Former captain of the Black Stars, Stephen Appiah has revealed the weight of responsibility he’s felt ever since his son, Rodney, decided to pursue a career in football.
That extra weight comes because he wants the youngster to have a meaningful career, just like he did – or better.
In an interview on TV3, the Tornado confessed that at the beginning of his son’s training, there was a possibility Rodney did not exactly enjoy the routine because of how intense the sessions had become.
“We started training and during the lockdown, somewhere in February last year. I mean I was pushing the guy. I quite remember, I think when we were training, we woke up like 3 am. We started training at McDan Park at La with coach Kabu.”
“It was very, very difficult because I will train with him and I got scared I’ll have a heart attack or something because I have to push him. In pushing him, you have to set an example that you are ready for the task. So we were training and one day I woke him up at 4 o’clock and he turned to look at me and said ‘Oh daddy”. When he said that, I was like ‘he’s for sure insulting me in his head!’”
The process of pursuing a professional football career in Europe is in direct contrast to that of Ghana and most likely Africa as a whole. The former Ghana captain recollected that this was his biggest worry when Rodney declared his interest in going pro.
For Stephen, it was a case of “drink deep or taste not” for Rodney who was in a country where you have to make a direct choice between football or education.
“It all started two years ago. This is something I don’t want to say now, but Rodney [was] a student and at a point, he wanted to play football so he used to be moody anytime he returned from school. One day I sat him down and asked him why he was moody at the time, and he said ‘daddy I think now I want to play football’.”
“Looking at the system here, it’s either you play football and quit school or you quit football and go to school. So I explained to him how the system in Ghana is like as compared to Europe and still he wanted to play football.”
Appiah, who captained Ghana as the Black Stars almost secured a berth in the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup, recounted that it was a complex situation deciding if he should insist Rodney focuses on school, or support the dreams of a son who was pushing himself into delirium.
His wife on the other hand, posed a more decisive stance as she was immediately against the decision of the now Great Olympics midfielder.
“One day I was home with my wife and we had a chat. I told her about Rodney and you know women, when you start and you haven’t even landed, they’ll start ‘no, no, no he shouldn’t’. I asked her to calm down as I hadn’t finished.”
“So we spoke about it and one dawn I woke her up and said ‘okay, I have taken the decision and I think that I have to support and help Rodney to play.’ Taking that decision wasn’t easy.”
The 40-year-old admitted chasing a football career is never smooth-sailing, especially without something to fall back on when everything goes south. He explained that if is a motivating factor to ensure Rodney goes the extra mile.
“We [Stephen Appiah and his son] hit the road and went for jogging. Fiifi [Tackie – a close friend of Appiah’s and spokesperson of the Ayew family] saw me online around 4:45 am and asked if I sleep at all. I confirmed that I do sleep and told him Rodney and I just came from jogging.”
“He was surprised when he realized the time and I explained I went jogging with Rodney. He complained I was pushing him too much but I told him I had to. Because, if he wants to quit school and play football, there will be nothing left for him so you have to give everything.”
Rodney joined Great Olympics after the Wonder Club completed a dual signing of him and the son of ex-Black Stars player, Laryea Kingson. Stephen recalled that Rodney joined Olympics after impressing the Ghana Premier League side after a seven-week trial.
“So we took a decision that he will quit school and concentrate on football and I mean, so far so good. We started slowly and one day I was at home and spoke to Yaw Preko who was interim coach at the time and he said Rodney could come. I and a few friends drove Rodney to the grounds and they started playing some friendly games. After seven weeks, they registered him so I’m very, very happy and I’m still pushing him.”
Stephen described himself as a happy father. Speaking of his joy, Appiah noted that ever since Rodney decided to become a professional footballer, there is new motivation to better his own legendary exploits.
“When you become a father, you will know how it means and when he said he wants to be better than me, I was happy because there is no way I want to be better than my children, never! I have done mine and he’s coming, so the mindset of being better than me is fantastic. But I always tell him ‘you are Rodney Appiah and I am Stephen Appiah. I came to this world with a different spirit so just follow your spirit, don’t be like me. Play and play better than me.”
“The other day we were at home eating and then I started cracking jokes at the dining table and I said, ‘look at you, you want to be better than me, have you played in the World Cup before? Have you qualified Ghana to the World Cup before?’ and we laughed at it. So I’m happy to see my son play.”
“Although he hasn’t started playing [regularly]…I must say I envy Abedi Pele, because I know the joy the man has when he’s watching football. When I see my son even going to warm-up, the joy!”
Stephen admitted the journey for his son is far from over and revealed he has always advised the Great Olympics midfielder to keep a grounded head and apply himself to the profession.
“We are still pushing him and still trying to psych him up. We are still trying to let him know that if he wants to make it in this job, there’s no magic. Some of us made it because it was determination, hardwork, focus, discipline and passion. You have to have passion for your job. So that’s all that I have been telling him. It will be difficult for him to fail.”