Joetex Asamoah Frimpong, the ex-Ghana international and Enyimba striker speaks to Complete Sports' radio show, Sports Planet's anchorman, TUNDE KOIKI about growing up in Nigeria, making football breakthrough in the Nigerian League, resisting Nigeria's U-23 team invitation to play for Ghana, playing overseas and now his coaching career. Excerpts…
Sports Planet: Joetex Asamoah Frimpong, it is an absolute honour to get to talk to you.
Joetex Frimpong: Thank you.
Joetex, someone said something like ever since you left the Nigerian Premier League, you are the last of the great foreign players who graced the Nigerian Professional League. That’s high praise for someone like you, how does that make you feel?
I’m overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say. That is great when they say something like that about you.
When you look at the fact that people like Edward Ansah, Arthur Moses and David Doe who were some of the illustrious names in African football played here and people are saying that you are the last of the legends, that’s huge.
Very, very huge and it’s a pleasure because this is a very big praise. I never knew that was the case but I thank God for that.
Let’s look at your career, two CAF Champions League titles, two league titles with Enyimba, one FA Cup in Nigeria, one Nigerian Super Cup, one Tunisian FA Cup as well with CS Sfaxien and the Tunisian Super Cup, you have won almost everything. But despite all these achievements of yours, you never played in the Ghanaian Premier League, is this something that you regret?
No, I’ve never regretted it, I appreciate playing in the Nigerian Premier League. It was fantastic for me. I grew up in Nigeria and started playing football right here. I’m very happy for playing football in Nigeria because if not, I don’t know where I would have been.
You could have almost played for the Nigerian national team as you were invited.
I was actually invited to the Nigerian Under-23 team but I decided to play for Ghana.
A lot of people don’t know about your background. You were actually not born in Nigeria but you were raised here. Tell us a bit about your background.
I wasn’t born in Nigeria, but I came to Minna in 1994 where I then started playing for a local team and from there, we played in a competition which paved the way for my switch to IBB Homers and from there to Niger Tornadoes which was the biggest team in Minna after which I played for Katsina United for one year. I left Katsina United for Gabros where I also spent one year before joining El-Kanemi Warriors for one year and I finally finished at Enyimba before I left Nigeria.
Interesting. But your family is still in Minna?
Yes, my younger brother is currently playing for Bayelsa United, he played for Niger Tornadoes, Enyimba and came back to Tornadoes but he is now at Bayelsa United.
You have like a footballing family, like two of your brothers are also playing football.
All of us, another one too is playing for Niger Tornadoes from Wikki Tourists; Eric and Daniel Frimpong and the last one that is playing is Isaac Frimpong who is our last born.
That’s a case of four Frimpongs playing football, your father must be very proud.
He is a very proud man (bursts into laughter).
Let’s talk a bit about your career. When you were called into the Ghanaian national team, you scored your first ever international goal against Nigeria in a 4-1 friendly match in London, that must have been crazy for you. It must have been an emotional moment, you grew up in Nigeria, yet you scored your first international goal against the same country.
It was a nice game because I played against Vincent Enyeama, Obinna Nwaneri and some others, most of whom were Enyimba players. The day we met in camp, I went to the hotel and said I was going to score in the match but Vincent said it was a lie that I wouldn’t score against him. But at the end of the day, I actually scored a goal. I came into the pitch about twenty minutes to the end of the game, but it was still a very nice game for me because we won 4-1 and I scored, so it was very nice and I was very happy.
When you went out of Africa, you moved to Switzerland and you had an interesting career there. You played for almost four clubs, I think you played for Young Boys.
I first went to Saudi Arabia before I went to Tunisia where I played for CS Sfaxien before I left for Switzerland and I played for Young Boys. I left Young Boys for FC Luzern, then Zurich FC before I had a serious injury. I had this injury at Luzern anyway in 2010 whereby I underwent three surgeries which made me not to play football at all for two years. I was recovering, I went to Zurich FC where I played for six months but I couldn’t play again because the leg was a serious issue as it couldn't heal. This made me to start my coaching career.
That’s actually my next question. You are actually now a coach and a certified one at that. What division is the Swiss club you currently coach?
I coach a third division club in Switzerland. After the surgeries I underwent. I started my coaching career in 2011. I made the first, second and third levels of my coaching courses. I have the B coaching diploma now. I’m waiting for a year and half so that I can make the A license. I am with a team now, a small team anyway and not a big team. For me, it’s ok because for me to stay at home doing nothing isn’t good, so it’s better to do something with my time. And there, it’s not like Nigeria where you will stay in the NIS and say you have finished a coaching course. There, when you make a course, you have to coach a team for one or two years before you can go for the next one. That’s why it takes a very long time before you can finish the coaching courses. I started 2011 and now, I have only the B diploma. This happened because in 2011, I did not meet the next stage.
But now that I’m coaching in Switzerland, I can go for the next stage which is the A license within a year or a year and half. I want to do something so that at least, one day, I can come and help. I don’t know much about Ghanaian football, though, because it was only the national team that took me to Ghana but in Nigeria, I know many things, many clubs and many people. I see talents in Ghana and Nigeria and I would like to help the young up and coming footballers.
What has been the experience like transiting from being a player receiving instructions from the sidelines; make this run, tactical awareness and now, you are the one who is actually giving instructions. What has the transition been like from being a player to a coach?
It’s nice and that’s for real because before, I didn’t know that I would become a coach. Now, being with players as I used to be with coaches and these players give me a huge respect, it’s a pleasure and I appreciate being a coach, it’s very nice.
Is there a plan someday to probably coach a Nigerian Premier League club, a Ghanaian Premier League club or maybe the Ghanaian national team? Since you have the UEFA coaching License, who says they can look in your direction?
That’s exactly why I am trying to further my coaching career or coaching courses because I have an ambition. Even if it is not Switzerland, it could be Nigeria or Ghana when I’m opportune to get to coach any club. I would want to take it to a level whereby people will know that as a coach who played football to the highest level, you can do a lot to help the young and up and coming football players. So, coaching in Nigeria or Ghana is something that is on my agenda. Though, I am in Switzerland or Europe now, my focus is coming home to help develop football.
When you say home, home is where? Ghana or Nigeria? (Tunde and Joetex burst into a heavy round of laughter).
Home is Africa (Both men burst into serious laughter again).
So, let’s talk about the Joetex Frimpong Foundation, what is the foundation all about?
The foundation is there to help the youths or the footballers coming up. In Minna, there are many talents because that is where I started and nobody knew that I would be somebody or I would get somewhere in life. And for me, seeing people like that, I want to do something whereby people would say this is where I came from. Like now, I have one player in Lobi Stars, the number eleven, I didn’t even know him. He met me in the hotel and said senior, I was one of your players and that is very nice. At least, there’s nothing that I will get but knowing that a player is coming from your former team and attaining a much higher level, it’s very interesting. I was excited when I met him because I had heard about him before but I didn’t know him in person.
You have lived in Nigeria for most of your life but you are a Ghanaian. Why is the rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana so strong?
For me, I cannot say anything about it because I’m a Ghanaian Nigerian and the issue is that the rivalry did not just start now. So, the new players or the up and coming players cannot particularly figure out the cause of the rivalry. For me, I don’t know the reason, but maybe because both Nigeria and Ghana are two great countries that play good football, so they both want to be leaders. That is what I think.
How would you compare the quality of football back in your own days when you were in the Nigerian Premier League to what obtains now? I remember we both watched last season’s Federation Cup final. What’s your own impression, would you say the quality of football has improved somewhat?
I’ve not really watched Nigerian football for a long time, but after watching the Federation Cup final, I don’t think it has improved compared to when we were playing back then. I started playing in the Nigerian Premier League in 2000 and I must admit that the caliber of players I played with were fantastic. I must be very sincere, I have not seen such set of players recently in the Nigerian Premier League. The current set of players can be said to be good individually but as a team, they are not so interesting. If we had played like this while we were playing in the CAF Champions League back in 2003 and 2004, we would never have qualified for the group stage not to talk of winning the competition.
I hope Akwa United can make some huge transfers because if they take this set of players to the continent, it will be a disaster. And if Akwa United could win the Federation Cup while Enyimba is there, I think all of them are the same.
Finally, Ghana is seriously competing for a place at the World Cup and also competing for a place at the 2017 African Cup of Nations. With the current team that the Ghanaian Black Stars parade, do you think they have a chance to make it to both of these tournaments? When you finish that, you should also talk about Nigeria.
I watched the Black Stars game last time against the Comoros Islands and as you see, most of the current players are still the same players who played for Ghana at the last Nations Cup. But with the display against Comoros, I wasn’t that impressed, but maybe because the opposition was inferior, the Ghanaian players probably decided to play in a simple way. Ghana have got very good players, but sometimes when you play against a lower team, the level of your game drops a little and maybe that was why Ghana didn’t play well. However, they won 2-0. I know when Ghana want to play against the likes of Nigeria, Cote d’Voire and Egypt, it would be on another level. So, for me, I believe that Ghana can qualify for both the World Cup and 2017 African Cup of Nations.
What about Nigeria?
I’ve not watched Nigeria’s matches recently, but I believe they still retain a bulk of the players who won the African Cup of Nations for them in 2013 and if they are ready to shine, they actually can. Mostly, people say it’s the coach but the coach doesn’t really do the work for the players. I remember when I was playing under Kadiri Ikhana, he once told me that a coach’s work on the field is like 25 percent and the players do most of the things on the pitch and if you really think about it, it is true.
A coach will only stay on the bench and he can call a player, hey! Joetex. I will be there but wouldn’t listen to him, for instance. I wouldn’t even answer him but the players on the pitch have to do everything. That’s why I said if they are ready to go, they can go because they are playing for big clubs outside the country.
Joetex Frimpong, thank you so much for your time.
You are welcome and it is a pleasure talking to you.
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