We had the great opportunity of interviewing one of the fast rising footy stars in South Africa. Nana Akosah-Bempah from Cape Town City. Still only 20, he has already started making an impact for CTC; whether it’s scoring against the African Champs or scoring CTC’s first ever CAF goal, he’s out here just trying to do the most.
RM: Nana, you’ve got an interesting upbringing, could you please briefly explain your background?
NAB: I’m originally from Ghana, but I was born in America in a state called Delaware which is just outside New York, while my dad was studying at Colombia University (ranked 18th in the world). So I stayed in America for a short while then I moved to Zimbabwe for a bit and then went back to Ghana for a few years. But yeah, most of my life has been in South Africa, I moved here in 2006. I went to Crawford in Sandton and lived in Johannesburg until I moved to Cape Town when Cape Town City was formed. In 2013 I went for an attachment at Manchester City. So how it happened was that I was playing for a social club called Crusaders, and this group called Concept for Soccer, which holds trials and takes players overseas for other clubs, came to do a seminar at Crusaders, so I took a pamphlet, and went. One of the coaches/scouts there happened to be from Man city. From there I had a 2 week trial in England and at City for 4/5 days. I played my first game against Liverpool (scored and assisted 1), but I didn’t do as well against Wolverhampton.
RM: How was your debut season for Cape Town City?
NAB: It was full of ups and downs but I think that I’m starting to find my feet now, feeling comfortable and confident. With Benni as my coach I feel that I’ve improved a lot and learnt a lot. He’s done it all, and me being a young striker I can only learn and improve more from all the knowledge that he has. It’s been a wonderful experience being coached by a legend. But, in it’s own right, it does come with a lot of pressure because he knows what I am capable of and wants me to do more, to be better, and to push myself more.
RM: Being a professional footballer, what is a normal day for you like?
NAB: Wake up around 6, prepare for training, have my breakfast, shower. We have to be at training at 8:30 but we start at 9:30. Training is usually 2 hours, 2.5 hours max (if you include warm up). After training (at about 12:30) we have lunch as a team and then we go our separate ways. I stay with Thabo Ndoda, so then we usually go home and relax (we don’t normally do much). Also, I study through UNISA and if I have time (if I don’t have 2 sessions; we have 2 sessions in preseason) I’ll study and I always have a nap. I’m more mentally tired than physically tired at the end of the day though. Then it’s just playing PlayStation, watching TV or listening to music.
RM: Favourite goal? (Sundowns or Young Buffuloes)
NAB: It would have to be the Sundowns goal. Scoring against African champs was unbelievable. It didn’t sink in and still hasn’t, I don’t like to dwell on things because I always want to think about what I can do next, and how I can improve/get better. I didn’t think about the goal that much, but after a while I realized how significant the goal was. The build up to it as well (link up play with Aubrey then getting it back).
RM: You went to Crawford. How did you manage to strive in football at a school that is more focused on other sporting codes? Do you have advice for players who go to predominately rugby, cricket and hockey-oriented schools?
NAB: My parents are very strict when it comes to school and in general; that’s why I am studying now- my father said that I can’t play if I don’t study. There were even times where, if my marks dropped, I wasn’t allowed to play footy. I only really started taking footy seriously when I got to grade 10, and started convincing my parents to do the same. It was tough to juggle school and footy. Time management was a real struggle because I would wake up at 5 and go to gym, then do school. After school I would train with my school team and after that session, I would go train at the Black Aces Academy. I would get home at about 8, then finish my homework at midnight, so I ended up sleeping in class most of the time. It’s just all about sacrificing a lot. If you want something that bad you will make a way.
NAB: Advice I’d give to players who don’t go to footballing schools would be just to do what you love. Don’t let anyone deter you from chasing your dream. Even if you’re at a school that doesn’t focus on football. For example Thabo Ndoda went to KES (which is a rugby, cricket and hockey school); you just have to be self motivated. Wake up every day and want to get better.
RM: How is pre-season going?
NAB: Pre-season hasn’t really kicked in as yet. It’s not too tough on the body, but I feel like it’s getting more difficult. For me, pre-season isn’t really that difficult because I don’t really stop training in the holidays because I don’t like struggling in pre-season. It prevents you from enjoying your footy so pre-season is just a continuation for me, it’s not really that difficult
RM: What are your goals for this season? (team and individual)
NAB: I want us to win trophies. We need to have a culture of winning things (having that winning mentality) and I think with having a coach like Benni who has won things and has been very successful; he has been a good leader for us. There’s no other option for us, we need to win trophies, we don’t want to be an average team who is satisfied with being mediocre and having an okay season. I think we can do much better than last season. We got to try to win as many trophies as we can. We got to a cup final in the previous season so I don’t see why we can’t kick on now and get into more cup finals and trophies.
NAB: On an individual note, I would just like to improve and keep getting better and scoring more goals. That’s what I’m paid to do, score goals and help the team. And to win trophies you have to score goals. I want more game time and to establish myself as the starting striker because I feel I am ready, I just need to prove it to the coach.