It is a common tale about life after football. Often when the whistle stops and the cheers die down, those unprepared for it are found desperately wanting.
Abu Imoro was a midfield dynamo, capable of breaking up play and creating chances with equal elegance in his prime. He was so good that he was nicknamed after the French great Jean Tigana. Some of those who saw him play swear he was better than his former Real Tamale United (RTU) teammate Abedi Pele.
He was tough, tireless and technically tremendous but those on-field qualities which made him a beauty to behold don’t seem to have guided him off it or in life after football.
He represented Real Tamale United in the 80s and earned a few caps for the Black Stars, building a solid reputation for himself but it all went up in smoke. Literally.
In his own words, his entire career earnings have been blown away on drugs. Now the former RTU and Black Stars midfielder is forced to survive on the hangouts of others; “I sometimes go to Abedi, he will receive me well but give me transportation. So I am expecting them to help me a lot, even if a little self, I can force myself to come up”.
We met at the Wembley Park in Kotobabi where he visits regularly to see Damba. In that neighbourhood they used to worship and adore him for what he could do with the football. These days they wonder what happened to him and it is easy to understand why. In his 50s now, he looks unkempt with an oversized trouser that you could fit his whole body in. His shirt paints the picture of a man struggling with a lot of things.
Abubakari Damba, a teammate who adored Imoro pays glowing tribute to his talent while lamenting his present state.
“Abu Imoro you see here was my senior in the national team that we have to take a lot of lessons from. In those days he was a champion in his own class”, he says. “He’s a real role model but let us look at only the negatives. What he has gotten into if others get themselves into, this is how they would end up if not worse. We are still trying; we still want to get him out of this situation”.
While Imoro doesn’t earn anything close to what present day players pocket, he says they are as vulnerable to the traps as anyone else. He desperately hopes telling his story will help many others avoid the same mistakes.
“When I went into drugs, I regretted it very much. I will advise them not to go near drugs. They are now coming up and if you want to play, don’t move into drugs keep yourself out”, he says softly.
There are tales in the Kotobabi neighbourhood about how he would return from Black Stars trips, get into a car and spill around money to the adulation of cheering youth. But Imoro’s own tales are limited to some of his best moments in a Black Stars shirt and the sense of importance that football gave him.
His best at the moment Damba is distraught by it and is hoping society can rally around Imoro and use his problems to highlight and help youngsters manage themselves well.
“He found himself in drugs, when I talk about drugs I mean hard drugs,” he told TV3. “You asked if he had money, yes he had money because he was driving his own car, he had his own house, family, wife and child. He was living a very comfortable life but the influence of drugs got him where he is today.
“Did he have the right people around to advise him? That is a question we need to answer? For me I think it’s a very unfortunate episode. Young boys and girls coming up should learn from this. The state he is in is not good. This is a living example for us especially the footballers,” Damba concluded.
By Dora Badu Acheampong|TV3 Sports|Ghana