Gladson Awako rose to fame in 2009 when he played a vital role in the Black Satellites winning both the African Youth Championship (AYC) and FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
The 18-year-old came out of the tournament with so many hopes for the future but most of his ambitions failed to materialise.
He ended up playing most of his football in DR Congo when he joined African giants TP Mazembe.
He is currently back home playing for Accra Great Olympics after a one year stint with American side Phoenix Rising FC.
In this exclusive interview with Graphic Sports’ Bernard Neequaye, Awako looks back at all the decisions that has positively and negatively impacted his playing career.
Graphic Sports: Good morning, What have you been up to? GA: I have been recovering from a hand injury I sustained before the suspension of the previous season.
But I’ve fully recovered and ready to play now.
Graphic Sports: You were impressive in the league before its suspension, how did you fit in at Great Olympics? GA: It wasn’t easy coming into a team and quickly fitting in but I worked harder to achieve that.
I wanted to make an impression in the Ghana Premier League upon my return and I’m glad I did.
Graphic Sports: How did you take the halting of the league due to the COVID-19? UBA Loans GA: Honestly, it affected every player’s dream because we couldn’t play.
I was nursing an injury then but I was looking forward to making a return.
Graphic Sports: President Akufo-Addo has finally lifted the ban on contact sports, how did you welcome the news? GA: It was great hearing that you will have the chance to play football again after five months.
I’m really looking forward to the start of the league.
Graphic Sports: Are we going to see you feature for Olympics when the league kicks off? GA: I’m still in talks with the management of the team over a possible extension of my contract.
I’m hopeful something good will come out of it so I can continue playing for Olympics.
Graphic Sports: There are several clubs in Ghana, what informed your decision to join Olympics when you returned home? GA: Olympics is one of the biggest clubs in Ghana and I wanted to play for them.
They expressed interest and showed that they really needed me.
Graphic Sports: Before joining Olympics, you played for Phoenix Rising FC in the US, how will you describe their league? GA: It was an interesting time for me and I really enjoyed myself in the USL.
The league is really improving by the years and its going to be great in the future.
Graphic Sports: You had a greatest moment in football playing for TP Mazembe, can you take us through your five years with the Congolese side? GA: Playing for TP Mazembe made me one of the biggest players in Africa because they are giants on the continent.
At the time, I was enjoying my game and we made significant impact playing in the CAF Champions League.
Graphic Sports: In terms of quality, how does the Congolese league compare to Ghana? GA: The only difference is financial.
Over there, they invest so much in players and that makes all the top players stay in the league, unlike Ghana.
If we can get such financial support, most of the players will stay and make the league competitive.
Graphic Sports: You had an impressive campaign at the 2009 African Youth Championship (AYC) and subsequently the FIFA U-20 World Cup, what happened afterwards? GA: I can say the AYC was my biggest moment in football.
I had the best of campaign which really sold me to the world after the tournament.
Graphic Sports: You didn’t really play much during the World Cup tournament, what happened? GA: It was a surprise to me how I suddenly couldn’t get to start matches at the World Cup after my impressive performance at the AYC.
As a player, you have to accept the coach’s decision so I did.
Graphic Sports: Did your performances at both tournaments land you any deal in Europe? GA: Immediately after the AYC, I had a deal from Chievo Verona of Italy but my agents asked me to wait for the right offer after the World Cup.
Then there were deals from Tottenham Hotspurs and Inter Milan after the World Cup but I failed to sign any of them.
Graphic Sports: Why did you fail to put pen to paper to any of these clubs? GA: So many things happened.
For instance, I first trained with Tottenham but couldn’t sign the contract because the transfer window was closed.
When it opened, I was to leave with them for pre-season but I couldn’t secure a visa in time to travel with them and I ended up getting to England late.
Graphic Sports: Do you regret not taking advantage of all these deals? GA: I’m human so I sometimes do because that could have changed my career and life.
But that’s football for you and in everything, you have to accept your fate and move on so I did.
Graphic Sports: After attaining success with the Black Satellites, you haven’t really played for the Black Stars.
GA: Yes, you are right; but I think I haven’t just been lucky.
There are times when you know you are doing well but you can only play when a coach gives you the chance.
In my case, I haven’t been given the opportunity yet but I believe when the right time comes I will get it.
Graphic Sports: Which of the players in the Black Satellites team surprised you at the tournament? GA: Dominic Adiyiah of course.
His rise to fame at the tournament was surprising because he couldn’t break into the team during the AYC.
He really made us proud.
Graphic Sports: Most of the players from that team failed to play at the highest level, are you disappointed? Can you name any of them that surprised you for not making it big? GA: I was surprised because we had so many good players in that squad.
The likes of goalkeeper Daniel Agyei, Daniel Addo, Ransford Osei and Abeiku Quansah, among others, all failed to play at the highest level after the tournament.
Myself, I haven’t played highest level football yet and it hurts but there is hope for the future.
Graphic Sports: What is your take on player salary situations in Ghana? GA: The amount paid to players in this country is very bad and must change.
I think if clubs can pay footballers from GHC 2,000 to GHC 3,000, it will attract players abroad to come home to play.
Graphic Sports: Finally, would you encourage Ghanaian footballers abroad to come home to end their careers? GA: It’s a good thing to come back home with all the experiences gathered to help our local clubs and I will encourage them to come around.
The only problem surrounding this is the perception that once you come back home it means you had ran out of options and your are old.
It must change.