Talk of the highest football platform to show your qualities as a world class footballer, and the World Cup final springs to mind immediately.
The Champions League final also has a great appeal, as most footballers will attest to the honor and the sense of career accomplishment; it brings them – if won.
If high profile players including Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto, Nwankwo Kanu and several other African legends can boast of their triumph in the European elite competition, then ‘little known’ Thomas Partey must be over the moon, he could be on the rather short list of African individuals to win the Champions League.
Indeed, he will not be the only Ghanaian to feature in the finals of the most coveted club trophy; the likes of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari quickly impresses on you as other Ghanaians to play in the finals.
The 22-year-old has seen his stock rise in recent months due to the cameo appearances in the Spanish top flight for Atleico Madrid, afforded him by Argentine manager Diego Simeone.
The Simeone led side has proved skeptics wrong in the last five seasons, reaching cup finals and winning few of them against traditional big clubs, both domestic and continental.
Partey has made 13 appearances for the Los Rojiblancos this season, scoring two goals – the first, a well taken volleyed-goal from just outside the penalty area to secure a vital win for his side.
But this feature is about his participation in the crucial showdown in the final of Europe’s top competition.
He could become the sixth Ghanaian to have their names written on the squad sheet for the major club cup final – if selected – after playing four times in Atletico’s Champions League campaign that finally pits them against their city rivals Real Madrid, for a second time in three seasons.
However, this is Partey’s first!
Ibrahim Tanko is one of the few Ghanaian players who could boast of winning the Champions League in their illustrious careers. The striker was part of Ottmar Hitzfield’s Borussia Dortmund side who participated in the final against Juventus but had barely contributed to the success – mainly due to injuries.
The fact that all five Ghanaian players to have played in the Champions League final have won the competition could be good omen for Partey.
Samuel Osei Kufuor (Bayern Munich, 2001) and Abedi Ayew Pele’s (Olympique Marseille, 1993) cup wins sandwich Tanko’s triumph. Muntari and Essien added to the growing list of Ghanaian players to make the final – and indeed, both won their respective trophy chase with Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Partey, who sprung up from Ashaiman (a suburb in Accra), will be the latest Ghanaian to feel the chill down his body when he steps into the stadium with a huge blast of the famous Champions League anthem, in a filled-to-capacity San Siro stadium.
He will not be the first Ghanaian to lose in a first ever appearance in the biggest showpiece in club football, Sammy Kuffuor and Michael Essien suffered agonizingly in 1999 and 2008 before receiving a winners medal with the same clubs seasons after – a trick, he may have to replicate in order to win with Simeone and co should this trophy go in the direction of Zinedine Zidane’s men on Saturday, May 28.
There are several options for Partey to take – he could follow the footsteps of the first African to lift the trophy, Bruce Grobbelaar of Zimbabwe who won the trophy when it was known as the European Cup in 1983/84; he could as well be one of the many African runner-ups in the competition such as Nwankwo Kanu of 1995/96 with Ajax and Kolo Touré, who lost with Arsenal in the 2005/06 final against Barcelona: or he could just be a fortunate inclusion into the list of the rare breed of Africans to score in the final like Samuel Eto and Didier Drogba.
Either way, Partey is gradually exerting his presence on the country’s football loving fans and even better, the defensive midfield giant has caught the eye of Israeli coach of the Black Stars, Avram Grant.
He has been given a huge boost ahead of the Champions League final, with debut call up to the Black Stars for their clash against Mauritius in the AFCON 2017 qualifier.
It’s come as no surprise to many Ghanaians – there have been whispers of his call up to the senior national side – and he will definitely take no chances due to the fiercely competitive nature of the position he plays in.
Without a doubt, one of Ghana’s future leaders in the Black Stars and one of the West African nation’s many exports to Europe, Partey could be flying high in Portugal this weekend with the flag of Ghana, nothing else – and a title of ‘CHAMPION OF EUROPE’.
By TV3 Sports|Ghana