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Sports Features of Sunday, 4 September 2011

Source: FIFA

Vorsah: Ghana have risen like a Phoenix

Tranquillity is the source of true strength, according to an old Central European proverb. When spoke by telephone to Isaac Vorsah at Hoffenheim's training facility in Sinsheim, the qualities which have conveyed the Ghana international from the streets of Accra to the German Bundesliga were immediately evident: quiet conviction and inner strength.

The 23-year-old, currently entering the decisive phase of qualifying for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2012 with his national team, is a model of modesty, speaking quietly and clearly thinking hard before answering any questions. His is a remarkable journey, from part-timer in the Ghanaian capital to full professional status in Germany.

“It's almost unbelievable," he said. "It wasn't an easy childhood, because we basically had nothing. I've had to work very hard to get where I am today, but I’ve succeeded and it’s wonderful."

The central defender started out in athletics. He was a 100-metre runner at school, and rated as one of the fastest youth athletes in his region. However, the 6'4 defender ultimately settled on football as his priority. It was a decision he would never regret, despite the difficulty of his circumstances at home and the tough conditions which still prevail in Ghana.

“It was a wonderful time, but hard too," the player recalled. "This is one of the biggest differences between football in Europe and Africa. In Africa we have plenty of quality players, but it's never easy for them, because we just don't have the infrastructure, enough pitches and other facilities for example."

Vorsah made his professional debut for Gamba All Blacks before switching to top club Asante Kotoko. From there, he travelled all the way to Hoffenheim, joining the newly-promoted second-division outfit in 2007 as a 19-year-old. It was a brave move which benefited all parties involved. Partly thanks to Vorsah's excellent first season, Hoffenheim completed their imperious progress from the lower leagues into the German top flight.

Vorsah himself grew out of an initial role as a squad player to become an undisputed regular, a position he maintains as Hoffenheim now fight their fourth Bundesliga campaign in a row: “You have to be impressed by what we’ve achieved here. Hoffenheim are a very well-managed club and we’re now established in the Bundesliga. The hope is that we can take the next step and play in Europe at some point."

The man in charge of that mission is Holger Stanislawski. The new boss arrived from relegated St Pauli in the summer, and became an immediate fan of the Ghanaian defender, a vital contributor to Hoffenheim's promising start to the season. “Compper and Vorsah are obviously doing really well in central defence at the moment," the coach recently commented, explicitly praising the serene African and his German counterpart.

Under former boss Ralf Rangnick and for Ghana, Vorsah frequently appeared as a holding midfielder, but he personally sees his future at the heart of the defence. “My best position is centre-half, although if necessary or the situation in a match requires it, I can play in midfield too."

Ghanaian goals Vorsah is currently filling a centre-back role for his country, and he and captain John Mensah are generally the first two names on the Black Stars’ team sheet. The man who is quiet composure personified off the field is hardly any different on it, performing his duties with calm authority.

This evening, group leaders Ghana meet Swaziland, who are bottom of Group I and have yet to register a point, in a CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. And for the first time in the entire telephone call, Vorsah’s voice becomes loud and insistent.

“We'll go all out to win, because we need the three points to ensure we stay top of the group," he said. "Our goal is to contest the continental championship in 2012, and we'll give everything for that. But we know what can happen in football, and we'll be cautious. Swaziland will give it everything they’ve got, and we have to fight back."

The decisive fixture in terms of winning the group is likely to be Ghana's trip to Sudan, who currently lie second to the west Africans on goal difference. The showdown takes place in early October.

“Sudan are a good team, but I think at the end of the day, we'll overcome them and knock them out. The home fixture ended in a draw, but I'm still confident it’ll go our way in the return. We'll beat them," he declared.

Vorsah and his team-mates will derive great confidence from a good couple of years on the international stage. After finishing runners-up at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2010, Ghana made it all the way to the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, but lost dramatically to Uruguay on penalties and missed out on what would have been a historic place in the last four by a hair's breadth.

“We've risen like a Phoenix from the ashes in recent years," Vorsah explained. "No-one expected anything like that from us, because we were still basically unknown. We get along perfectly, we stick together through thick and thin, and we all fight for each other.

"Team spirit has made us strong and brought success. But we want to do even better in the future, and we're trying everything we know to hit our targets," the normally reticent player said with utter conviction in his voice, before saying farewell and heading back to the Hoffenheim dressing room.