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Sports News of Wednesday, 16 July 2014


KP v Jerome: Which Boateng did Ghana really need?

When, in May 2010, German-born Kevin-Prince Boateng opted to represent Ghana (where his dad emigrated from to Deutschland), most Ghanaians were elated.

Here, afterall, was a player who seemingly fancied lowly Ghana over mighty Germany and, at the time of his decision, was enjoying regular football in the prestigious English Premier League. A budding superstar, also.

Really, what wasn't to like?

Just 15 caps and two goals later, however, and many have conceded that Boateng has proved far more trouble than had first been apparent.

Put simply, he has given Ghana much less than had been anticipated, leaving Ghanaians wondering whether the other Boateng would have been a better bargain.

By the 'other' Boateng, I refer to Jerome - Kevin-Prince's slightly younger, somewhat underrated half-brother.

Even before the elder Boateng switched allegiance to Ghana, after playing alongside his sibling for Germany's youth teams, Jerome was considered by most Ghanaians as a less attractive prospect.*

Perhaps less talented, and certainly less primed for future success, too, given that Jerome was - at the time - still learning the ropes, pitching tent first with Bundesliga outfit Hamburg and later nouveau riche Manchester City, having only emerged from the same Hertha Berlin setup that had produced Kevin-Prince. He just didn't look settled yet.

Blinded as we were to Jerome's latent defensive strengths relative to exciting Kevin-Prince's threat going forward, Ghana probably gave up on the former a bit too easily. Both, as has since been observed, have proved us horribly wrong, only in contrasting ways.

In that four-year period (from 2010 to 2014), Jerome has been immensely successful, already boasting a haul of laurels most players - his brother included, of course - won't ever collect in a lifetime spent competing in the sport: bronze and gold medals from two Fifa World Cups; a Champions League runners-up finish and, not long thereafter, 'Big Ears' itself; topping it all up with a considerable plethora of domestic and international honours.

Most, if not all, of those pieces of silverware have been a just reward for remarkable consistency on his part, as well as stability with the sides he has played for. While his frequently frustrating brother has switched sides thrice since South Africa 2010, Jerome hasn't come close to moving an inch from Bavaria - having moved there from City a year after his World Cup bow - where he has been an essential cog in Bayern Munich's unit.

And, given that Die Rekordmeister regularly supply more than half of the German national team's starters, it is little surprise Boateng has slotted snugly into Joachim Low's well-oiled juggernaut in a niche he doesn't seem like giving up anytime soon. Kevin-Prince's international career, on the other hand, has stumbled from one controversial hiccup to another after that bright start in summer of 2010, lulled by a two-year hiatus.

It goes without saying that on both occasions the pair have crossed paths at the Mundial - in 2010 and 2014 - Jerome has been more dominant, even if only slightly.

More than on any other platform, though, the just-ended World Cup in Brazil proved how relatively stunted Kevin-Prince's growth has been, for while Jerome was churning out the illuminating performances that provided Die Mannschaft remarkable solidity at the rear, he (KP Boateng) appeared only too busy immersed in his self-styled role of uprooting perceived corruption from Ghana's Brazil 2014 camp, for which reason he got justifiably booted out of the squad before the Black Stars' underwhelming expedition was truly over.

And, even more tellingly, while a Ghanaian backline whose flaws were so glaringly exposed could have done with Jerome's richly varied and effective defending ability, Kevin-Prince proved more of a liability than an asset, contributing so little on the pitch and subtracting so much off it.

It's quite obvious now who, among the Boateng brothers, Ghana really needed but wouldn't ever have. At least, though, we can derive some vicarious satisfaction from Jerome's exploits with his adopted country, can't we?

From all indications, then, Jerome is now the main Boateng, not the 'other'; clearly the one that got away for Ghana.

*Jerome was already a German international - thus ineligible for Ghana - by the time Kevin-Prince 'defected'.