Y-e-b-o-a-A-a-a-a-h! This is one of the hilarious ways football commentators greeted most of the spectacular goals that were scored by Super Striker Tony Yeboah during his career as a celebrated footballer and goal poacher.
Besides this characteristic glee some commentators exhibited, the fans were always not left out of the celebration, as thousands of them stood up to cheer in unison each time he scored.
Today, Tony, one of Africa’s greatest and successful footballers to have plied their trade in Europe and Asia, has announced his retirement from competitive and international football.
For the over two decades of a professional career as a footballer, Tony feels gratified that he attained the ultimate in that field and now serves as a model to the up-and-coming footballers. In an interview at his East Legon mansion, Tony recollects with relish his career from colts to professionalism when he attained stardom.
Tony realised his talent as a footballer at the tender age of six. His father, Mike Kofi Yeboah, a former footballer of the defunct Kumasi Highlanders, provided Tony with the motivation and excellence in a bid to ensure that Tony attained the heights of his career.
According to Tony, this support from his father, at the time, enraged her mother, Mrs Comfort Yeboah, because she wanted her son to pursue a prestigious career and did not understand why her husband threw his weight behind young Tony to take football as a career.
Tony started as a colts player with Kotoko Babies, when he was 12 years old and a primary school pupil. During this period, he exhibited exceptional skills and gained promotion to the Under-20 side of Kotoko. While with the Kotoko Under-20 side, three of his colleagues were promoted to join the regular side of Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
He became down-hearted and left the Kotoko Under-20 team and joined the Omnibus Services Authority (OSA) football club, a division three side. After one year, Tony left OSA and joined Neoplan Stars. He was instrumental in the club’s qualification to Division One.
However, after just a year in the elite division, Neoplan Stars was relegated to the second division. His aggression and knack for great goals caught the attention of top football administrators at the time.
Alhaji Sheikh of Kumasi Cornerstone expressed interest in youthful Tony and signed him on, together with Frimpong Manso (former Kotoko captain and current assistant coach of the Porcupine Warriors) and Thomas Boakye (Zion Train, another former player of Asante Kotoko), to play for Corners. While with Corners, Tony was invited to the national team, the Black Stars in 1984.
Tony’s career started blooming and he exhibited some gallantry by ensuring Corners’ qualification to the West African Football Union (WAFU) competition in 1986. It was in the same year that Tony emerged the top goal scorer in the local league.
According to Tony, he was interested in playing for Kotoko but wondered how he could gain regular position in the team, especially with the presence of Opoku Nti (Lord Zico) and Anane Kobo, who both loved to don the No 10 jersey, which was Tony’s favourite position too. After pondering over the offers, he opted for Okwahu United FC, where he played for two years, (1986 to 1988).
It was while he was with Okwahu that Tony, then a regular player in the senior national team, the Black Stars, got an offer to play some justifiers in Germany. He said his glittering performance in one of the matches he played in the World Cup qualifying series against Zambia, when he scored the only goal of the match,had been the turning point in his life.
Incidentally, the man who took Tony to Germany was not a soccer enthusiast but a boxing consultant then working for the Ghana Boxing Association. The German got attracted to Tony by his heavily-built physique and goal scoring prowess.
He said when they got to Germany, the man handed him over to another friend, who was into football. This man, according to Tony, took him round to play a series of justifiers. He was finally signed on by Saarbrucken, a division two side. Tony played for Saarbrucken for two years (1988 to 1990), then moved to Frankfurt.
Tony said it was in one of the keenly contested games Saarbrucken played against Frankfurt, in a play-off that the latter team spotted him. “That was the match that won me the Man of the Match and was watched by my wife, Tasha, and friends. At a time we (Tasha and I) were just platonic friends.”
Tasha’s presence on the field inspired me and I put in my best and I was carried shoulder high by the few Ghanaians who watched the match, just after the final whistle was blown. Tony departed Sabruuken for Frankfurt in 1990. For the four years that he was in the attacking line of that team, great things came his way. He scored spectacular goals and was crowned joint goal king in the Bundesliga in 1992/93, with 18 goals while in 1993/94, he scored 20 goals. He thus became the first blackman to win a goal king title in the German league. He even rose to become the captain of the team.
According to the Super Striker, just at the time that his fame and reputation had reached most households in Germany, a coach that took over the team, Jupp Hankes started to introduce some racial tendencies into the team. Tony said he despised racism so when the coach tried to be a racist, he resisted him and this created bad blood between him and two of his colleagues, Augustine J.J Okocha (the captain of Super Eagles of Nigeria) and Gudino, an Italian player.
According to Tony, each time the coach spoke rudely to Okocha, he got hurt and down-hearted. “At a point, I realised he did not like me. There was a time he suggested that the captaincy should be rotational and the captain must be chosen through balloting. The players resisted his suggestion,” he said.
Tony said when the coach realised he could not achieve his aim, he sidelined him, the captain, in the scheme of his schedule and this affected my performance on the field negatively,” Tony added.
Tony claimed Coach Jupp Hankes ploy got to a head at one of the training sessions when he sanctioned him, Okocha and Gudino and said they were not serious. He punished them and made them undertake some strenuous training, which finally culminated in the intervention of the big shots in the team. The administrators supported the coach and asked the trio to leave.
“I left for Leeds, J.J left for Turkey ad Gudino to Manchester City. Interestingly, after our departure, Frankfurt started sinking and was relegated, after six months. You know, when we were at Frankfurt, the team played regularly in the Champions League and the European League but all those opportunities were lost when we left. The coach was sacked later and attempts were made to get me back to Frankfurt but the team could not raise enough funds to secure my return,” Tony told this reporter.
Tony said during his brief stinct with Leeds, he succeeded to turn the tables in favour of Leeds United especially in matches against Liverpool in Leeds. He said for 35 years in the English premiership, Leeds have not been able to beat Liverpool. It was he who scored a classic goal to break that jinx. I felt good because it was a great goal by all standards. No wonder it was adjudged the best goal of the season.”
Tony, who said he had adopted Germany as his second home and spent most of his vacations there, said Hamburg, which was seriosly looking for a celebrated striker succeeded in negotiating his transfer. He, therefore joined the team in 1997 and played for them till 2000. Tony said he could not play regularly for Hamburg becasue of a tax problem he had with the German authorities.
Tony said at the peak of his career the least goals he scored in a season was 15 but manged to score only six goals in his last season with Hamburg. This infuriated the fans who started complaining. He explained that the difficulties he faced during that season was the result of low output becasue he trekked to Frankfurt daily to attend court sessions.
He has started helping some of the promising footballers in the local league. He helped a former Kotoko striker, Isaac Boakye to land a team in Germany, Belefeid and he is doing well.
He also has plans to form a football team to groom players to improve the standard of play in the country. Tony said he was shy and did not make friends at first sight. He insists that he was friendly and approachable and not arrogant as some people perceive.