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Sports Features of Monday, 26 August 2019

Source: Ekow Amoasi

Agogo won our hearts with his uncontrollable celebration

Agogo scored 12 goals for Ghana Agogo scored 12 goals for Ghana

Sad, shocking, unwelcoming and unbelievable. On Thursday, August 22, football fraternity was hit with most astonishing news of the year about the demise of Manuel Junior Agogo.

Agogo was diagnosed with Aphasia after recovering from stroke in January 2015 after ending his football career and was taken care of by his mother in London. Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is due to injury to the brain, especially from a stroke.

In some cases, it makes communications with the patient impossible. It is associated with difficulty to retrieve names of objects and inability to put together sentences.

Speaking for the first time after the stroke, Agogo in a BBC documentary titled ‘Speechless’ said the stroke left him lacking confidence, and he feels socially isolated.

“I was running with my dog. I was coming back home. I was near the Marriott Hotel and the stroke happened.

“When I woke up I was in hospital with my mum. I couldn’t speak. I was in a bad way.

“I had thoughts, but I was like where is my voice. I was baffled, man,” Agogo said in a BBC interview about his illness in 2017.

Junior Agogo was born on 1 August 1979 in Accra, Ghana as one of 11 siblings. He attended the Ridge Church School in Accra, but before completing primary school, he moved with his family to the UK. He subsequently returned to Ghana for three years, attending St. Augustine's College, a secondary school in Cape Coast. He didn't play on the football team at St Augustine's College, but instead represented the school in dancing competitions.

In May 2006 Agogo was called up by Ghana for a friendly against French league side OGC Nice. However, he was not included in the final Ghanaian World Cup squad. He was recalled to the Ghana squad for an East Asia tour in which he faced Japan and South Korea.

On 14 November 2006, Agogo scored his first goal for Ghana, the equaliser in a friendly against Australia; the game finished 1–1. He also scored the third goal in Ghana's 4–1 victory over Nigeria, played at Brentford's Griffin Park.

Agogo was called up to the Ghana squad for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. He played in the first game of the cup against Guinea, hitting the post with a header in the 20th minute and helping Ghana to a 2–1 victory. He then scored in the following game against Namibia, tapping home Michael Essien's cross for the only goal of the game.

Agogo then netted another goal, the winner in the quarter-final against Nigeria in the quarterfinals. Ghana missed out on the final, however, and had to settle for a third-place play-off against Ivory Coast, in which he scored again in a 4–2 victory. Alongside Sulley Muntari, he was Ghana's top scorer in the competition and the 5th highest scorer overall.

Ghanaian football fandom loved the bulky forward due to how played on the field and his style of celebration. He was popularly known of taking his shirt off and dancing with his hands around his head. Despite not living most of his life here in Ghana, the star striker was loved by Ghanaians.

He began his youth career at Sheffield Wednesday in 1995, moving up to the senior squad in 1997 but made only two appearances for the club. He played for fifteen different clubs over the next fifteen years, before retiring from professional football in 2012. He spent most of his playing career in England, with additional spells in the USA, Egypt, Cyprus and Scotland. His longest spell was at Bristol Rovers (2003–2006), where he made 140 appearances before moving to Nottingham Forest.

During the 1999–2000 season he had loan spells at Oldham Athletic, Chester City, Chesterfield, and Lincoln City. His goal for Chester against Cheltenham Town in October 1999, was voted the best goal ever scored at the Deva Stadium.

In 2000 Agogo left Sheffield Wednesday and moved to the United States to play for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. He was traded to the Colorado Rapids after playing just one match in Chicago, going on to score 11 goals in 32 appearances for the Rapids.

He was traded from Colorado to the San Jose Earthquakes on June 2001 for Chris Carrieri. He played for the Earthquakes for the rest of the 2001 season, culminating with their MLS Championship victory, but was waived early in the 2002 pre-season, and replaced on the San Jose roster by Devin Barclay.

Agogo returned to England in 2002, this time with Queens Park Rangers. He made his debut coming off the bench away against Swindon Town. However, after only two appearances he moved to Football Conference side Barnet.

In the summer of 2003, Agogo joined Third Division side Bristol Rovers. He played the first thirteen games of the 2003–04 season before having to have an operation which kept him out for the next nine games. He finished the campaign with 22 goals in all competitions. In the 2004–05 season, Agogo scored 20 goals in 51 appearances; the following season he scored 18 goals from 44 appearances.

In summer 2006 Rovers turned down initial bids from Agogo from Championship side Southend United and League One side Nottingham Forest. Agogo had a clause in his contract allowing him to speak to other clubs if an acceptable bid was made. On 30 August 2006, the transfer to Forest was completed for an undisclosed fee, with Agogo signing a three-year contract. On September 2006 he made his league debut for Forest as a sub in a home 4–0 win against Chesterfield. He scored seven league goals over the season, with his first on 30 September 2006 against Swansea City in a 3–1 win.

On 22 September 2007 Agogo scored his first goals of the 2007–08 season, a hat-trick in a 4–0 win over Gillingham – the first of his career. He netted two long-range strikes that season with a 35-yard lob of the goalkeeper in Forest's 3–0 win at Yeovil Town and a 25-yard effort in Forest's 4–1 success against Southend United. However, Agogo scored only three goals after his return from the 2008 African Cup of Nations, one of which was against Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road. He finished as Forest's top-scorer that season with thirteen goals, helping the club gain automatic promotion to the Championship. Agogo was sold during the summer for a fee of £565,000 to Zamalek SC.

On 2 July 2008, Junior Agogo joined Zamalek SC, He initially wore the number 19 jersey for El Zamalek but switched to number 9 following Amr Zaki's departure on loan to English side Wigan Athletic.

Agogo joined Apollon Limassol on 5 August 2009, signing a two-year contract with the Cypriots.

Agogo signed a one-year contract with Scottish Premier League club Hibernian, who were managed by his former Nottingham Forest manager, Colin Calderwood, in July 2011. Agogo scored his first goal for Hibs on 24 September 2011, in a 3–3 draw against Dundee United. He was released from his contract in January 2012, after making 14 appearances for the club.

He scored a total of 113 goals in 350 games during his club career.

Following his demise, tributes have poured in for the goal poacher.

The Ghana Football Association upon hearing said, “The Ghana Football Association is saddened by news of the sudden demise of ex-Ghana star Junior Agogo. On behalf of the Ghanaian football fraternity, we extend our sincere condolences to the family of our Black Star, Junior Agogo. May his soul Rest In Peace.”

A statement on Sheffield Wednesday’s official tweeter handle read, “Sheffield Wednesday are saddened to learn of the passing of our former player Junior Agogo.

“Our thoughts are with Junior's family and friends at this very difficult time. RIP.”

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also offered his condolences to the family of former Black Stars striker.

In a tweet, the President described Junior Agogo as “a fine player” who represented the nation proudly any time he was called up to the national team.

Coach Kwasi Appiah, head coach of the Black Stars has mourned the shocking demise of the former striker of Junior Manuel Agogo.

“Agogo was the type of player who was loved by many people here in Ghana, we knew he was sick but never thought he could leave us so soon we are all saddened by his demise our condolences to the whole family I believe that they will stay strong especially in this difficult times on behalf of the whole technical team of the Black Stars," he told gbcghanaonline.

“I remember him for one thing which is, most times when the players are supposed to sleep Agogo will not he will be disturbing everybody joking though he was very jovial we will miss him so much his soul rest in perfect peace, it’s was a different and difficult afternoon for us of all after receiving this bad news.”

Black Stars skipper, Andre Ayew said, “One of the worst days in life. RIP big bro Junior Agogo. Words indeed fail me.”

General secretary of CAF, Anthony Baffoe also said, “May his soul rest in perfect peace -rest well Junior Agogo.”

Hibernian defender Lewis Stevenson has paid a touching tribute to the ‘larger than life’ Junior Agogo after his former team-mate and revealed how the 40-year-old made a positive impact on the squad during his six-month spell in Leith.

“That’s the first I’m hearing of that,” said Stevenson, after being told of Agogo’s passing.

“I have him on Instagram and he seemed to be living a healthy life.

“I knew he was into running recently so he must have been trying to get back to fitness.

“He is not someone I properly kept in touch with but he was a big figure and he came here with a massive reputation.

“This isn’t something you want to hear about, especially about a former teammate.

“He was larger than life and a real character, quite rightly.

“He came with a big reputation because he had done a lot in his career and scored some goals at the African Cup of Nations, which he used to always talk about.

Agogo had a penchant for expensive cars, Stevenson admits Agogo was a joy to play alongside.

Stevenson added: “Off the pitch he was brilliant. There was no denying that he had made a bit of money in his career but he was really down to earth and he was a lovely guy with everyone.

“I’m sure he used to park his Maserati next to my Honda Civic.

“Maybe in a joking sense he would wind you up about things like that but you could take it because he was joking and he worked hard for the team and wanted the best for everybody.”

“He used to moan about the direct football. He always wanted the ball to his feet and he wasn’t happy with the Scottish long ball tactics.”

Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom, who came up against Agogo on the pitch during his playing career south of the border, said: “It’s really sad news and the first I’ve heard of it. On behalf of the club and all our staff, I send my best wishes to his family.

“In football, we’re always competing against each other all the time but there is a tightknit group and you are part of a bigger family.

“Forty years old is nothing. It doesn’t matter whatever age someone is, it’s always sad.

“It tends to be more dramatic when it is someone young and someone who is perceived to be fit. It’s the last thing you expect.”

The likes of Chicago Fires, Zamalek, Bristol Rovers, Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers, Chester City have all paid tributes to the Ghanaian international.

Agogo might have earned a lot of praise at the clubs he played for but it is his exploits with the senior national team, the Black Stars that he will be remembered most by Ghanaians for. His humility, passion and the respect he has for his country and playing mate will never be erased for the memory of football fans.

Manuel Agogo was a star who will shine forever, and he will remain dear in our hearts forever and watching him play and celebrate during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations will be a memory I will never forget.

We say Demifa Due… Yaa wo ye he dzolemli… Agogo, Rest in Peace.