Nii Odartey Lamptey- A Very Sad Story Of 'New Pele"


JF-Expert Member
Oct 4, 2007
Kwa muda mrefu sana nilikua nikijiuliza huyu kijana ameishia wapi, baada ya kugundulika kipaji chake wengi walisema ikiwa ni pamoja na Pele mwenyewe kwamba yeye ndiye angekuwa "Pele Mpya". Baada ya kusaka habari zake kwenye mtandao nimefanikiwa kukutana na hii story ambayo kwa kweli ni ya kusikitisha sana but also very interesting.....

Boy wonder's lost years

Even Pelé himself said it. Nii Odartey Lamptey, player of the tournament ahead of Alessandro Del Piero and other future stars in the Under-17 World Cup of 1991, would be 'the next Pele'. The world's most famous footballer had first seen him play in the Under-16 finals in 1989 and after two sightings gave his verdict: 'Lamptey is my natural successor.'

With 38 senior caps for Ghana by the age of 21, a sensational first season in Europe after making his debut aged 15, and an even better season as top scorer for PSV Eindhoven while still a teenager, Lamptey looked as though he might prove Pelé right. It was not to be, though, and surely Pelé would never have said any such thing had he known of the horrors the boy had already suffered in his childhood. And nobody could have predicted that, far from becoming a world-class superstar, Lamptey would suffer personal tragedy as he was shunted from country to country, continent to continent, in his unfulfilled career. Only now, at the age of 33 and with new goals in his life, is Lamptey prepared to talk about the pain and sorrow he has endured.

Back home where it all started in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Lamptey invites Observer Sport to the thriving junior school that he has founded and which, in three years, has become hugely successful. The Glow-Lamp International School in Hospital Lane started with one pupil and now has nearly 400, including Lamptey's three surviving children. His wife works there, too, and at last Lamptey has found fulfilment. It has been a long and harrowing journey, with stopovers in 10 countries on four continents. Here, in brief, is the sad life story of 'the next Pelé':

Lamptey was neglected and abused by both parents during his childhood in Accra and Kumasi, the two biggest cities in Ghana. Whenever he could, he played football and cannot even remember the name of his school. At times he was too scared to go home, sleeping under a car or in a kiosk on the streets to avoid a beating or worse. 'I did not have a family relationship. It was bad,' he says.

His alcoholic father burned him with cigarettes - 'I still have the marks on my body' - lashed him with his belt and, when he finally became aware of his son's talent at football, he would stand on the touchline and shout abuse at him.

His mother, whom he left aged eight when his parents divorced, also beat him. She remarried without Lamptey having met his new stepfather. When his father remarried, he was effectively thrown out of the house and was offered the chance to stay 'in camp' with a Muslim football club. This meant he had to convert to Islam, which he happily did to escape his new stepmother. His father would come to the mosque and threaten his son and other Muslims. There were frequent fights.

As soon as Lamptey had a little money - a bonus after playing in the Under-16 World Cup in Scotland in 1989 - he fled his homeland, and told no one, not even his parents, until he was in Belgium. Ghana's FA wanted him to stay in order to build a team around him. They confiscated his passport. So Lamptey hid in the back of a taxi and illegally crossed three borders (Ghana-Togo, Togo-Benin, Benin-Nigeria) to reach Lagos, where he met the agent of Nigeria's captain, Keshi, who was then playing in Belgium for Anderlecht. He was one of the few people Lamptey trusted. Keshi had never met him, but knew of his reputation and had spoken to him by phone. 'When the agent phoned to tell him I was in Lagos, I heard Keshi shout with joy,' says Lamptey, who was then 14 years old.

He waited in Lagos for Keshi to fetch him, then flew to Belgium on a fake Nigerian passport - which he discarded as soon as he got there - posing as Keshi's son (such was the player's influence). Nobody at Anderlecht really believed it was Lamptey, so they tested him at training with older boys. 'Everyone was there, even the club president,' he says. 'After the first two or three touches they knew I was the real Lamptey.'

Lamptey signed a contract for five years as soon as he was 16, but did not know what he was doing. He could not read or write, and was exploited mercilessly by football's money men. 'I was cheated so much,' Lamptey says. At one point in 1997, after being loaned to four clubs, he discovered his registration was owned not by Anderlecht, as he thought, but by his agent, Antonio Caliendo, who also represented Roberto Baggio and Dunga. Some years before, Caliendo had secured Lamptey as a client by flying to Accra and paying him a cash lump sum to sign on the dotted line. 'I didn't know the details of the contract,' he says.

In 1997, Lamptey moved to Argentina, dreaming of playing in the same Boca Juniors team as his hero Diego Maradona. Boca had too many foreign players and loaned him out to Union Santa Fe. Lamptey's son Diego - named after Maradona - fell ill and the whole family had to relocate to a Buenos Aires hotel while the infant was in intensive care for two-and-a-half months. Diego died, unable to breathe, and Lamptey and his wife Gloria later lost another child, Lisa, also at four months to the same lung disease. That was in Germany.

In 1996, Lamptey, still only 21, was discarded by his national team and has not played for them since. Other players were unhappy when he criticised them for a poor showing in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. He breaks down in tears when he talks about it and believes he should have played in the 2006 World Cup and could even still be playing now, in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. He even hints at dark forces at work, believing there may have been two spiritualist curses put on him, one because he left his Muslim team to go to Europe, the other because he chose a wife from what his own family deemed the 'wrong race'. 'It was taken from me. It is really, really painful. Sometimes I'll be in my room and just cry,' he says.

Lamptey cannot bear even to go to the stadium to watch the Black Stars, as Ghana are known, during the tournament his country is hosting, preferring to watch on TV at home. He has had a big falling-out with Abedi Pelé, former African footballer of the year and Ghana's biggest star. He will not say why. 'But Abedi knows, he knows.'

Both his parents are now dead. Lamptey attempted to reconcile with them and he acceded to his father's dying wish to reconvert to Christianity, but he was pained at the funerals when he 'had to bury them both alone'. His brothers were never happy that he married a woman from another people - the Lampteys are Ga, Gloria is Fante - and do not speak. They refused to pay towards the burial expenses.

'I have been through hell, through so much pain,' he tells Observer Sport in the school office, sitting underneath a framed Chinese proverb that reads 'If life does not give you all that you want, rejoice that you are alive'.

'If I could write a book about it, it would be something else, I tell you. But how can I do that, when I can't even write a letter?' he says.

When he spoke of his ex-agent, Caliendo, I asked Lamptey, as a check, to spell the man's surname. 'I think it is C-O-L-E-H-D,' he says. Lamptey's lack of education, to which he constantly refers, often with some bitterness, is clearly something that eats away at him.

An hour or so from the Glow-Lamp School, up in the Aburi hills north-east of Accra, is a football school that, had such a thing existed 20 years ago, could have made life so much more bearable for Lamptey.

By the age of 19 Lamptey's best years were already behind him. World champion and player of the tournament at the Under-17 World Cup in 1991, an Olympic bronze in 1992, a runners-up medal in the Under-20s in 1993, that sensational season at PSV. One man who remembers him well from that era is here in Ghana scouting for one of Europe's top clubs. 'He was so good, a fantastic player,' says Nick Neururer, who was then working for the Austrian FA and is now Celtic's Africa scout. 'That year at PSV, sensational. But he could not cope. Too much, too young. Too many expectations, too much trouble with agents.'

What went wrong, in Lamptey's view? 'The expectations on me were very, very huge, even after that tournament in Scotland [in 1989]. It had never happened like that in Ghana, it was me going outside [to Europe] and opening the door for so many Ghanaians, the first one to do it, and many players still thank me for that,' he says.

'It wasn't easy, but I just wanted to play. I didn't know about money. I was unable to have a proper education and because of that I was cheated in so many ways in my career.

'When Diego died I couldn't stay in Argentina. I called Anderlecht and said, "This is the situation, I want to come back." The vice-president said, "You don't belong to us, you belong to Caliendo." Caliendo was selling me without me knowing it. After Diego died I wanted to come home, and this guy was forcing me to sign a contract with him.

'I refused. I was so lucky, otherwise I'd still belong to him up to I don't know when.

'I did not have any big quarrel, I just said, "No, I won't sign." He had to send people to come and talk to me, I still refused. Since then I have not had any contact with him.' Shortly before that, Lamptey had averted another rip-off, of his signing-on fee for Aston Villa, when the then Villa manager Ron Atkinson intervened. 'Ron gave my account number to the office and they paid it in direct. I hadn't even been told I was due a fee. The manager [agent] was very upset. Big Ron has been a good man in my life.

'There are other players whose agents have been even worse, one man who tried to destroy me because I would not sign for him. I know players who would gladly kill that one.

'Another problem was I couldn't express myself. There were certain things I just couldn't do. I remember watching one of my tapes from 1991 when I went to Belgium and looked at myself speaking English. Jesus Christ! I couldn't say what I wanted to say.

'Meeting my wife was another thing, so many people were against it. My parents were against it. I don't know why. Football-wise it was fighting against me, and family-wise it was fighting against me. It was hell.'

Every class in the Glow-Lamp School is named after one of the countries where Lamptey played either for a club or in a big tournament. On the ground floor, where his toddler Malaika attends pre-school play sessions, are China (Shandong), Germany (Greuther Fürth), Portugal (União Leiria), Dubai (Al Nasr), Australia (U20 World Cup) and Brazil (where he earned his last Ghana cap in 1996).

On the next floor, where Latifa (13) and Kadija (12) study, and where the library features hundreds of pictures of his playing career plastered all over the walls, are Belgium (Anderlecht), Argentina (Santa Fe), England (Aston Villa, Coventry), Holland (PSV), Turkey (Ankaragucu), Italy (Venezia), and the venues of memorable international matches, Switzerland, Russia and Sweden.

All those clubs, and yet he was touted to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona. 'Do I have regrets? I don't know. Perhaps you have to explain more from the dictionary what is regret. I won't say regret. I know if it was me alone and people had left me, for sure I should have been playing for Madrid now. But people want your downfall, too many things.

'But even through those things I'm able to stand firm. Whatever a footballer is supposed to achieve, I've done it, I've seen it. Maybe as Pelé put it that I'm going to step in his shoes, that one did not happen. That's a bit painful now, but I have to take it like that.

'I'm OK but because of my educational background I'm not comfortable. I don't want my own children to go through this pain. The best gift you can give your child is education.

'It all comes to education, that's why I decided to use my money for this school. This school makes me happy.'

Source:Sunday February 3, 2008
The Observer
Mkuu, asante sana down memory lane. Nii Lamptey alikuwa kitu kingine, I remember having the guys posters in my room when i was younger. Yaani nilikuwa nimemsahau. Ila namkumbuka muda wake PSV Eindhoven, hata alipokuja Astona Villa, ila akapotea ghafla. Maan, the guy was pure talent. Tena nakumbuka kipindi hicho wanamwiita the new Pele. PSV wana scouting nzuri sana, ndio waliomfuma (na kutengeneza jina) Ronaldo pia, Romario, Kalusha Bwalya......

Enzi za Ghana wakati wa kina Prince Polley, Tony Yeboah, Akonnor, Amankwah......daaaaaaaymn!!

Maan this is one sad story. Asante KNK. Made my day, though sad, but touching. Mungu atamlipa kwa namna nyingine.

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