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Emmanuel Essiam: FC Basel’s rarest gem awaiting stardom


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Raw talents are like seeds; you never know if they will germinate and you never know how beautiful a tree they can grow to become until you dig the earth and plant them but the work does not end there. The seeds will require watering, the right temperature, environment and the things science describes as the ‘viable conditions’ to blossom.

That is the case of Ghana’s Emmanuel Essiam. As talents go, he is a seed with great promise.

My first real appreciation of Essiam’s talent was when he was playing in the Region Zonal Championships after shining for his senior high school.

He was a lanky lad cutting through the rugged pitch and whoever that came his way. He was a monster but he was calm and collected. He possessed skill, intelligence and passing abilities that made him stand out.

Let me paint a picture for you to properly understand and appreciate just how far this young man has come in a very short space of time.

As a first year student, he was part of the school team, starting games in his first-ever inter-school’s competition hosted at Okuapeman School.

He performed well and was drafted into the best starting team but did not make the cut to the Super Zonal on the first try.

Essiam came back stronger in the second year as the captain of his school team and then, made the cut to represent his zone at the Regional Super Zonal Competition.

That was the first hurdle this teenager had to scale in his career.

After senior high school, he, by life’s design and hard work, found himself playing for Berekum Chelsea after spending some time playing colts football in Madina.

He joins the long list of talents to have come from the suburb in Accra with the likes of Mohammed Salisu, Salis Abdul Samed being the most significant ones in recent times.

Essiam made his debut for Berekum Chelsea on April 4, 2021 in a 2-1 win over Legon Cities, lasting the entire 90 minutes. Not a bad start for the teenager.

He went on to start in 12 twelve more games for Chelsea and that caught the eyes of Abdul Karim Zito ahead of the WAFU Zone B U-20 Championships. It turned out that Essiam was Zito’s main man in midfield and for Essiam, the chance to show his capabilities was one he valued a lot despite the huge responsibility such opportunities often presented.

“My greatest challenge was starting with national team because they call a lot of players so that was a very big challenge, you know. There are lots of players all over the country and in Ghana we have so many good players. There were over 100 players from which 23 must be chosen. So just imagine this. You have just got to go all out and give everything but then that gives you confidence because you were picked and it shows you are exceptional.”

Ghana’s Black Satellites rallied from a goal down to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 thanks Daniel Afriyie Barnieh and Percious Boah to win the tournament and book a place at the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations hosted in Mauritania.

Although the plaudits went to the goal scorers on the day, it was Emmanuel Essiam who really stood out, shielding the back line and offering a brilliant passing display to keep the team in motion.

He was once again the star of the show when no eyes were watching at the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania.

He played every single game of the tournament as Ghana kept four clean sheets in six games leading to a victory in the final on the same day that marked our 64th independence as a country.

That is how important he was to Ghana’s success at the tournament. He did not make the team of the tournament but his passes and decision making made a lasting impression on scouts who watched him excel against Uganda in the finals.

He may have etched his name in the Black Satellites story by being part of the team but to him, the difficulty was not winning the ultimate in Mauritania but fighting for a place in the preceding WAFU tournament.

“For me, the WAFU tournament was more difficult. The West African tournament was really difficult because that was the qualifier to the African Cup and only two teams could qualify. With God and the strength and the team work and our coaches and everything, we were able to win that trophy and also go to the African Cup. We had a very good team and since we were all motivated and we had a very big dream, that’s what helped us to win the African Cup.”

After an impressive showing in Mauritania, prying eyes starting inquiring his availability to price him away from Berekum Chelsea, where he had established himself as a starter for the club.

Essiam after just seven games in the new season in the Ghana Premier League got the big move to Europe, to one of Europe’s finest clubs and Switzerland giants, FC Basel in a deal that will end in 2026.

The teenager did turn down several clubs in Portugal, Belgium and Netherlands and to him, picking Basel was a step he believes will help develop into one of the world’s brightest and hottest players.

“There were some offers which came that were really good offers. I had some from Belgium, Portugal but I chose Basel because I think Basel is a big club and a good club to develop. I can play in Europe also and just achieve my dreams and become a big star as I want to be,” the teenager said beaming with smiles.

With his dream move in the bag, the promising starlet picked a knee injury in just his second training with the first team. That was a huge step back to his development and progress as he was sidelined for almost a year and he opened up on how difficult it was for him to deal with the experience.

“I was really frustrated because as I told you I wanted to play in the first team. That was my main motivation, my main aim and my goal, but when I went after my second training, I got injured and I was out for almost a year. It was really frustrating but with the club helped me. They were motivating me, talking to me and doing everything to for me to be happy. They did a lot for me and I really appreciate it. That helped me bounce back earlier because it was really a heard moment for me.”

After six months out due to a knee injury, the Ghanaian prodigy finally made his FC Basel debut in a 5-3 Swiss Cup win over Grasshoppers. A debut he said made him feel “really really good” considering all the troubles he had faced.

You may be wondering what type of player Emmanuel Essiam is, so here we go with a description. Picture Michael Essien with the build of Paul Pogba, the calmness of Andre Pirlo and the ruggedness of Gennaro Gattuso.

If you want a direct mirror of how he plays, imagine a cross between Essien and Pogba. The  flamboyance and passing technique of passing may not be developed now but the right guidance will being those qualities to the fore and it is not a surprise Essiam has the Bison and former Lyon, Chelsea, and Real Midfielder as his role model.

“Since childhood my role model is Michael Essien. He followed me on Instagram some time ago because I followed him way long ago and I was really really happy, smiling always during that day.

Yeah, I texted him and told him he’s my idol and thanked him for following me back and I really appreciate it. I used to watch him if I had a game to play and it motivated me. Then, I would take that into go into games.”

As dreams go, he, Emmanuel Essiam has many but top of the list is to follow in the path of his icon, Michael Essien to play for Real Madrid.

He has taken the first steps; good ones I must say. Winning the U-20 WAFU, U-20 AFCON, qualifying Ghana to the U-23 AFCON, and having an eye on the Black Stars are great ways to begin one’s journey to the top of the footballing world.

For the player, he is determined and willing to make it as a professional and now, it is the task of FC Basel to nurture and groom this priceless gem, this seed and turn him into the next big thing in world football.

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