‘IF SHE WAS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND MY SITUATION THEN I THINK GOD SPOKE TO HER’

He has endured a very tough season with GAIS in the Allsvenskan. After an impressive campaign last season finishing 5th  ,his team has been relegated to the Superettan (Sweden’s Second Division) with 4 games to go. The Gothenburg side is bottom of the league with 1 win and 16 defeats from 26 games. Reuben Ayarna (26) had a lot to say. NOKA had a chat with the GAIS midfielder. Ayarna is enjoying his time in Gothenburg.

Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden by population. Boston is bigger than this place but I think Gothenburg is cool. One can move around the place within a short period of time and the city is not spread out in terms of entertainment. The main place of entertainment is called Avenyn, (The Avenue). Avenyn has Gothenburg’s highest number of pubs and clubs. I am not the ‘night club’ type of person. Gothenburg is more extra ordinary. I like the place because it’s not like Boston. The people here are very friendly.’’  

                                                                                                                    by Nana Osei Kofi Abiri (@NOKA88)

King Gustavus Adolphus’ Gothenburg has a very rich football history. The city is the birthplace of Swedish football. The first football game in Sweden was played there in 1892. The city is the home of car manufacturers Volvo and football clubs IFK Göteborg, BK Häcken, GAIS and Örgryte IS.IFK Göteborg, BK Häcken and GAIS share a total of 34 Swedish Championships between them.

Gothenburg has become Reuben Ayarna’s (26) home since 2008 after the midfielder decided to turn professional rather than finishing his degree at Boston College in the United States of America. Ayarna was born to Francis Ayarna (a worker at GOIL, Ghana) and Ruth Ayarna (Principal Superintendent of the Ghana Education Service) on October 22, 1985, in Teshie -Accra, Ghana. His family moved to Fadama when he was 3 years old.He had his basic education at God’s Grace International School in Tesano, Accra. He then moved to Presbyterian Boys Secondary School (PRESEC) which wasn’t a sports school but they had very good footballers. He was the best footballer at PRESEC in 2003-04 and 2004-05. He recorded six goals and 15 assists during his senior season at PRESEC. He also scored 11 goals for his amateur club Desideroes Babies.Reuben moved to Boston College in the United States to further his education after Secondary school.

REUBEN AYARNA

OCTOBER 22, 1985,Teshie-Accra

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CAREER

Season      Club                               Games       Goals

2012               GAIS                             25                     1

2011               GAIS                              27                    0

2010              GAIS                              18                    0

2009              GAIS                             20                    0

2008               GAIS                             0                     0

2007              Boston Eagles                  17                  2

2006              Boston Eagles                  17                   1

2005               Boston Eagles                 15                   1

”I have 3 siblings: two brothers and a sister who is married. My big brother is studying ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) at the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS) in Accra and my little brother studies Accounting at the same school. He was part of Ghana’s national basketball team that recently went to Mozambique. Four other cousins also live with my family.”

 

Tell me more about your previous clubs.

”Desideroes Babies (club in Fadama,Accra) brings back good memories. We were a bunch of little kids who used to play football for the love of it. George Boahen was our coach. Kumasi Asante Kotoko’s Gideon Baah (@gbaah3) and Karikari Ankomah (who plays in Belgium) also played there. Ankomah was very good. Our parents did not want us to play football. We got beaten by our parents. Gideon [Baah] had to leave the club. The year 2000 was our best season as I captained my team to win Ghana’s Champion of Champions trophy. I moved from playing as an attacker into midfield. We were on national television (GTV) as Kwabena Yeboah (most popular Sports journalist in Ghana) invited us to his show (Sports Highlights). When I went to school the next day, I was treated like a superstar.It was such a great feeling.”

”I moved to a holding role in my last year at Desideroes.Then in 2001, Colts team B.T International coach Adade approached me and one of our forwards. Sports Beat’s Henry Aryee is the owner of that football club. It has produced players like Derek Boateng,Razak Pimpong and Lee Addy. I was close to signing for them but I don’t know what happened between Adade and Aryee. Adade sent me to Liberty Babies.”

”Liberty is the place where one learns good football. My first touch and passing improved under Coach George Lamptey, Liberty’s youth team coach. Liberty’s football was more tactical unlike colts (juvenile) football. We trained twice a week while other teams trained once. The juniors trained close to the seniors so we learnt a lot from them and settled in the first team very fast. Our coach also learnt a lot from Sly Tetteh. Players like Helegbe, Asamoah Gyan and Muntari all played for Liberty Babies before joining the seniors.

I played in a more attacking role in my first two seasons at Liberty. Things changed in my final year as one day our senior team was supposed to play a game at Akosombo. The juniors had to represent them because they had a league midweek game that day. I had a very good game and played in midfield till I left the club.

I got to know about Boston College through Sly Tetteh. He spoke to a coach in the States and he informed me about the possibility of me playing football and studying at the same time. But I had to inform my parents and I was a bit scared. My mother had to make sure it was studies and football. I was very surprised she gave me her support. If she was able to understand my situation then I think God spoke to her. I am happy I made that decision and I don’t regret it.

I wrote the SAT exam and one of Boston College’s scouts came down to Ghana to watch me. They were impressed with my performances and took me to the USA after my second game.The scholarship from Boston College in 2005 is the best experience of my life. I had the chance to train with better facilities and Boston is one of the best business schools in the USA.”

Ayarna receives a phone call during our chat and it’s 2004 Ghana Olympic team captain Yussif Chibsah who also plies his trade in the Allsvenskan for Djurgårdens IF.

”Sorry, I wrote something about Chibsah’s FIFA 13 game on his facebook wall and he wanted to retaliate.”

So how were your first days at Boston?

”I enrolled in the Carroll School of Management.I had to settle quickly at Boston. I had never travelled outside the shores of Ghana before. It was difficult to adjust to the culture, language, people, food and accent. I missed preseason because of paperwork. It was a hustle and bustle. My first season was not bad. I made five assists and scored 1 goal out of 15 College games. I started 14 out of 15 games. I missed one game against Duke.

My second season was much better as I had acculturated.I made 7 assists and scored 2 goals that season.But sadly enough we lost to Maryland Terrapins (Maryland University’s soccer team) in the Quarter finals of the College games. I played against USA International and Stoke City midfielder Maurice Edu in that game.He forfeited his final year to enter the 2007 MLS Superdraft.

Randers FC’s Charlie Davies (USA International) was my teammate at Boston College Eagles for 2 years. His dad, Kofi Davies, who is Gambian, was of a very big help to me.We used to call him Kofi because he was named after famous Ghanaian footballer Rev. Osei Kofi.He also gave Charlie and his little brother Ghanaian names.Davies decided to turn pro after three years of college and joined Swedish Allsvenskan club Hammarby IF.I was supposed to go on trials at various clubs but my coach did not allow me to go because I had two more years on my contract and that we had already lost Charlie Davies.I was not happy with my situation and spent that Christmas in Ghana.

Helsingborgs IF’s Alejandro Bedoya moved to my school from Farleigh Dickinson University after playing forNew Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson Knights in 2007. That season was my best year as we won the league.I made 9 assists and scored 2 goals. I played only 20 minutes in the final because I had picked up an injury. I was feeling pains throughout the tournament but it got worse in the final and had to give up.Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs made offers for me. Real Salt Lake wanted me but I could not join them because I was still injured. My agent had also arranged trials for me at AS Monaco but my leg had not healed.I went to Trinidad and Tobago on vacation with one of my teammates. It was very stressful as I was still injured and could not go on trials.”

Life in Sweden

”In the summer of 2008 I had a 2 week trial as GAIS made me an offer. It was confused on whether to continue schooling or playing professional football. I sought advice from people and later decided to choose football because I can go back to school later.In July 2008 I signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with GAIS.

My first 6 months was difficult. It was my first time playing professional football, new league, people and environment. Liberty Professionals had problems with the club as they demanded a percentage of my transfer fee. Paper works did not go quickly so I missed much of the season but I was not worried because I had 4 more years to play. It was in October that I started finding my feet. My performances were not that consistent. I started in the reserves and later joined the first team. I started some games but came off the bench in most games.

Then in 2010, I started almost every game for GAIS.I picked up two injuries that season. I missed 6 weeks of football after my first injury. I then injured my foot and missed the rest of the season but ended the season with 35 points.

2011 was a great year for me. I started 27 out of 30 games as I missed 2 games through suspension and was injured for the other one I missed. We won as many games as we could and finished the season in 5th place with 51 points. My midfield partner Johan Mårtensson left our club and joined Eredivisie side FC Utrecht. Together with Markus Gustafsson we had a very good understanding on the pitch.”

So what went wrong this season?

”I just cannot explain what is happening. A lot has happened. It will take days to explain. Everyone is to blame. We have to look in the mirror. When journalists ask me what the problem is I have nothing to tell them.It is a tough situation. You just learn from it and move on.”

What has been your best game ever?

”My best game as in my professional career or any game?I can’t really remember. Hmm. Let’s see. I think my best game was against Derek Boateng’s former team AIK. It was a very great game.”

How’s a derby like?..and how do you call it?

”That’s a very good question. I’ve never really bothered to ask for the name. My preparation is just like any other game. I just train before games but lighter than the previous training go for the team lunch, go home and take a nap. I love taking a nap. I don’t joke with it. I hang around with Waris or another teammate. I like to stay in touch with people so I am mostly online chatting. I try not to think about the game.Derby games are more for the fans and media. I have played like 4 or 5 times against IFK Göteborg. I always train in the morning if we are playing at home and then take a nap as usual. I try to eat and sleep a lot. I drink a lot of water and try to stay hydrated as much as possible. I am not a superstitious person but I used not to touch my phone before games.”

How important is religion to you?

I was raised a Christian and I believe in God. It is God who has brought me here. Everyone at Liberty thought I was not going to fulfil my dreams of becoming a footballer because I was going to study abroad. But look at me now. I’m playing in the Allsvenskan; one of the top 20 leagues in Europe.”

 

Did you doubt your football abilities when everything seemed not to go your way?

”I have been through a lot when I was in the States. I was trying to study, work and play soccer at the same time. It was very difficult. I quite remember not concentrating in one of my games as I also had to complete my research paper the next day. God has really helped.

My career could have ended prematurely after several injuries. In 2011, I missed the whole pre-season through injury but I had the best of seasons that year. I was so worried I was not going to play again because the coach told me they were going to bring in another player to replace me if my injury did not heal. My pastor, friends and family prayed a lot for me during my difficult moment.”

 Who inspires you as a person?

”No one inspires me. For instance what if I say Essien I want to be like Michael Essien and I win more trophies than him. Is he still my role model? I like every midfielder because I learn something from them. When I go to Ghana, I just watch little kids play football and learn a lot from them. I admire footballers but I don’t idolise them. But when I was growing up I liked former Accra Hearts of Oak midfielder Adjah Tetteh. He was strong and played very simple football.”

What is your dream club?

”I don’t have a dream club.”

What would you have been if you didn’t play football?

”I don’t know. I would probably be doing business administration at school.”

What was the reaction(s) from family and friends when you decided to forgo finishing your college education in business to play professional soccer in Europe?

”Some friends were happy as other were not. My mother was not happy about it I believe it was meant to happen.”

How’s your relationship with the African players in your team? Congo DR’s Richard Ntomba Ekunde, Eric Magloire Bassombeng (Cameroon), Peter Ijeh (Nigeria)

”My teammates refer to Ijeh as my dad because I always talk to him. He is a great person. I don’t hang out with Bassombeng.It’s only when we are on the pitch. Ekunde is my man. I go to his house all the time and beat him in FIFA video game. I am really cool with the Africans in my team.”

How was your relationship with Dutch coach Jan Mak (resigned after 7-2 loss to Norrköping) who’s had an experience with coaching African players?

”Jan Mak is a very good coach. He knew the late Alhaji Sly Tetteh. Mak has coached the Liberty Professionals academies in Ghana,Kenya and Togo before.I was sad when I heard of Sly Tetteh’s death. It’s very difficult to acept that he’s gone especially hearing the circumstances surrounding his death. He died on the pitch playing football. He collapsed after having his first touch of the game. I was speechless when I heard the news. I googled his name and just looked at his pictures.”

”Ghana football has lost a great man. Sometimes he just comes to mind. He discovered talents like Michael Essien,Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan, Derek Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, and John Paintsil. He helped a lot of footballers. Most of them did not even play for Liberty but most of them moved to Europe through him. I wish everyone well.”

 

”I just cannot explain what is happening. A lot has happened. It will take days to explain. Everyone is to blame. We have to look in the mirror. When journalists ask me what the problem is I have nothing to tell say.It is a tough situation. You just learn from it and move on.”

How do feel when you hear Ghanaians are doing it big in the Allsvenskan especially with Abdul Majeed Waris having the best of seasons?

”I am really happen for them especially for Waris. I am not surprised with his performances because when he first came to Sweden because when you look at his previous statistics considering the number he times he came from the bench. He had no playing time because of injuries. I had this feeling he was going to excel in Sweden. He had more playing time when Udinese’s Mathias Ranégie moved to Malmö FF. Waris started scoring goals but got injured again. I told him not to give up because his time was going to come.”

Hacken’s Nasiru Mohammed is also having a great time in Sweden. He scored 4 goals in his first 3 games for Hacken. Nasiru is on-loan from Rainbow FC in the Ghanaian Second Division. I had never heard of his name until he moved to Sweden. I am very excited for him. Helsingborgs IF’s David Accam is also playing very well. He has scored 3 times this season.

Kwame Karikari (AIK) has been on fire this summer. I hope he gets a national team call up. I am happy for all of them. I have a great relationship with them. I hope they play in bigger leagues in the near future. I respect them a lot. I pray no one gets injured. Look at what injuries have done to Michael Essien’s career. BK Hacken’s Dominic Chatto (Nigeria) is another typical example. God protect us from injury.”

 ”Ghana football has lost a great man. Sometimes he just comes to mind. He discovered talents like Michael Essien,Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan, Derek Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, and John Paintsil. He helped a lot of footballers. Most of them did not even play for Liberty but most of them moved to Europe through him. I wish everyone well.”

How is your relationship with GAIS fans?

”It is really good. A lot of things were said but they still like me. It is a tough situation for everyone. I have never had problems with the fans.”

Do you feel that you have the potential to reach the top?

”Why not. It is not over until it’s over. Derek Boateng was one of the best prospects when he moved to Spain. He could have stayed there but moved to Ukraine. I don’t try to limit myself. I will keep going.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

”I will be 32 in five years time. I hope to see myself in one of the big leagues. I’m happy here. We will see where I will end in 5 years time. Who knows? Maybe I would have acquired my degree by taking online classes. I am taking it 1 day at a time. There is no timeframe for me. My contract will run out in november. I am working on it.”

How close are you to the national team?

”I am not close to the national team but last two years I received a phone call from then Black Stars coach Milovan Rajevac . If this can happen why should I limit myself. It seems so impossible. I will be 27 in 10 days time. One day I will play at the highest level.”

 One final question, what do you enjoy the most?playing for your club or country?

”I have not played for Ghana before so I don’t know how to answer that question but Chibsah says it is fun. This is my first professional team and I have got to play 30 games in front of 31,000 fans. I have enjoyed my 4 years in GAIS. I have had tough periods and happy periods.We [GAIS] will fight till the end. Just believe in God and work hard so that you live to realise your dreams.”

#ff Reuben Ayarna on twitter  (@LARD4LIFE)

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