Ghanaian teen prodigy Gideon Mensah discusses his success in the UEFA Youth League as well as rising through the ranks at Salzburg and dreams of playing for German giants Bayern Munchen with Ghana Sports Online’s El Akyereko.
Time has flown fast since the young Ghanaian full-back made the switch to Austria from Africa and still recounts the tumultuous changes he had to endure on and off the pitch though he says it wasn’t a great deal for him to adapt.
“The transition from Ghana to Austria in terms of football I didn’t see any big change. I just had to get use to the style of play here and go along with it. Though the football here and in Ghana is different but it was not a big task for me to get to it,” he revealed.
Mensah was still a teenager when he arrived at Wals-Siezenheim and as he puts it he had the desire to remain at the Red Bull Arena to chase his football dreams and the feeling prepared him mentally. “When I got to Salzburg I had the feeling of staying there so it helped me also mentally.”
In April this year the former West Africa Football Academy starlet was at the fulcrum of the talented Red Bull Salzburg U19 side that lifted the UEFA Youth League trophy – a competition that has prepared most of Europe’s top stars on the road. But for the Ghanaian teen that final at the Centre sportif de Colovray in Nyon – Switzerland had two sides.
“Winning the UEFA Youth League as a Ghanaian young player was a great achievement in my football life and it will forever remain as a great achievement. Other thing was I was facing a Benfica side I know so much because I had trained with them and I had to prove a point in that game. We finished with ten men but still got the ultimate,” he explained.
The intelligent young defender shed a little light on his arrival at the Portuguese giants months before he made the switch to Salzburg because negotiations broke down between the parties involved in his transfer.
“Being at Benfica was a great feeling and always going to be great feeling for any Ghanaian young player to join them. I learnt a lot from there. Things didn’t go right as I learnt from it to and do it better in a new environment and it helped me.”
He says Salzburg lowered their expectations of him and that gave him ample time and space to develop at the club: “Salzburg expected nothing big from me but to see a good and hard working player. And, I can say I made my self one.”
Though he is yet to play under a heavy and demanding crowd as his job will eventually demand one day but he says playing against Benfica in the UEFA Youth League final was yet the most challenging so far. “I will say playing against Benfica in the final in the youth league. I left Benfica to Salzburg and I had to play against same team mates and same coach. So I had to play as a good and hard working player.”
Most football pundits and scouts in the West African country regard the talented full-back as the permanent solution to the senior national team’s problems at lateral defence and he says he has heard that. “Playing for the national team of Ghana has been in head and in heart since day one. I am prepared anytime I get the chance to show what I have up my sleeves. But since it’s not yet here I’m still learning and correcting my mistakes till it comes. I believe hard work will take me there to the national team one day.”
Mensah dreams of crossing the border one day to play for his dream club – Bayern Munich, as he speaks high of the German giants. “My favourite football club in the world is Bayern Munich and I would want to play there as well.”
As he puts it the 19-year-old says he wants to win every league he plays in as he talks up his dreams on the pitch. “I want to win every league that I play in. I crave for the UEFA Champions League title and I want to be part of that Ghana team that will win the AFCON title and greatest feeling ever to be there when Ghana wins the FIFA World Cup.”
He credited his father and current agent for their influence in his young career. “If I have something to say about who has been influential so far in my career that would be my dad and my current agent.”
ONLY IF WE KNEW
GSO: Which girl did you first kiss?
Gideon: 1 can’t really remember it’s been ages… 🙂
GSO: Stuck on a desert which 3 things would you pick with you?
Gideon: Food, water and a bed… 🙂
GSO: Which is your dream car and house?
Gideon: Maserati and a mansion
GSO: Which is your greatest accomplishment so far?
Gideon: My greatest accomplishment was to make my family happy and proud of me.
By El Akyereko
Follow the Interviewer on Twitter: @AkwasiAkyereko