Christian Atsu has been revealation in Europe this season As he stepped onto the dais under the spotlight, Atsu’s smile widened. Buried amid the thundering applause were thoughts that only he could identify with.
He had just been named Rio Ave’s Player of the season. For those slapping their palms, the story may have began just 12 months earlier, however, for the player born Christian Atsu Twasam, the journey began a tad earlier and had been a tough one too.
The award, in the larger scheme of things, may not be the most prestigious, but by Atsu’s standards, a huge encouragement having come a very long way.
On January 10, 1992 in the coastal town of Ada, Ghana, Mr. Emmanuel Twasam and Mrs. Afiko Twasam welcomed a set of twins into the world.
The perfect set you would say; a boy and a girl. The boy baptized Christian Atsu Twasam would later grow up in Madina, Accra, helping his mum sell kenkey and doing some farming to support the family; times which, Atsu describes as difficult.
Football however provided an escape for the young Atsu whose childhood idol was Ghana legend, Abedi Pele.
Atsu’s impressive performances for Madina Nkwantang BA 2 Primary School in the inter district and regional competitions got him signing for Peace Boys before joining Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord.
It was at Feyenoord that Mr. Abdul Hayye Yartey, owner and CEO of Cheetah FC, saw in Atsu, a player with the qualities of a modern footballer; sublime skills, power, pace, and a tactically disciplined player.
The Cheetah FC Boss pursued Atsu relentlessly and eventually had him transferred to Cheetah FC late on in 2009.
But before Atsu could finish honing his skills at Cheetah FC, he was quickly transferred to FC Porto during the January 2010 transfer window. There, Atsu quietly negotiated a career curve.
Arriving at FC Porto in the winter of January 2010, Atsu struggled with the change in weather and environment initially as he sustained one injury after another.
His steely determination however won over; a year and a couple of months down the line, Atsu made a bold statement of intent.
Sent to the youth team to learn the ropes, Atsu didn’t disappoint. Besides helping the youth team of FC Porto to lift the Blue Stars FIFA Youth
Championship in Zurich in 2011, he was also named best player of that competition in which he scored 3 goals in 5 matches. He did not stop there, as he was also named FC Porto’s Youth Player of the 2010/2011 Season.
Indeed, before that season ended, he was called by the then coach in charge of Porto, a certain Andre Villas-Boas, for the game against C.S. Marítimo. For Atsu, though he didn’t feature in the game, that brief stint armed him to forge on for further successes.
Craving more playing time, Atsu was farmed out to Rio Ave FC, also in the Portuguese top tier.
Atsu played 26 matches and scored 6 goals, earning rave reviews along the way. It was this strong performance that earned him the award as Rio Ave’s player of the season.
Baby Steps; Big Magic
Though Atsu considers the Rio Ave Player of the Season award as his biggest achievement yet, that excitement pales to that of his call up to play for Ghana’s Black Stars.
Atsu says he was beside himself with joy when the call came; a dream come true. When Ghana line up against Lesotho in Kumasi on June 1 and Zambia in Ndola on June 9, Atsu would hope for a few minutes; a measured ambition for a debutant who is aware of his place.
“I am a young player coming up and I met a lot of senior players here. I am settling in well but I will take my time and work hard so I get a chance in the team,” Atsu reportedly asserted after a training session with the Black Stars in the course of the week.
Atsu couldn’t have had a better mentality to kick-start his Black Stars career.
Indeed, when he does get the chance to play either as a starter or a substitute, do not be surprised if you hear commentary like this:
“The Black Stars are making a run on the wing, the ball is now with Atsu, he studies his marker and feigns a move to the right only to switch quickly to the left, he leaves his marker for dead and hits the by-line with an incredible burst of pace, he gets closer to the opponents goal, what is he going to do?
Is he going to pass to his mate who is being marked? Atsu obviously is out of practical options and his only choice would be to send in a hopeful cross, but no! He draws closer to the goal line and bends the ball with the outside of his foot into the roof of the net. It’s a goal! Pure magic!”
It is breathtaking moments like this, which Atsu has created all season at Rio Ave that has generated the buzz about him.
He hasn’t been nicknamed ‘Messi’ after his favourite player Lionel Messi for nothing.
Book your seats in advance; the Christian Atsu Twasam show just came to town.