In 2007, Afriyie Acquah was one of the kids sponsored by Glentoran fans through a Glentoran Community Trust initiative. His talent was evident from an early stage and his profile, as featured in the Glentoran Gazette that season, said "he can be more than Michael Essien or Patrick Viera." A big ask!
Afriyie Acquah visited Belfast with the Ghana Academy founder Chris Antoh Forsythe 5 years ago. He trained with the first team and was described by Glentoran legend, Johnny Jamison as the best 15 year old he'd ever seen. UK regulations and red tape meant Afriyie Acquah wasn't able to don the green, red and black but his talent was such that it would only be a matter of time before someone signed him up.
That someone was Italian top flight team, Palermo. Afriyie Acquah played for them last season before joining AC Parma on a season long loan for the 2012-13 campaign. He's also now made his bow for the Ghana national team and recently scored his first goal in an African Cup of Nations qualifying game. (You can view the goal HERE).
Last week the website, sportsnewsireland.com hinted that Arsenal may be about to bring Afriyie Acquah to the Premiership (story HERE). The sum quoted was £10million. So keep your eye on that one in when the January transfer window opens. Perhaps the Michael Essien and Patrick Viera comparisons weren't too far of the mark!
Whether it's Serie A or the English Premiership, it's great to see someone who was initially sponsored by Glentoran supporters make the most of his opportunity and here's hoping he has a long and successful career at the top level.
In a November issue of the Glentoran Gazette, contributor Sam Robinson caught up again with Afriyie Acquah and the two-page article makes great reading. You can still pick up a copy of that Gazette (v Ballinamallard) online HERE.