Majeed Ashimeru’s social media is a colourful yard of numerous messages of gratitude. Photos, posts, all tell a story – a story that gives credence to the idea of believing in a journey and seeing all of it unfold in front of you.
His Instagram bio reads “I love football” with a shout for the team he currently plays for, Red Bull Salzburg, and a last line he has left as a panegyric for his Maker – also with the inscription, “God Alone”.
It has been a long lonely road for Majeed. Days ago, he won the Austrian Bundesliga with Red Bull Salzburg – his first ever league title and the excitement of if has made him reflective of where he hailed from. “I am happy for the team and particularly myself. This is my first ever league title in Europe and I am happy to have played a role and won it. Winning it felt special.” He said.
[caption id="attachment_25315" align="alignnone" width="828"] Ashimeru, Daka and others celebrating the Austria Cup win[/caption]
Through the Mill.
Ashimeru’s journey is a familiar Ghanaian story but with a little twist. The little scrawny kid everyone knew had talent but wouldn’t risk him in games because of his stature. The midfielder had to work extra hard to gain the trust of his coaches and his playmates when he began developing an interest and love for the game.
Ashimeru was born and raised in Maamobi – a shanty suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra and like many who grew up there, the dream is to find an opportunity to make it, leave and come back to improve the neighbourhood. Majeed was no exception. He started his football career at colts club, Strong tower FC.
At Strong Tower, he showed exceptional quality and was the team’s most valuable player. It was at Strong Tower too that he got the chance to move to the West Africa Football Academy (WAFA). “While at Strong Tower, I got the chance to join the Regionalfootball competition organized by Milo where I represented the Greater Accra Region. This was all the way back in 2009. We played the games in Kumasi and I think that is where my luck shone because the manager at WAFA came to watch the games and I was picked so I got the chance to join the academy. By then it was called the Feyenoord Academy” Ashimeru said via a voice note on the social messaging platform, Whatsapp.
Life at WAFA.
Formerly, the academy of Dutch side, Feyenoord, the West Africa football academy located 109km east of the capital, has become one of the main grounds for producing footballers for the league and has also served a conveyor belt for the youth national teams. The academy is a secluded properly sheltered space with various fields and terraces aligning its sides.
There are other facilities like pools, a gym and others that are but a luxury for other Ghana Premier League teams. The meticulousness of the coaches and sheer attention to detail has set them apart from the rest. “WAFA really helped me a lot. It is just like a school. A school where you learn a lot. It is an academy where I think every player needs to grow up from. It is an amazing institution that helped me to get to this level. It is always not easy to get to this level but they played a huge role.” He recalled.
[caption id="attachment_25314" align="alignnone" width="828"] Ashimeru with the Austria Cup.[/caption]
Ashimeru had to chance at WAFA to work under one of the biggest football role models in Ghana in the late Sam Arday. Prior to kicking it off at WAFA, Arday had worked in Ghana’s youth teams and was the man who led Ghana to a last Olympic medal in 1992. That Barcelona squad formed the bedrock of the Black Stars team that played exceptionally well in the 90’s. “It was a great achievement to have learnt something from him.” Ashimeru said. “With Sam Arday, he knew so much about the game. Every player from WAFA around my time will tell you that his knowledge of the game was very good”.
Ashimeru’s time in the Ghana Premier League heralded the emergence of a good blend of footballers from the academy. Gideon Wajah, Caleb Amankwah, Razak Abalora, Charles Boateng, Martin Antwi and Komlan Agbeniadan had all come through the ranks and were giving teams a hell of a time in the league especially at home in Sogakope.
Every burgeoning player has that one game they will never forget – a game that shaped and defined their path. This was long before he had his dreadlocks on. For the then midfielder with a bulb of disheveled black hair, it is the WAFA vs Hearts of Oak game in 2017 where the academy won 5-0. “I sometimes watch it on Youtube just to be happy.” He recalled with a pep in his voice that Ashimeru’s bullet hit, massive pile-driver from about 35 yards had hit the back of the net and that set of a massive return of goals.
He finished the game with one goal and two assists – a top game performance that got many turning in his direction. “Yeah I remember that game. It is one game that I will never forget in my life because it was really a special day for me and the guys at WAFA. I remember the week before the game we played against Inter Allies and I had some knocks so I could not train the whole week. I trained a day before the game. I didn’t even know I was starting the game. The lineup came in and I was starting. I played on the left side that day because I wasn’t too fit and scored. Afterthe game we were all happy.The whole academy was on fire because we had made history because we had beaten Hearts 5-0.” He recalled with a little laugh.
The step up.
They say “Victory loves preparation” and in Ashimeru’s case he was ready for anything that will be thrown at him by the time it came through. “Everyone wants to play in Europe and for me when I had the chance I wasn’t scared because I believed in myself and I knew how ready I was. It was a great moment. From Ghana and to get a club in Europe is not easy. I had so many chances earlier but by then my manager said I wasn’t ready so I had to wait. In 2017 he saw how ready I was for the challenge”.
Since his move to Europe, Ashimeru has combed through Lustenau, Wolfsberger and Slazburg all in Austria and St. Gallen in Switzerland. He has had to work his way into the main Salzburg team. It is not new to him though – an attitude that has been with him since childhood, kept him sane and made sure that he thrives.
Now a league winner, Ashimeru has looked back at where he started with the fondest of memories. Austria is the country that has been kind enough to give the young boy a crack at the top tier level game. “Austria is a really small country and football here is getting better each year. When you win the league title you play in the Champions league directly so it is good for us. People watch a lot of football here. It is also good for a young player like me.”
[caption id="attachment_25318" align="alignnone" width="828"] Ashimeru, team mate pose for a photo after league and cup double[/caption]
With the UEFA Champions league bells ringing from afar, Ashimeru has set his sights on producing the magic that made him a regular name on the lips of many in the Ghana Premier league. “We are a young team and we can go far. We are working so hard. Red Bull is a team that always do well Europe so I think we can go far next season. Every year is getting better.” He hoped.
Ashimeru’s time at Salzburg with a Bundesliga trophy to his name and several goal contributions will count his time in Austria as hugely successful. He is still a player on the rise and in the next few years we will have to wait to see which way the cat jumps.