Honored by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as the Continent's Best Female Footballer of the Year, Ghana’s Alberta Sackey has consistently played at the top level of the women’s game.
“I think this is a reflection on Ghana football, not Alberta Sackey,” she says humbly. “Football in Ghana is way ahead of most countries in Africa, although there needs to be more developmental programs in the rural areas to exploit talents all over the country. This is a wish come-true, but I couldn’t have this without the tremendous effort and support of my country.”
Growing up in Accra, Sackey recalls the struggle she – and other women in Ghana – faced in pursuing a career in football.
“People would always ask me why I wanted to play such a game that was made for boys instead of playing a soft sport made for girls,” says Sackey. “The boys were very physical and I received some beatings everyday. But I enjoyed playing football more than the beatings.”
With a rocket-powered shot and a soft-spoken demeanor, Sackey captained the national team in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and led the qualifying run to USA 2003. Equally at home as a midfield playmaker or on defense if needed, she was the 2002 African Nation’s Cup leading goal scorer (4), and it was her spectacular strike that beat Nigeria 1:0 in Africa Nations Cup play.
“I have many great football memories,” says Sackey, who is also known for her proficiency in volleyball. “But I think the one that stands out is scoring the lone goal in the win over Nigeria. What made this so special was that Nigeria had never lost in African play and on top of that is that the game was held in Nigeria.”
Buoyed in the endeavour of becoming the first African team to beat the Falcons, Sackey has her sights set high for World Cup 2003.
“As a player, your vision is to become the best player in the world and to win the ultimate prize, the World Cup,” says Sackey. “There would be no greater feeling than to say that you are the best in the world at what you do.”
Just four years ago, Kurt Melcher, the women’s head football coach at Robert Morris College near Chicago, Illinois, had a vision of his own. As he sat inside Chicago’s Soldier Field watching a World Cup game between Ghana and Sweden, he envisioned players on that field being on his team someday.
Before she knew it, Sackey was enrolled at Robert Morris College.
“I came to the United States to make a step in my football career, but it is such an honor to be able to get my education,” says Sackey, a business administration major who has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and is the school’s all-time leading scorer and point leader. “Teams don’t know what to do with her,” says Melcher. “Every time she gets the ball, she gets double-teamed and swarmed, and it absolutely doesn’t matter. She knows where the ball is going to go and she finds ways to score.”
Sackey has proven not only a valuable force on the field, but also has provided valuable help in getting some of her Ghana teammates to attend Robert Morris. They include sweeper Kulu Yahaya, and midfielders Elizabeth Baidu, Adjoa Bayor and Basilea Amoah-Tetteh.
With their tremendous amount of international experience, the Black Queens might just surprise come September.
“Other teams should not take us for granted or they may pay the price,” Sackey says. “I like being the underdogs for the tournament because you can just play and the results will come. I think the biggest strength of our team is that we have tremendous team spirit. We came together at the African Nation’s Cup and will remain a strong group during the World Cup.”