Sports Features of 2014-04-29

Atsu's time to move the world

The day Christian Atsu really announced his arrival on the Ghana football scene, Black Stars captain Asamoah Gyan and Dede Ayew led the tributes in declaring we may have witnessed the beginning of something special. He, they said has all the attributes to become a top player.

We have not had definite evidence of that yet because in a country where we have proclaimed the arrival of the next big thing with careless inefficiency for so long, it pays to be circumspect. But Gyan and Dede would have sat at their various bases on Sunday and smiled to themselves. Their judgement was not bad afterall. Atsu is not exactly a top player now, but his time in Holland has served further evidence of what is to come.

In his first season in Holland, the Black Stars midfielder picked up the player of the year for Vittese Arnheim as voted for by the fans. That after 25 league appearances, 24 of which were starts. He scored five goals and laid on many others.

His reaction was a simple thank you to the fans, the players and coach for helping make him a better player via twitter. The social network site itself reacted with praise for a man who seems to genuinely thrill many people.

Vittesse used to have a Ghanaian hero in the past. Matthew Amoah scored more goals for the Dutch club than the enigmatic Pierre Van Hooidonk. Atsu has not worked his way into Vittesse hearts by scoring goals. He has done that by emerging as the main creative engine of the team; the man who could with a quick turn of pace set up a goal, sit deep in midfield and dictate play with that beautiful left foot.

He has proven to be the best of a lot of Chelsea players farmed out in large numbers to their Ducth friends to the dismay of some of them there.

Twitter was buzzing with excitement at the news. There is a feeling that every time a Ghanaian player does well at club level, it brightens the omens for coach Kwesi Appiah’s team ahead of the world cup.

It is easy to see why. When Atsu has sparkled in the Ghana shirt, it has been to remarkable effect. There were moments at the 2013 Nations Cup when his left foot put a smile on our faces. Thrown on as a substitute against Egypt in the first leg of the qualifiers he run at such pace at the defenders, run and smashed a sixth goal.

It was a goal that highlighted all his strengths in one swoop; pace, great ball control, a left foot as good as any and an ability to strike the ball really well. In Brazil, he may not be guaranteed a start but he will be one of Ghana’s most important players, one of those who we can realistically rely on to do something special, take the game by the scruff of the neck when required.

When the football commentator Richard Connelly watched him play for Vittesse against Ajax earlier this month tweeted how Atsu had impressed him in a man of the match performance. He sat on the right of midfield, Connely said and looked sharp. It is something many of those who saw him this season said.

Doing well at Vittese, therefore, could open up a thrilling prospect for Atsu and Ghanaian football fans. Chelsea maybe clogged up with a lot of talents especially in midfield but when one of their own does well on loan in a league famous for talent generation like the Eredivisie, Jose Mourinho and his technical team are bound to notice.

And there are not the only ones bound to think about the former Porto man. One report claims Fiorentina are keen on taking him on loan next season to play on the left side of midfield. There could be interest from other clubs in Europe. In other words whether Chelsea want to take him back on or not, this one season on loan will only work in Atsu’s favour because it opens up a wave of options and suitors to him.

For Ghana, the season at Vittesse provides another refreshing reminder that we will not be entirely at sea in Brazil, that there are players more than capable of thrilling on the big stage.