by Nana Kwaku Agyemang
Born and bred in Tamale and now happily married with two children, having been motivated by a dream that should he make it in football he would one day like to return to Tamale to give something back to his community, Abdulai Alhassan survived to tell the tale of his determined struggle to rise above all the odds to establish the Tamale Utrecht Football Academy. From a family of 13 living in cramped conditions in the family house where he shared a room with 7 of his sibblings Abdulai also had to face stiff competition for resources in order to ensure he received a good educational foundation. However this helped him to shape his perception and gave him the courage, self belief and the hope that if he worked hard that he would make it. His father who was and is still a Chief had five wives but still he persevered to maintain and support his wives and all his children. Both parents were quite influential figures and had a huge impact on the direction Abdulai’s life took which he credits them for. Their love care and constant support was a tell tale factor in Abdulai’s modest success as a footballer locally and abroad.
Abdulai felt he was forced to move down south because the platforms did not exist in Tamale at the time to expose his football talent to a broader audience. So at 16 years of age he moved to Accra where he played football for a number of teams including FC Nania and St Mirren. Abdulai was considered for trials through his Utrecht born wife to FC Utrecht in 2006 from St Mirren (in the first Division). Jolanda Goes made an approach to FC Utrecht who asked Abdulai to come for trials and the rest his history. He also had stints on loan with Circle Brugge FC in Belgium and then onto Racing Mechelan FC before returning back to Holland to Ter Leede FC for two more seasons and then to De Meern FC before finally hanging up his boots due to injury.
Despite successful successive surgery and rehabilitation Abdulai decided to pursue his dream of establishing a Football Academy in Tamale. He held negotiations with the owner of FC Utrecht Mr. Frans Van Seumeren who did not hesitate to buy into the concept. Accompanied by Mr. Seumeren, his wife and Nana Kwasi Asare they visited Ghana to conduct a feasibility study of the Tamale Community canvassing their views about the prospect of an Academy development. They were quite receptive (the Tamale environs) and so several meetings were held with the prominent Chiefs of the municipality and the Regional Football Association as well. Finally an agreement was reached and the Chief of Kasalgu agreed to release 14 acres on a 99 year lease for the project to be established.
Its true that past accomplishments do not guarantee a successful future, but the experiences locally and abroad provided more motivation for Abdulai to keep his eye on the prize and having set out the terms for a working agreement with FC Utrecht the project commenced. Just over a year later 10 acres have been developed to house the first generation of the Tamale Utrecht Football Academy players who are all under the age of 13 years and I mean real under thirteens! The complex boasts of an 18 bedroom dormitory style dwelling for the players that can accommodate up to 56 players fully self-contained rooms. There is a Gymnasium, a large canteen area and an accommodation that houses the Technical team which is totally independent to that of the players. There are classroom blocks to ensure education remains an integrsl part of being an Academy player with provision for two more blocks to be constructed in 2013. Changing rooms that accommodate home and away teams, match officials and with huge storage for pitch maintainance machinery and other equipment. There are two pitches and provision for a full size astro-turf based pitch and swimming pool for aquatic training. Technically there are plans for the General Director of FC Utrecht along with the Chief
Scout to visit Ghana in order to assess the coaches and to determine a training programme for them in Holland to build their capacity and ensure that they impart the correct information to their young wards.
As it stands the Tamale Utrecht is now the largest Football Academy institution owned by A single individual and a Ghanaian at that! Although its primary catchment areas are the Upper East, West and Tamale there are students there from the South of the country. It’s philosophy of ensuring that only the right aged players are accepted allows it to have a genuine future in nurturing and developing potential talent that could one day represent Ghana at all levels. With Ministerial support from the Region and from the Minister of Youth & Sport itself coupled with that of the Professional Footballers Association of Ghana, the Ghana Football Association and other well meaning private institutions the Tamale Utrecht Football Academy has the potential to achieve great things. It also stands as a shining example to our more prominent football heroes who have yet to sow the seeds of their rise to fame and glory not to mention their wealth for youngsters who wish to emulate them to have safe places to play.
For Abdulai Alhassan himself he has enough to be proud about. As a young man who has still plenty of football years left in him, he has decided to take the highway in living his dream and ensuring the provision is there for youngsters to get the best from school and their most cherished past time association football. As a football Administrator who has achieved so much in such a short space of time there is no reason why he should not be givens seat in due course o sit alongside the other Godfathers of the Ghana Football Association Executive Committee, after all he has demonstrated an unwavering dedication and commitment to the national cause just at a time when the only other Academy in Tamale owned by the WIENCO company is about to be closed down!
Kudos Mr. Abdulai Alhassan Ghana salutes you!
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