Sports News of Monday, 27 October 2014
Denis Odoi is a Belgian footballer of Ghanaian extraction. He wants to play for Ghana, though (he is yet uncapped competitively at senior level by his country of birth), and has made no secret of that desire. Goal spoke to the 26-year-old quite recently, seeking his opinions on a range of pertinent issues.
The Lokeren star, when quizzed, expressed his honest sentiments about the national team he so much wishes to be a part of.
“I believe Ghana is one of the best African teams there are. It is a side that can give any opponent a difficult day.”
Odoi notes, though, that all is not so picture-perfect in the Stars’ camp just yet.
“I feel there is not enough regularity in their performances,” he says, explaining that, “if you look at the game they played against Germany at the [2014 Fifa] World Cup and you compare them to the other games [versus Portugal and the USA], it is quite obvious they weren’t of the same level.”
He observes, however, that “with a good mixture of experienced players and young talents,” the Stars would only gel and get better with time.
At this point, the focus of the conversation is zoomed on Odoi himself; specifically on why his desire to play for Ghana – the homeland of his father – burns ever so bright.
His eyes light up in response.
“I’m interested [in representing the Black Stars] because it will allow me to get to familiarise with my roots while doing what I love most. I will also get to play games on a higher level against some of the sport’s top players. Hopefully I will grow as a player and person by playing for Ghana.”
With so many eligible Black Stars-wannabes around nowadays, though, what does Odoi feel gives him an edge over the competition?
“Well, sincerely speaking, I do not know just what my chances are, but all I can say is that I’m available and will give my all if ever invited.
“I am having a good time playing at least 40 games a year [at club level] and featuring in the ongoing Europa League season.”
The sole obstacle, as Odoi identifies, could be a linguistic barrier between himself and his prospective Ghana teammates.
“My only concern is that I don’t speak any Ghanaian tongue; hopefully, that wouldn’t be a problem.”
That notwithstanding, Odoi – who cites Ghana legends Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien as ‘great idols’ of his during his younger years – says he has made his willingness to play for the west African nation formally known to the Ghana Football Association, having done so late last year prior to Brazil 2014.
Could such a move, considering the timing, be dismissed as simply opportunistic, then?
“No,” Odoi insists. “I merely felt ready at the time. It wasn’t just about the World Cup.”
Really, given the zeal with which he speaks now, it’s hard not to believe him.
“In the past I have only been selected for friendly games of the Belgian national team,” Odoi indicated in his letter to the GFA, emphasizing that, irrespective of that fact, “I believe in the potential of the Ghana national team,” thus his decision to switch allegiance.
So just what does he bring to table?
Quite a lot, actually, if his own claims are anything to go by.
“I am a right-footed yet very versatile lateral defender capable of operating on either flank. I try to give as much offensive support as possible but, of course, my primary duties remain of a defensive sort.”
Going further, Odoi explains that he is a “real team player” and isn’t overly concerned about his own interests both on and off the pitch.
“The important thing is that everybody does what is asked of him, and that quality – namely, discipline – is what the current Ghana squad sometimes lacks.”
And with that, Odoi rests his case, patiently biding his time until Ghana come calling in pursuit of such virtues as he extols.
Time will tell.