Ghana striker Kwesi Appiah, has revealed his excitement about his invitation to join the Black Stars for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations which will be held in Equatorial Guinea.
The Crystal Palace forward was handed a surprise call up into Coach Avram Grant’s 31-man provisional squad and was subsequently named in the final 23-man team.
Appiah, who has been on loan in England’s fourth tier with Cambridge United this season told FIFA.com how he reacted when he received his Ghana call up on Christmas eve.
“It was someone from the Ghana FA,” Appiah recalled to FIFA.com. “I was on the way to training and I got a call from someone saying, ‘We’d like to invite you to come and play for the national team’. I got goosebumps thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ I was delighted, extremely proud as well. It blew me away.
“People think I’m too hard to buy presents for, they just leave me to it. I wasn’t expecting anything. Everybody was asking me, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ This was the present I needed the whole time.”
Born to a Ghanaian father and an English mother in Camberwell, just south of the River Thames in London and around 30 minutes from Palace’s Selhurst Park, he grew up an Arsenal fan. He got his footballing break in English non-league, after a helping hand from an educator.
“One of the teachers recommended me to a club called Gravesend and Northfleet, now Ebbsfleet United,” Appiah said. “I went and did two years in the youth team and got into the first team.”
From there, he moved to Peterborough United in England’s third tier. After several loan spells, he departed for a successful season at Margate, where his impressive scoring record caught the eye of current club Palace, whom he joined in 2012, with the team one step below the English Premier League.
“How would I describe myself? I like to threaten in behind,” Appiah revealed. “I like to come and get the ball short and dribble, feed people in and be creative. Growing up my idols were the likes of Thierry Henry, Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp, so throughout my career I’ve taken little parts of their games and tried to add them to mine. Most importantly, I like to score goals, that’s what all strikers like to do.”
The 24-year-old has found himself out on loan at several different sides since his arrival at Selhurst Park, most recently at Cambridge, where he caught the eye of Avram Grant and his scouting network.
“One minute I’m driving up the motorway every day in my carpool with four other guys, trekking to training and back,” an audibly excited Appiah said. “Next thing I know I’m on planes, travelling to training camps, getting bombarded by Ghana fans everywhere we go. It’s something that I’m soaking up and dealing with as we go by. I’m not letting it affect me at all, I’m just trying to play my game when the time comes.”
It is a refreshing attitude for an international footballer and Appiah, while grateful for his experience at Cambridge, admits Ghana’s stars are a galaxy away from the English fourth tier.
“These players are extremely talented,” Appiah said. “They are quality players. To train with them and see what they do day in, day out it only breeds confidence in me, makes me want to be a better player and learn from what they do. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and I’ll take everything I can from it. Everyone has tried to make me feel welcome. As time goes by, everyone gets a bit more comfortable around each other.”
There is a fresh feel to Ghana’s squad for the tournament in Equatorial Guinea, with ‘initiations’ for new squad members.
“There are new faces, but there are a lot who are familiar with each other,” Appiah said. “The atmosphere is brilliant, the chemistry within the team is fantastic. It helps us as a team to be as on the pitch.”
"[Grant] has got very clear ideas of how he wants the team to play, and the style with which he wants us to perform. All the players have taken to what he’s been saying, and trying their best to carry it out on the field. That’s the important thing, people buying into how he’s trying to make us play.”
Drawn in Group C, alongside continental heavyweights Algeria, South Africa and Senegal, Ghana’s No2 is cautiously optimistic of the Black Stars’ chances of emerging from their pool.
“From the outside looking in, you’d think that is the ‘group of death’,” Appiah remarked. “But we’re quietly confident of our chances of succeeding in this tournament and progressing to the latter stages. Obviously they’re extremely talented teams, we’ve just got to give it all we’ve got.”
Appiah’s new international coach Grant turns 60 just two days before the final in Bata, and a tournament-winning goal from the Crystal Palace forward would surely be the perfect gift.