AHMED Jackson-Cofie will never forget that fateful summer evening at the Baia Zugdidi club, Georgia, in 2010, when he leaped high in the air for a header during training, only to land in disaster.
The Ghana youth international had set himself the target to become a key Black Stars player and help his country qualify for the 2022 World Cup, but the knee injury he sustained during training shattered his dreams. Ahmed may still be part of the showpiece event in Qatar, but not as a player as he currently makes a living as an office boy at a shipping company in Doha.
The attacking midfielder was on the verge of signing a $60,000 contract, but now the 25-year-old draws a monthly salary of about $250 and saves 100 out of it to send to his mother back home.
“For me, the most difficult thing was to look into my mother’s eyes. She had made several sacrifices to make me a footballer and had lofty dreams about me. When the tragedy struck, I wanted to lean on her shoulders, but she was so devastated that I had to console her all the time,” said Ahmed, who smiled through a conversation with Doha Stadium Plus.
“In our country, we believe in superstitions. Even when everyone showered praise on me as a young footballer, I had an intuition that something was going to stop me from making it big. It came in the form of a cruciate ligament tear on my left knee,” said Ahmed, who added he was to be blamed partly for the mishap.
The injury is not uncommon in football, but Ahmed did the mistake of starting training before signing the contract with FC Baia Zugdidi. “I was too young and ignorant to think all that. All I had was enthusiasm,” he said.
The club sent him back to Ghana after an initial surgery. His later efforts to reach FC Baia Zugdidi authorities as well as his Russian agent, whom he knows as Denis, all proved futile. “Even the language stood as a barrier,” said Ahmed.
Recuperation and follow-up treatment did not happen in the right way, mainly because of lack of money. And he bided his time to become match-fit again, but by then his native clubs became less enthusiastic about him.
It was not the case eight years ago. Back then, Ahmed was riding a success wave, especially after making it to Ghana’s 23-member squad for the African Under-17 Championship qualifiers. His club career, which began with Ken Harrison Babes, too was flourishing as he moved to native rivals Fire Rehoboth. He later attended trials with South Africa’s Jomo Cosmos before taking up the Georgian club’s offer.
“I’ve always been a Liverpool fan and modelled myself on Steven Gerrard. I don’t boast that I would’ve made it to an elite club, but I was confident of making it to one of the competent leagues in Europe. I thought Zugdidi was the beginning,” said Ahmed.
In his small room in Umm Salal, Ahmed does not have a television to follow Liverpool’s progress. And he keeps a tab on the matches on his small smartphone.
As fellow-Ghanaians make fortunes in Qatar — defender Rashid Sumaila is the latest to move in, with Al Gharafa on a lucrative contract — Ahmed is only happy.
“We had shared food and seen dreams together back in Accra. I feel happy for him. I look things positively. I think it’s a quality that has kept me going,” said Ahmed.
After hearing about the community tournaments like Qatar Amateur League, Ahmed has just one wish. To play one full season for a club. “I’ve the feeling that it’s going to happen,” he concluded. DSP