Citi Sports’ Fentuo Tahiru watched Eric Gawu shine for Dreams FC in the GHALCA G8 Final and says that 13 years after his supposed prime, the striker is as fresh as before.
The year was 2005 when as a 17-year old young man out of secondary school, I saw Eric Gawu for the first time.
The players of King Faisal had come to visit Alhaji Grunsah at his residence in Adukrom-Sawaba in Kumasi after returning from Tunisia where they had beaten AS Marsa 2-1 in a CAF Confederation Cup group stage game.
Gawu scored in that game.
I remember vividly the crowd around Grunsah’s house- everyone star-struck at the sight of Gawu- the majestic nightmare for defenders in Ghana. He had now taken his regal torment to the rest of Africa. I, too, was awed to see Gawu.
That was nearly 13 years ago.
That remained my only close encounter with the legendary Gawu ‘Gatete’ until, I watched him torment Hearts of Oak’s defenders in the GHALCA G8 finale, and later took a selfie with the man now playing for Dreams FC.
Nothing had changed. I was still as star-struck as I was 13 years ago. But that was not the only unchanged thing about him. His looks, his movement, his pace, his skill and tactical intelligence, were all still reminiscent of the Gawu of old – the Gawu of King Faisal – not of Hearts of Oak.
He still had the traits of former Rwanda forward, Jimmy Gatete. The man whose name became Gawu’s moniker.
Between 2004 and about 2006, Gatete and Olivier Kamikaze led the line for the Rwanda national team and gave problems to any team they faced including Ghana.
The two combined to kick the Black Stars out of the 2004 AFCON qualifiers.
Gatete was deadly and so was Gawu in his pomp.
But that did not look the case when he joined Hearts of Oak after three successful seasons with Kumasi King Faisal in which he qualified them to consecutive CAF Confederation Cup campaigns.
Gawu’s time with the Phobians was rather one of a hit-and-miss.
He signed for Accra Hearts of Oak for a then reported domestic transfer record fee of $60,000. If anyone deserved such a hefty price tag, it was Gawu.
But his form with the Phobians was patchy and he was never quite able to replicate the performances he churned out at Faisal that made him arguably the deadliest striker in Ghana.
“You bought the player, not his goals,” King Faisal chairman Alhaji Grunsah clapped back after being asked why Gawu could not reproduce the goods at Hearts.
Sojourns to Qatar and Israel soon followed before he returned home in 2012, clubless. In an attempt to re-launch his career, he joined Division One side Okwawu United a year later in 2013. But again, that did not work out and he left.
In 2015, Gawu joined Dreams FC in the second round of the Division One League. Dreams, then coached by C.K. Akonnor, were pushing for their first ever promotion to Ghana’s elite division.
He said of his move at the time: “I have been back for a while since my stint in Israel but I decided not to waste my talents by sleeping at home,” Gawu told the Graphic Sports.
“My main aim is to help Dreams qualify for the Premier League and also re-launch my career,” he added.
And that was exactly what he did. He scored 13 times, as Dreams wrapped up promotion. In hindsight, Akonnor’s decision to sign him proved a masterstroke.
Gawu’s return to the top flight was not as prolific, scoring only 3 goals. But his leadership at the front enabled others such as Lawson Bekui find confidence in netting for fun. While Dreams FC finished their debut season 8th on the table, they were demoted to Division One for administrative inconsistencies.
But Dreams Executive Director Kurt Okraku was so impressed with Gawu he offered him a contract extension to help them fight their way back to the top.
“Gawu is very dedicated to the course of this club. I am so happy I brought him to this club. He’s been a great role model for others to follow and he has proved that he can still play at the top level,” Kurt Okraku said of Gawu when he offered him the new contract.
The new contract spurred Gawu on as his 13 goals helped Dreams FC secure a quick return to the Ghana Premier League. In the three years, Gawu has been with Dreams, he’s been the club’s top scorer in two of those.
In fact, Eric Gawu has been Dreams FC’s highest goalscorer in the period he’s been at the club with 29 goals- remarkable for a 35-year old.
Gawu’s inspiring rebirth has not gone unnoticed by corporate Ghana, landing an endorsement deal with clothing company Blaze Collections in November 2017 for monthly supply of executive suit and shoes.
And on Sunday at the Cape Coast Stadium, against Accra Hearts of Oak, his former side, Gawu served a reminder to everyone watching that he was not yet done.
All afternoon, his movement proved a nightmare for the Hearts of Oak defence and was involved in both of Dreams’ two goals in the 2-1 victory.
His pass to set up Razak Cromwell’s equalizer exuded vision only his years of experience could provide. His intelligent movement to get behind the Hearts defense before being hacked down by Ben Mensah for the penalty was menacing.
“My age mates are top stars in Europe but in Ghana, after 10-years you are retired as an old man. I am a child compared to others in Europe.
“I want to lift my game and return to Europe and I urge my fans to keep praying for me,” Gawu said when he first joined Dreams.
And after helping Dreams FC to the GHALCA G8 tournament, Eric Gawu ‘Gatete’ may as well believe that his ‘childhood’ dreams can still come true.
And even at age 35, he is still going strong and only his mind can stop him but for a player of his tough mentality, you can’t help but think he is unstoppable.