Football would hardly jump to your mind at the mention of Greece. You are more likely than not to associate the Greeks with ancient history, folklore and tourism. That is understandable; from Hercules, Socrates through Archimedes, Plato, Achilles and the Olympic Games, Greece carved the path of western civilization.
In present day Greece, precisely in the small town of Planatias, another man, whose big heart belies his petit frame, is plotting a unique story of his own, it may not be as grand as the famous Greek legends but it is laced with values of redemption and faith. The football field is his battleground and you will find him suited up in Jerseys and boots, clearing his lines.
When he is not there, you will find him spending time with his wife, Omega, and two kids. How do I know? He keeps us constantly updated on Twitter and Instagram. Those pictures show a man content and little troubled, well, at least that is what you see, what you don’t see or don’t know is that Inkoom has come a long way.
A FATHER’S INSPIRATION
Born on June 1, 1989 to Victor Inkoom, an ex footballer and Comfort Adams, the junior Inkoom at about age 10, started taking his football seriously while growing up in the Sekondi-Takoradi environs. Victor Inkoom, who later became a headmaster, was a stickler for education and though he ensured that emphasis was placed on education, young Samuel’s ambition of following in his father’s footstep grew by the day.
Fortunately for Samuel, his dad took a personal interest in his promising football career. Indeed, Victor Inkoom acted as his manager and personally arranged for Samuel to join Windy Professionals from Junior Juventus, another youth club. Samuel Inkoom soon attracted attention of the selectors of the 2005 national U-17 team, the Black Starlets.
Inkoom however didn’t make the cut for the World Cup in Peru that year. But while he didn’t make the cut in the national selectors’ eye, coach Joseph De-Graft saw beyond the tournament, and recommended Inkoom to local club, Sekondi Hasaacas in 2007. It was at Hasaacas that Inkoom enjoyed a break out year in the Ghanaian top flight; most importantly, claiming a man of the match performance against his boyhood club, Asante Kotoko, arguably Ghana’s most successful club.
Predictably, Kotoko signed him up for the 2008/2009 season, and that is where Inkoom blew up. His authoritative performances, pace and industry being his assets, earned him a couple of nick names; for instance, he was called “Adwuma Wura” meaning employer in Akan, for his ability to take charge of his defensive area and clear his lines. It was his time in the sun indeed and the football gods, “Greekly” speaking were surely smiling on Inkoom.
He got called up to the Black Stars, the national U-20 team; the Satellites, as well as the local Black Stars, for the 2009 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in Ivory Coast. By February 2010 when the Black Stars participated in the Africa Nations Cup (AFCON) in Angola, Inkoom had won gold medals in the 2009 U-20 African and World Championships, silver medals in the 2009 CHAN and 2010 AFCON.
The 2009 World U-20 victory was the most remarkable; Inkoom played at right back and was an outlet for many of the goals the Satellites scored en-route to glory. That Inkoom played in that tourney itself was credit to him, after fiercely competing for the right back spot with the much more accomplished Daniel Opare. Though a right back by trade, Inkoom was versatile and it was no surprise he made the 2010 World Cup squad and played 2 games, mostly operating as a makeshift right winger.
Ghana’s journey ended in the famous quarterfinal defeat on penalties to Uruguay, but earlier that season, Inkoom, who had transferred from Asante Kotoko to Swiss side, FC Basel, won the domestic double; the 2010 Swiss Super League and the Swiss Cup. A big move was in the offing. That big move came in 2011.
The move was not to a high profile European team as expected, but it was big in monetary terms as he transferred to Ukrainian outfit Dnipro for a reported $7 million. However, with the history of African players struggling to adapt in Ukraine, that move was not quite popular with fans and pundits. Inkoom’s job was clearly cut out.
A PLAYER’S PATRIOTISM
Contrary to expectations that Inkoom might struggle at Dnipro, he settled in rather well and was playing in week in week out until a call came to serve his country. Kwesi Appiah, then coach of the Black Meteors, the national U-23 team, called Inkoom up and made him captain for an All Africa games qualifier against arch rivals Nigeria.
What was supposed to be a routine answer to a national duty turned ugly when the then Dnipro coach, Juande Ramos, refused to release him because the qualifier fell outside the FIFA calendar. Inkoom stuck to his guns to honour the call but Juande wouldn’t flinch. The compromise? A cut in Inkoom’s pay, or so Inkoom thought.
A pay cut will have been enough sacrifice, but Juande apparently wasn’t pleased and it is alleged that he resolved to frustrate Inkoom’s Dnipro career by signing a new player in Inkoom’s stead. Inkoom became surplus as he spent time warming the bench. Clearly that period hit his confidence and his form dipped.
It showed in Black Stars games, but Coach Kwesi Appiah kept faith with him, perhaps returning the favour for the All Africa games qualifier. Naturally, Inkoom sought moves away from Dnipro to have more playing time. He had a loan stint with French club Bastia in 2013 until he returned to Dnipro for the 2013/2014 season.
By January 2014, his fortunes hadn’t changed and with a World Cup on the cards, Inkoom sought another move away from Dnipro for playing time. Greece was perhaps the last place anybody thought Inkoom will end up, but he took the chance; made 14 appearances and helped Platanias FC to 14th place in the Greek Superleague, thus escaping relegation.
While he has worked hard, he credits his coach, Angelos Anastasiadi, and the support of his family for the turnaround in his fortunes. Barring any last minute injury, Inkoom should make the Ghanaian World Cup Squad to Brazil, where he will hope to add to his 44 caps. That would cap a redemption of sort, for the man accustomed to second chances.
Until then, Inkoom is enjoying his Greek adventure and you can be sure that if this story was told by the Greeks, the title; Samuel Inkoom: the second coming, wouldn’t be far off, it would be in keeping with a true Greek fable