Ghana star opens up to 3news.com about his first season in England and why Ghana cannot take the 2018 world cup qualifiers for granted
You were once again the closest Ghanaian to any individual award on the international scene and then you were named the Ghana Sportsman of the Year by SWAG. How does the recognition feel like?
I felt a lot of love, which is important for a person to feel his people behind him. I felt a lot of happiness that i was nominated and to see my country people rally behind me, gives me a lot of energy to try and do everything to keep on making them proud.
I think the recognition is something which is quite important when you work hard when you give yourself chance to be among the best but i think to be among the best is not enough.
For me I want to be the best and am going to work harder and then hopefully next year, I will win the BBC again or the African Cup of Nations or the African best player, I have always been close to all this trophies. I think what is important is keep working hard and stay focus and what belongs to you will not run away.
You were a fairly popular player when you were playing in France but I am wondering if going to England has increased that just a bit more
Honestly yes, to be honest. We know the hype, we know the media force behind the EPL and we know that it is the best league in the world too. Things went on well for the first year, thank God for that and i think that was what helped me get more recognition especially in places where people do not really know me. You know England is a country where a lot of the people watch the league and in different countries from Japan to China to Korea. So if you play in that league and things go well, you get recognition from all over the world which is pleasing for a player.
How and why do you think you took so well to the English game?
Well, I think I was just focused. Sometimes it’s your moment. When it’s your time like I said nobody can do anything about it. I think God was behind me, I worked hard for it and I wanted to start really well because I know the difficulty in the league and also my colleagues also helped me.
When I got there, they gave me a lot of responsibility, they gave a lot of confidence so I felt at home straight away so that made me to get the opportunity to settle really well and to be able to have a good start.
What is the one thing that struck you most about English football when you arrived there?
I think it was the intensity. I always knew it was very physical and demanding but the intensity struck me. You need to be alert throughout and every aspect of your football life is handled to the finest detail.
I was also impressed with also the fact that you never know who is going to win a game. That’s something special about the league.
Your first season has inevitably led to suggestions you could move on from Swansea. What’s the situation with you?
We know that Swansea has great ambition. We are finishing the new training centre, the club is having new ambitions too so I think Swansea knows where they are going. For my part personally, we are gonna wait and see. I think when we finish the holidays we would have a chat but at the moment I am a Swansea player I’m happy at Swansea because the coaches, the fans, chairman, everyone gave me a lot confidence.
They gave me a lot of love; from the fans to my teammates, the coaches chairman so I am not in a hurry at all. I think i just have to take my time and continue playing when the time is right I will sit down with the staff and we will see what we gonna do.
You scored a fair few goals in your first season. Which one sticks out the most for you?
That would be my first goal against Chelsea, because it was my first EPL game, Chelsea was the defending champions then, we went to the champions ground and had a good results over there, we drew and i scored my first goal and that I think it was a great feeling. It gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the games.
The attention when Swansea played against Aston Villa was insane in Ghana. What did that tell you?
There was a lot of attention in that game for my brother and I especially in Ghana and also in the league but in Ghana was something you know special and strong because we know that the majority of Ghanaians watch the EPL. We both scored so I think we also made them proud. It makes me feel that its an important league where each game is very important.
You spent quiet some time defending your brother Jordan during the past season. Did you feel vindicated by the way he played?
We know Jordan’s qualities. I think he proved it also at Villa, he proved it in the French League and he is beginning to prove it in each game when he plays for the national team. The potential has always been there since he was young but now he is becoming more experienced and to have the season he had in a difficult year for Villa speaks a lot about him. He just needs to continue working hard because he can do better but i think with all the difficult moment he had in his career from people, the critics all those things you know he has my dad, he has me and he has himself so it’s a difficult situation and I think he proven to everyone that he is a good player and that he can do much more.
Are the two of you now used to the constant questions and comparisons with your legendary father?
Yeah. It’s something we grew up with so now we are used to it and its something you can see that everybody is waiting for results for god performance because there are too many thing that follows from my dad to me to Jordan so there are a lot of eyes on us that’s why i said from our people from the Ghanaian people, it’s great to know that, that’s how Ghanaians are expecting us to do. We all know he is different, I’m different and Jordan is different but i think at the end of the day, it’s Ghana and when it’s Ghana, Ghanaians use their heart and that’s what we feel and that’s why when we are playing we try to always give everything we have for us and for the people of Ghana.
The Black Stars have to play Egypt, Uganda and Congo in the run up to the 2018 world cup. Already, some people think it would be easy
I think we should be very careful, we should be very very careful because it’s a very tough group. When we look at Uganda, it’s a team who beat is the last and drew with us at home. Congo is a good team especially at their home. Away from home they can be dangerous on counter-attack and Egypt is Egypt; one of the best African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria so its a very difficult group and in football you cannot underrate any team. We need to be calm and focused for the tournament and hopefully we will be ready for the games. Also hopefully we would need the support from the fans because if we don’t have their support its going to be difficult that’s why qualifying for this nations cup was difficult because to play at home without a packed stadium can be difficult.
There is no play-off system for this world cup like the last. How does that affect the nature of the qualifying campaign?
I think that all is going to be very difficult. Different ways maybe but same games, same pressure, same goal for every team which is to qualify for the world cup. It is also going to be a long year for all the teams. We have the African Cup of Nations, plus the world cup qualifiers so everybody needs to be focused and especially consistent if we want to qualify.
Do you the players feel the pressure to qualify for Russia and redeem yourselves given everything that happened in Brazil?
We don’t have to jump steps. I think right now what is most important is the nations cup and then afterwards we will try and qualify for the world and if we qualify we will see. What has happened has happened. Our issue, our goal for every player right now is to have a great tournament in Gabon so that’s what we are looking forward to.
You have played in two Nations Cup finals that Ghana lost. How desperate are you and the rest of the players to get it right finally?
We should be calm, we should be relaxed because its going to be a very tough tournament so if we get there with a lot of pressure already we have more chance of coming early. I think we have to be calm, we have to be ourselves. We know our quality so we need to give our best and be better than we were in 2010 and 2015 when we lost the finals. After those finals, you come back home and feel a lot of pains because we deserved to win in those finals, two of them hands down.
Your defence of your colleagues has been pretty strong recently against the growing sense that they are inspired more by the money than by a sense of national pride. Why is that?
We have always given our 100%. Players come, players go. Some get injured, come and go back, you know you come to national team, you come back to your club lose you place, you come back, its part of our world which is normal because we decided that that’s going to be our job so to hear something like that is painful.
I don’t also blame our people in Ghana, it s also what’s brought to them. It is the image that people wanted to create about us and make them feel and believe so there is a lot of talks and speculations thats why I always said if we are going to give our explanation and wait for people’s speculations we are never going to get over this. We should just put it behind us and move forward because we the players know that Ghanaians love football and when you love football, you love Black Stars and we love the country the same way they love the country. We want to keep making the country proud and the only way we can do that is when we see them backing us. If we are going to play a game like it was before against Egypt or even Zambia or when the other teams get to Accra to Tamale or to Kumasi, whenever they feel that the country is behind us , I don’t think any team can come to Accra and disturb us on our home soil.
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