Christian Atsu is recalling the random acts of kindness that changed his life.
He grew up in the village of Ada Foah, an hour up the coast from Accra, Ghana’s capital. He stood out as a potentially talented footballer playing on “pitches with no grass and lots of little rocks.”
One day, before he was due to play in a trial tournament organised by Feyenood’s West African Academy, a total stranger from Achimota in Accra, gave him a new pair of football boots.
He wore them, felt special, played well, and so began his route to the Premier League, via the Dutch club and FC Porto.
“They bought me the boots because they said I have talent and must use it,” said Atsu, at Newcastle’s training ground this week. “I’ll never forget that.
“There were people I had never met and they wanted you to do well. When people in my town saw you have talent, they sometimes gave you money to help you, or food to build you up…or give football boots.
“It is how Africa loves football. These are people you don’t know! That is how Africa is. That is the community spirit you can find.
“They see you, they feel happy, and want to help.”
Atsu was thinking about his benefactor earlier this year, after winning promotion with Newcastle and sealing a £6million permanent move from Chelsea.
He explained: “I wanted to find him. I set a friend off on a mission and we found. He was called Joshua. A very good man.
“He bought the boots and I never saw him again. I have been in touch and he doesn’t need anything from me or want anything, but I just wanted to say thank you.”
There is a reason why Atsu goes home every summer. This year he was laden with Newcastle United strips, boots and sweets to give to kids at an orphanage.
“I know where I came from so will always be grateful and try to give back to the community.
“I feel like everyone has to be happy and has the right to be happy. Before I reached this level I was supported. People need support in life to chase their dreams.
“In June I ordered some kit from Newcastle. I went to see the children back home, went to the school and the orphanage. They were happy to see to me.
“I believe that people don’t have ask to be in need. You have to see their need and be ready to help.
“I believe these kind of children, when they live on the streets and have nothing, some can become armed robbers. To prevent these things you have to give a better education.
“I like to go every summer. We have one kid called Desmond who is in a wheelchair and we want to help him get into work.
“I give them some books and some advice. It is pretty cool and a great honour for me to do.”
Atsu lost his father aged 13, and is one of 11 siblings. Playing against Liverpool on Sunday will hold no fear, only happiness.
“When I was young I played on the street. The dream was not to make money out of it or to help my family. But as I got older I realised it could change my life and help my family.
“I put some seriousness in it and worked harder to reach this level. I left Chelsea for Newcastle – 52,000 fans, Rafa Benitez as manager. Chelsea is big, but so is Newcastle.”
Back in Ada Foa they are now Newcasle fans and will be watching on Sunday.
He explained: “I took Newcastle strips in the summer. We played football, 11 v 11. It made everyone happy.
“Some of the kids were playing bare-foot. I organised for them to have boots and you can see them improving.”
That’s Atsu completing the circle of giving that helped him.
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