When Kasim Adams caught sight of his current coach Julian Nagelsmann for the first time, he thought he was crazy. But this observation wasn’t meant in any negative nor nasty way, it was more like a fascinated awe – especially as the young Ghanian couldn’t have imagined at that time that he would soon be working with the Hoffenheim coach. At the time, Adams was playing for Young Boys Berne and regularly watched the Bundesliga on TV with his then teammates. “We saw this coach and he was always shouting so loudly that you could hear it on TV even over the loudspeakers. We all thought he is 'totally crazy,' the way he is constantly on the move on the side-lines, gesticulating and urging his team on during the entire 90 minutes. That fascinated all of us. He was also always shown close up by the cameras. After a while, we always watched Hoffenheim just to see him.”
Just over a year later, the same man from the TV screen was standing right in front of Adams. Live instead of via HD, on the football pitch and not only on TV. Adams got to know the 31-year-old both personally and professionally – and called former teammates who were eagerly waiting for his latest impressions: “I told them that is he is actually pretty normal, but above all, he is a genuinely good bloke. But, as soon as the game gets underway, he changes. From that point on, he gets emotional which helps both his players and the team a lot.” Anyway, the defender wasn’t worried at all about his special coaching methods. They reminded him more of the times when he wasn’t playing on perfect grass pitches, when training sessions were shown on a projector or driving home after training in his car. Nagelsmann took him back to the very humble beginnings of his career, to a different chapter and to conditions, that after five years in Europe, seem like a parallel world – but which still remain his home.
Kasim Adams is only 16 when he leaves his family behind in Accra and moves to Tarkwa to become a professional footballer. Only 300 kilometres separate Ghana’s capital city and the small town – but this equates to at least seven hours behind the wheel of a car. Away from home, he joins Medeama SC where he meets Alahssan Sediu. This is a coach who loves football but despises laziness. He is somebody who not only knows all about the dangers of life in Africa as well as the endless possibilities of a professional football career in Europe. He is equally as emotional as Julian Nagelsmann on the side-lines. Sediu soon recognised what a massive, carefree talent he had on his hands. Above all, he picked up on what was preventing him from securing a regular spot in his first eleven. “He told me I was too lazy,” recalls a laughing Adams. “He was correct, “Adams belatedly admits Back then, Adams thought his coach had totally different reasons. “I always thought that he simply didn’t like me. He was constantly shouting and correcting me. I was young, far away from my family and took this very much to heart.”
Anyhow, this was far from an easy time for the sensitive footballer. He shared the dream of many thousands of youngsters in Ghana, but also the same problems that have ruined the journey of many to the top. Life was tough with considerable poverty and poor football pitches. “I felt lonely. I didn’t have any money nor any kit. Everything was in short supply. When I was playing in the first division, I once had to borrow some boots from a friend because mine were falling apart and I couldn’t afford new ones. There are loads of players talented enough to become a professional in Europe but not everyone has the opportunity to just concentrate on turning their dream into reality. Life in Africa can be very complicated.”
BIGGEST MOMENT IN CAREER
However, his circumstances began to motivate instead of hindering Adams. He started implementing the words of his coach, gained a regular spot in the team and became a Ghana youth international. “He helped me a great deal at a time when I wasn’t ready for the professional game. He became like a second father to me and we still talk after every game,” says Adams, recalling another time when he experienced a further, defining moment. “An agent from Europe turned up and told me he could arrange a transfer to Spain. This was always my dream to make this sort of move. But I didn’t believe him. There were so many other players there and he chose just to speak with me. I was sure it was a hoax.” But the player’s agent was persistent. When he turned up at his parents’ home in Accra with an intermediary known to Adams, the situation suddenly became clearer.
After the agent had arranged a visa, sorting all the paperwork and formalities, Adams eventually left his homeland for a second time – this time on an aeroplane bound for a much-seen but new, unknown world: Europe, Spain and Madrid. He signed a contract at Léganes after a successful trial at the club on the outskirts of Madrid. Just six months later, he joined relegated Primera-Division side RCD Mallorca. His career as a professional started in a place which seemed like paradise for Adams. “Many other youngsters from Ghana start off in countries like Slovakia or Bulgaria and you never hear about them again. Adapting over there is considerably tougher. I was living in the sun and in a veritable footballing country. That was perfect for me, “he said.
And he continued to make great strides to the top even when the temperatures dropped: After a couple of years at Mallorca, Adams moved to Berne in the summer of 2017, learning over again all about life as a professional footballer in Europe. “I used to arrange to meet up at 5pm and finally turned up an hour later. But in Switzerland, I learnt not to fool around with the time. I very much enjoy this and now try to convey this to my brother as well. He is a pro in Ghana but this is not enough to earn a living over there,” Adams suddenly says earnestly. His huge, gentle smile is wiped from his face for a moment. “It touches me to talk about Africa,” he says looking down at his feet. He continues quietly: “I don’t enjoy nor do I often talk about this. But I do try and help as much as possible. From my team, I sort my youth club out with shirts and boots. I also buy training gear for youngsters and support various organisations. Life in Africa can be very tough.” He draws fresh motivation time and time again over the inequality between his life in Europe and that of his family and friends back home in Africa: “I just have to think about how the people are doing and how I can help them: by working hard and continuing my journey as a player. These are my ambitions and I also help my club in this manner.”
CHILDHOOD DREAM BUNDESLIGA
In Berne, he played his part in leading long-established club Young Boys back to the top. A regular for the capital city club under the tutelage of coach Adi Hütter, Young Boys ended the domination of FC Basle (eight successive league titles) finally winning the league championship after a barren spell of 32 years. Young Boys also reached the cup final before losing 2-1 to FC Zürich. Adams made his next move last summer as TSG Hoffenheim enticed him to the Kraichgrau. Kasim Adams is hugely grateful to TSG for fulfilling “the childhood dream of playing in the same league as big Ghanian stars like Tony Yeboah and Samuel Kuffour.”
Former Hoffenheim player, Isaac Vorsah, played an important role in the transfer, urging the international to join TSG. But Adams does not hide the fact that he felt under pressure because of the multi-million euro move. “It’s so much money. Hoffenheim trusted my talent and invested so much money in me. I have to pay everything back on the pitch and am working hard to make this happen.” He is also benefiting from becoming a much stronger character after enduring a host of defining life experiences along the way. “Life is all about making the most of the opportunities that come your way. And when I consider where I am now, I am grateful every day: for everything that I possess and who I have become.”
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