Yaw Yeboah on life in lockdown

Footballers on lockdown: “I’m learning a lot” says Ghana’s Yaw Yeboah

Strange times. Weird times. Extraordinary times. Everyone is struggling to describe the experience they are living through in this pandemic, as much as they are battling to find their own way through it. And sportsmen and women are no exception.

In the same way that so many of us have seen our livelihoods grind to a shuddering halt, leading to a sense of being in limbo, competitive sport has been in shutdown mode too, and is only now trying to find a way of getting back into action.

One of Ghana’s most promising young footballers, Yaw Yeboah, has been giving Planet Sport Football Africa listeners an insight into his experience. On Man City’s books as a teenager and highly rated by Pep Guardiola, he is currently playing in Spain for Celta Vigo’s B side, on loan from CD Numancia. Last year he captained Ghana Under-23s in the African Cup of Nations in Egypt, and a few years back he also played in the U20 World Cup in New Zealand.

‘You have to be mentally strong’

“Coronavirus is slowing everything and making people a bit crazy,” he admitted to our reporter Oluwashina Okeleji. “It’s very scary waking up every morning, seeing the news everywhere and then your family back in Ghana call you and they’re so scared because they heard the news about people dying, and it’s a lot. It’s a crazy thing – you have to be mentally strong.”

Yaw keeps in touch with many of his fellow Ghana players who are playing in Europe, including Mohammed Kudus (FC Nordsjalland, Denmark), Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew at Swansea City in the Championship (UK), Mubarek Wakaso in Ghana and Jonathan Mensah in the US. They play video games like Second Life, and put content onto Instagram to help stay connected to fans back in Ghana.

In some ways, lockdown has helped them connect more closely together – no-one’s going anywhere so they’re always available for a chat, unless they’re doing solo training – rather than having to arrange calls around different schedules and time zones.

It’s given Yaw plenty of time to think, and thankfulness is the theme he returns to throughout the interview:

‘Appreciate what you have’

“I’ve learned a lot. I always go to sleep at night, and maybe for an hour before sleep comes I will be thinking ‘what a world we are living in now’, this coronavirus is stopping every single thing in this world and the most important thing is stopping what we love doing, which is football, and other people want to be outside at the beach, want to be seeing people, working, so now we could say working, politics, everything is not important – the only thing is to appreciate what you have, and appreciate who you are and appreciate the earth. Appreciate your life.”

‘We will come back strong’

As a committed Christian, he is clear on the part his faith plays in how he has responded to the situation.

“I’m a Christian and I believe in God – I believe that whatever is happening in this world, God is in control. God knows exactly what he’s doing … there’s a lesson for us to appreciate everything that we have on this earth, and that our God created everything for a reason, and that God loves everything that he created. The world is going to change … how people are going to treat each other … so you have to appreciate the people in your life, appreciate your family and your friends, and the most important thing is that you have to appreciate life. We will come back strong.”

It’s often said that professional footballers have a privileged position, and something of a responsibility to put something back into their communities, and Yaw certainly echoes that in his advice to fellow players: “In Africa you’re seeing players like Sadio Mane donating money to help a community – and this is love … if somebody is in need and you are in a position to help the person, just do it. Because you never know tomorrow, only God knows – only the Creator knows.”

As elite football in Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK takes the first tentative steps to concluding the current season, spare a thought for professionals like Yaw, walking the tightrope of sporting competition, health concerns and entertainment for broadcasters’ audiences. Football may be on the way back, but it’s going to feel very different for quite some time.

Russ Bravo is Digital Media Producer at Passion for Sport