited to Sweden for three months. I returned to Ghana shortly and, God being so good, I went back when I turned 18 and signed my first professional contract.”
Scouts had been keeping a tab on the 19-year old midfielder. Amartey could have found himself in another team but for the assertiveness of Djurgården’s administrators.
“The coach told my manager that he was impressed with me. Around the same time, Djurgården’s arch-rivals AIK were lurking and were expressing interest in signing me. Magnus told the owner of Djurgården about this and they put in an offer, and my manager accepted.”
All so easy, right? Amartey opines that it wasn’t the smoothest of journeys, not the easiest of moves to make. But he persevered and it is paying off now.
“I was 16 when I first moved to Sweden. It was hard being away from home but it took discipline and hard work. The coach came down here to Ghana, he saw me. Long story short, I went to play the junior team. The fans loved me. And with my performances, I was given the chance to play the senior team and I took it.
“I had already been playing in Ghana, which everyone knows is difficult. So I adjusted quickly to their play. I knew what I wanted so I did my best. Initially, the weather was terrible. Sometimes, I would kick a ball and the ball would not move much because the foot is freezing. But I fought all that.”
Amartey has definitely paid back with good performances over the season.
In what was one of his trademark explosive plays, Amartey showed why he was a coach Per Mathias Høgmo and fan favourite. It was on the evening of Sunday, October 6, 2013. Djurgården were hosting IFK Göteborg in a league game. Amartey had started the game with his two other countrymen Yussif Chibsah and Godsway Donyoh, the latter only playing the first half.
They were into the 4th minute of 5 minutes added time. A Göteborg defender had ballooned the ball out of his area, hoping to waste the final seconds. Amartey found himself in defence and in possession of the ball.
And it happened.
Amartey evaded the on-rushing attacker, passed the ball to the right winger and exploded into a run. You could hear the commentators mention his name “Amartey…Amartey”, as if they could sense danger was nigh.
Eight seconds! Defence to attack. And when Amartey latched onto the return pass, he was impeded in the box. PENALTY!
Amadou Jawo stepped up and scored the late winner. But Amartey was the hero of the day.
“That was a memorable game. I was happy when I watched the video of that play. It was after the 90th minute, I think. I don’t know how it happened but I always told myself I had to give my all. And I guess that was one of the moments.
“The fans have always been wonderful.”
What’s with his wrist cast? Want to know the story behind ‘The Mask’? Was the Liverpool connection really true?
Catch Part II of this interview with Daniel Amartey.