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  • Josh Schneider-Weiler

Godsway Donyoh: Finding a Family 8,000 km Away From Home

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

In December of 2018 I went to Farum, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, to interview several people connected with FC Nordsjælland and the Right to Dream Academy. This is where I met 24-year-old forward, Godsway Donyoh. This is his story.

Childhood


I grew up in the capital city of Ghana called Accra, in a town called Achimota, [more specifically] Christian Village. I grew up there as a young kid dreaming of playing soccer.


I was playing street football with my friends and a guy introduced me to a local team in our area, but I had to walk like 30 minutes to training. I joined this club and a few months later RtD came to do like trials, and they picked players, but I didn't get the opportunity to go at that time. So I was still playing, focusing on doing what I could do to get an opportunity.

And the question that I always asked myself when I woke up is 'how am I going to make it to the top level'?

I'm from a poor background so it was really difficult growing up trying to achieve my dreams. And I always wanted to play football so bad - so I wasn't actually concentrating at school. All of my dreams was to play football. I got like punished by my dad and my mom all the time.

Actually my parents could not afford to buy me football shoes. Like that even motivated me more to play. I always played with my school sneakers. So then I was playing with this local team and then Right to Dream came in again to do another trial.


And then I got a chance and I was picked. Then I told my parents about it and they're not going to let me go, especially my mom. My dad wanted me to join the academy, because that's what I've been dreaming about. My mom was like I have to go to school so I can't join the academy.


I had to talk to Right to Dream coaches and scouts to come down to my parents to explain how things work. I didn't even know it was about football and school. So Right to Dream came in and explained everything to my family. And my mom was like, okay if there's education at the Right to Dream Academy then I have to go.


Joining the Right to Dream Academy


When I joined the Right to Dream Academy I always missed my brother and my family, because I was young when I joined it. It was really tough for me.


He [Godsway’s brother] died in 2004 before I went to the academy. He had a hole in the heart so it was really tough.


And then I remember one time I had to lie to the coaches and staff at the Right to Dream Academy. I was there and it was difficult because there were different guys from different cities in Ghana and we had a few guys from Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria as well. The culture is totally different and I didn't know anyone there.

So I felt a little bit lonely even though we were trying to work together and get to know each other. I always thought about my brother, like how we used to hang out because I was playing football with him like all of the time - and he was really good at football as well.

Then I had to lie to the coaches that I missed my brother. I asked if they can give me a day off so I could go and see my family. They granted me that so I went back to see my mom and my dad and my little sister. But then my dad was really mad at me and he actually asked me to go back to the academy.

It was late when I got to the house so the next day he took me himself, and he took me back to the academy - because he said to me 'this is the best opportunity I could ever get in life, so I don’t want you to waste this'. So I had to go back to the academy.

And then I went back and stayed even though I was still missing my brother. I was always crying – but I totally understand because I was still young and trying to get stronger.


Life at Right to Dream


When I was there we acted a play called The Lion King whereby I had to play a role as a lady and it was really funny. But that's how we work to get each other together.

Because like without doing all this stuff it's going to be difficult to get close to each other and work together as a team. Doing all of this was to bring all the boys together and learn a lot of stuff, like building the confidence and to get ready for any challenges they're going to face in the future.


Trial at Manchester City


It gets to a point like you are going to get questioned about what do you want to do. If you want to go as a professional or do you want to go to the States and further your education? Or do you want to go to a college in the UK? So mine was like I had two opportunities: to go to college in the UK or to sign a professional contract.

So it was really tough for me and I didn't know which to choose, but I went into take an exam called the IELTS. Then I can pass to the college but I needed, I think I had to get the score of 5 I think, and then I got 4.5 so I didn't pass the test, but then we had a game against a local club from Accra, and I did well in that game. I scored two goals and we drew the game 2-2.

Then there was a call from Espanyol in Spain and in Manchester City. They were interested in me coming to their clubs to do trials, but then we were in partnership with Man City. So then the guy from City asked me if I want to join Man City and do trials, and maybe get a chance to sign for Man City. I was like ‘yes I want to.’


Then he asked me to go to Tom Vernon and tell him that I want to go to Manchester City. Then I was like, ‘oh no I can go to Tom and tell him that I want to do this’, but he took it like really offensively. He thought I was rejecting what he's saying to me, but he didn't really understand what I meant by that. Because in Ghana we have a lot of respect for elderly people. So I was saying about how to be respectful but he said it like I was trying to be rude or something.


So then like Tom called me into his office and asked me like, "what did I say to Figgle [the Manchester City representative]?"


And I was like this is what I said to him, and he was like, "yes, I understand you." He asked me do I want to go to Man City, and I was like “yes of course like it's going be a dream come true.” Then he was like “okay than get ready you're going to go to Man City and have a trial.” Then I went to City and had a trial with them, and everything went well and I got a contract with them.


Loaned From Man City


I was loaned to Sweden for three years, whereby I didn't like it because I wasn't having any of the Right to Dream staff around or any of my friends around to motivate me and keep me on the right track. So it was really difficult for me.


Because I was too young and they have like experienced players and all of that. So they are more focused on that. It's not like FC Nordsjælland, where they're going to guide every player to help every player you know. It was different in Sweden. And in Right to Dream and Nordsjælland, when we are done with main training we normally do personal training. But when I was in Sweden, they don't even care.

If you're done with training you're done. There's nothing more to do like they don't care. But here it's more like they try to push you. They try to like tell you that these are the basics that you have to work on. So they are focusing more on like everyone here, so it was different from Sweden when I was there. So that was why I was I couldn't succeed.

I was injured from 2014 to 2015 and I had like a really terrible season in those two years. So then I remember I came to Ghana in December 2015. And then Tom gave me a call and he asked me to come by his place, and then I went and he introduced like what they're doing here in Nordsjælland and the kind of partnership and what they want to do. And he asked me if I'm looking forward to joining Nordsjælland. I said to him yes I would definitely like to be here.


When I joined Nordsjælland the first six months was tough because I was still having like injuries. So they were helping me to build up my strength and all of that so I could be ready for the next season. Since then it has been like the best moment of my career, joining in Nordsjælland. So I have never regretted anything coming here making that decision.


Why He Signed a Contract Extension


There were opportunities for me to go to other clubs [He was linked with Leicester City, Bournemouth], but I feel like I'm not done with what I started here. One more reason why I signed the contract was that I had a one-year contract with FC Nordsjælland.

I wanted to stay here and if I'm going to stay here then I need to have more control with FC Nordsjælland. Because if I don't then that means that I'm going to leave the club as a free player, whereby Nordsjælland is not going to get anything or going to get enough from me. So it's like appreciating and showing appreciation to the club.

And also like showing the young ones like there's no need to rush in life, because everything you do it starts gradually. You don't just wake up one day and end up at the top. It doesn't work like that. So like they have laid the foundation for me. If someone lay a foundation for you to build you up as a person, and make you a better person in life you always have to give back to the person.

And it's the same like your mom and dad looking after you, educating you and making sure that you have the best education for you- to become someone better in life. And when they get old and they cannot work anymore, you have to look after them - that's the culture back in Africa. So Right to Dream and FC Nordsjælland are just like my family.


Agents and Outside Influences


I am a loyal person so I don't go about lying about stuff that is not happening. So yes I've got a lot of text and calls from agents trying to influence me. From last year up to now. This is the second time I'm renewing my contract with FC Nordsjælland. The first time I had a call three or four.


And even a guy who was working in Right to Dream before gave me a call not to renew the contract - because I got call up to the National Team, the A, Nordsjælland Team. Then these guys started advising me trying to influence me to not renew the contract. Because I still had one year and I could wait to leave as a free player. But I just said to him, ‘okay yes I'll make sure I don't sign the contract’ just to play along with him.

I came back to Nordsjælland and I didn't say a word to Tom or anyone. I just kept it to myself because at the end of the day, no one is going to make the decision for me, I have to make my own decisions. Then I signed this contract and the guy was so mad at me.

Then there were like a few guys from the Right to Dream Academy - the young ones- and I was trying to advise one guy to sign a contract with Nordsjælland. Not influencing him not to sign the contract, but I said to him 'before you go and sign the contract just make sure that you know what you've signed, and don't listen to what people are saying to you. Don't listen to people influencing you.'


So this guy went back to the same guy who asked me not to renew my contract, that this is what I am saying to him. So this guy called me and he was really mad - he was like 'why would you tell these guys to sign the contract with FC Nordsjælland whereby you know it's not going to help him.'


And then I was like 'I didn't say to him to sign the contract.' I was just saying to him he has to make sure what he's doing, it's from his heart and not listening to anyone else.

Then this guy actually told me he can tell the coaches and everyone at the National team not to give me a call-up to the National Team you know.

A lot of agents were texting and calling not to renew my contract, so I can leave as a free player and they going to give me this amount of money. And I will be good playing in a big club playing in a bigger league. So I actually have this guy called Joe who is my manager. So he also gets the same text and all of that, then he always ignores them and all that.


So I said to him just be careful about who he's texting and who he's calling, you know so it's just crazy. And he has also played a bigger role in my life since I joined FC Nordsjælland. So I think I have the best people in my life right now.

How African Football Can Improve


Using Ghana as an example we have a lot of talented players, like some have made it and they are still making it in football right now, but they never get called up to the national team which is bad.

They'd rather call favourites. Like if you're my favourite then you're going to play for the national team.

We just have to be honest because we're doing this to build a country, because then we are never going to call it a national team. It's not about favourites, it's about players who are performing and players who are ready to show something for the country.


And in Ghana it's like when you've been called to the national team and you've played there before, it's going to be the same guys all the time. They don't look on performance, they are just focusing on the favourite guys. So I think that's one thing we really have to change. And we're going to progress because we have a lot of talent.


Giving Back


They [my friends] didn't get the opportunity. That was the point I wanted to make. Like without Right to Dream I don't know where I would be right now.


Because I know where I'm from, so I always have this dream of building an orphanage, and I've had this conversation with Tom and as well I had it with my mom, because my dad is no more. I lost my dad too.

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