Boateng regrets lack of Ghana soccer

14 years ago

George Boateng has learnt to live with the fact that he will never play international football for his native Ghana.

But the thought of playing alongside the richly-talented Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien in the Black Stars engine room is one that struggles to go away.

As a naive teenager Boateng made the decision to switch to Dutch nationality in a bid to make it easier to get into the Feyenoord first team.

It was a choice that would end up having more far reaching consequences than he ever imagined.

"At 15, I had to change my nationality from Ghanaian to Dutch, because at the time there were only three non EU (European Union) residents allowed to play in the first-team," Boateng told AFP.

"I had to change it to give me a better chance of playing at Feyenoord.

"As soon as I changed I played for the Holland Under-16s, then I played for the Under-21s at 19-years-old and captained them for three years. My life was actually in Holland, I never kicked a ball in Ghana, only street football.

"I can't play for Ghana now. Sometimes I wish it would have been different, because I didn't play that many games for the full Dutch national team, only seven or eight. If I had played 30 games or more for Holland then it would not bother me as much.

"Sometimes I wish that I had played with Appiah and Essien for Ghana, but that is life and you have to get past that.

"I enjoyed watching them in the World Cup and when I saw Essien recently, we talked about how good it would have been for me to play with them for Ghana. But sadly, I will never get that opportunity to do so now. Instead, I have to be happy with being Ghana's biggest fan."

The Netherlands is renowned for having one of best the youth coaching set-ups in the world, but when the nine-year-old Boateng moved there it was to receive an education of a different kind.

"I was very good at school and I wanted to become a pilot so my dad took me to Holland to study," he explained.

"On sports days in school, I would play football. On the first day that I played in school, I got approached by a scout and asked if I wanted to go and be a professional footballer and I said 'no'.

"All my friends were saying 'are you crazy?' but I thought no because I came here to study - I want to be a pilot and my dad was also against the idea too.

"I was 11-years-old when I was first approached but then gradually, going professional was inevitable because I signed up for the local teams and started scoring goals.

"A professional team came in for me and I had a trial and that got the ball rolling. So eventually I had to choose whether to play football or pursue my dream of becoming a pilot."

After a decade of cementing a reputation as one of the Premier League's best midfield enforcers, the 33-year-old moved to Hull before this season started.

His experience has helped Hull upset the odds in their maiden top-flight campaign and now Boateng hopes manager Phil Brown will bring in more players of the quality of his team-mate Geovanni during the January transfer window.

"Everybody thought we would be struggling but I was always confident we would do well," said Boateng of a Hull side currently sixth in the table.

"The team spirit here is excellent. Look at Geovanni, he's played for Brazil, he is a big star, but he's so down to earth.

"He works extremely hard, but people only see the brilliant goals and the beautiful goals that he's scored."

Boateng may still be an active player but that hasn't stopped him thinking about a career in management after he hangs up his boots. And that's something he feels is now as much an option for black players as anyone else.

"It's great to have a black manager in the Premier League but I don't feel it matters anymore. It's 2008, it was a big thing that Paul Ince got the (Blackburn Rovers) job, but the door is open now.

"We've just got the first black American president - the chance to succeed is there, you just have to reach out and grab it."