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Sports Features of Monday, 22 June 2020

Source: rtbf.be

Frank Acheampong, the 'Ghanaian Messi' who became a darling of Astrid Park

Despite the sporadic resumption of a few European championships, football has been dormant for several weeks. The opportunity for us to retrace the careers of footballers who have, in their own way, marked our championship over the past 10 years.

If some have taken advantage of the Belgian springboard to fly to other horizons, others will never have been able to ride the Pro League wave and have stranded in the anonymity of small championships. After analyzing the incredible career of Marvin Ogunjimi, it's time for Frank Acheampong.

Arrived on tiptoe, the Ghanaian quickly became the darling of Brussels supporters.

We are in January 2013. The management of Anderlecht proudly presents its new jewel: Frank Acheampong, young winger of 20 years, considered as the “ Ghanaian Messi ” in his country and loaned to Saint-Guidon for six months. An announcement that does not make much noise. Probably because nobody knows this discreet guy who was playing until then in the media darkness of the Thai championship and who therefore still has everything to prove.

For proof, Frankie does not even taste the main nucleus during the first months. Still too tender, he must make his ranges, acclimatize to European football in the hopes. Yet Acheampong is hungry. He is revengeful, scalded by an unsuccessful Celtic test a few weeks earlier. Determined to prove his qualities, he quickly became one of the leading figures of the U21. Hopes that thwart all forecasts and qualify for the final of the very prestigious Viarregio tournament. They face AC Milan there. Unleashed, the Mauves make only a mouthful of amazed Rossoneri. 3-0 ... thanks to a double Acheampong. Two goals which are enough to convince the Brussels management to offer it a real contract. In August 2013, Frankie therefore definitely settled down in Saint-Guidon.

The introduction to journalists is in his image: humble and discreet. No big statements, just “ the urge to help the team ”. An age-old refrain that all football players seem to try to repeat over and over again, but which in Acheampong's mouth takes another turn. That of a very believing man and quite simply happy to have arrived there.

Boosted by this golden opportunity granted to it by the Brussels leaders, Acheampong does not want to miss its beginnings with the first team. In the second game of the season against Ghent, he replaced Samuel Armenteros in the 68th. Ten minutes later, Anderlecht took advantage of an aborted buffalo action to go on a counterattack. Silvio Proto releases the ball from his hand. The leather arrives in the feet of Acheampong near the central circle. He avoids a defenseman's tackle and escapes. The ball sticks to his feet, impossible to catch him. A hook, then a second to put a last defender in the wind before adjusting the goalkeeper and scoring. In the blink of an eye, Acheamponghas just revealed itself to the Anderlecht public by offering a summary of all its qualities: speed, velocity, vista and ball handling. The following matches are of the same ilk. Acheampong joins the team and his life-saving thrusts are starting to do serious damage. John Van de Brom, the purple trainer of the time, even went on a laudatory tirade saying to himself “ under the spell .”

However, little by little, Acheampong will lose his place, be relegated to the bench to take on the thankless role of 12th man. The trainer mentions a drop in form and a lack of regularity. True to himself, Frankie takes this decision with phlegm and philosophy: “ If he says so, it's because I have to work harder. I'm always ready to play. If he doesn't want me on the team, I accept his choice. No problem, ” he said then, before being completely ousted from the pit for the end of the season.

And this first season, made of ups and downs, intense moments of joy combined with rarer moments of doubt, ultimately illustrates the Acheampong paradox well. Because as confusing and sparkling as he was, the Ghanaian also sometimes had a tendency to put blinkers and sink into the pile, carried away by his supersonic momentum. Or to cross an encounter like a ghost, isolated on its left flank without managing to unravel the opposing marking. A dichotomy, symbolized by this lack of regularity, which explains why, during his four seasons at Saint-Guidon, he has never held more than 13 times per season. Why he never became THE taulier on his left flank.

A reputation as an intermittent of the spectacle which did not prevent Acheampong from quickly turning into a darling of the demanding Anderlechtois audience. The spans forgave him for his rare excess of individualism, stood up by one man for each giant and decisive slalom in the Europa League and applauded this man, humble and respectful.

Haloed by two championship titles (2014 and 2017), Acheampong (22 goals and 21 assists in 165 games) will finally cast off in late 2017. He will succumb to the sirens of the lucrative Chinese championship after having long flirted with teams from the European subtop ( Editor's note): Anderlecht had refused an offer of 7 million euros from a German team ). After four seasons of seeing him pacing his left flank, the Anderlechtois public had to resolve to see Acheampong flying away, not without a final twinge in the heart.

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