Sammy Kuffour: 'God has been amazing to me'

Bayern Munich's Samuel Kuffour kisses the European Cup after the Champions League final at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, May 23, 2001.   (REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo)

Bayern Munich's Samuel Kuffour kisses the European Cup after the Champions League final at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, May 23, 2001.  (REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo)

"I carried a TV on my head, with my Mum. We went to some place and give the TV to somebody and get the money to buy football shoes."

Raised in Kumasi, Ghana, the youngest child of a single parent family with three older sisters, Samuel Kuffour had humble beginnings where money was tight. During his school days, Sammy shined shoes to bring in some money.

"As a boy I would have to carry my shine box and go house to house and shine people's shoes before I go to school. Some of the people that I shine their shoes, we all go to the same school, and also the same class."

As the only boy in the family, his sisters especially hoped that he would become a lawyer or a doctor, but school wasn't his first priority.

"I didn't have any feeling going to school. I wanted to go out there on the street and play football."

His mother's belief in his footballing ability led her not only to defend his choices to his sisters, but also to lying about the whereabouts of the TV, saying it was at the repairers. Sammy remembers:

"After that, my Mum tell all the area neighbours, 'Oh today Samuel will score a goal.' God is so good – I scored a goal for Ghana and we get the money. So I have to buy another TV, a bigger one, to replace what we sold."

Becoming a successful footballer meant that Samuel could put the tough days behind him but not everything was forgotten as he was brought up in a Christian home and continues in his faith, attributing his success to God.

"God has been amazing to me. If I said, 'he hasn't done it' then I don't know what I'm talking about. He has done amazing things for me."   

Signing for Bayern Munich and playing for Ghana didn't mean that it was all plain sailing however. There were losses – both personal and professional. 

The most notable professional loss was against Manchester United in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, when Man United produced a stunning late comeback, causing heartbreak for Bayern Munich. But two years later Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League against Valencia on penalties.

Kuffour looks back on the 1999 loss, saying: "Everything has its own time. It wasn't our day. It would be in the eyes of the people but not in the eyes of the Lord. God knows better than we do. I was crying. I was hurt. But he didn’t hesitate anything from me. Exactly two years after, I had my hands on the trophy. So it tells you that there is a time and a season."

Personal loss struck in 2003 with the tragic death of Kuffour's young daughter, Godiva, who drowned in the family swimming pool. Kuffour had just returned to Bayern Munich when the call came through and he flew back to the family home in Ghana. 

"I was crying. I was asking questions to God. I asked God so many questions. 'Why me?' I asked God, 'Why me, that my daughter has to die?' 'Why me, God, why me?' I was crying, asking God questions but I was asking myself a question, 'why not you?'… Look at you, look at your career, look at what you have achieved in your life, look at the properties you have, look at what you have achieved. Why not you?"

Kuffour retired from football in 2009 and is now a football pundit with TV channel SuperSport in South Africa. His two sons, born after Godiva's death, are following in their father's footballing footsteps.

"These children are really doing amazing. They are also footballers now... And you know for me, if I see them playing, I always say to God, 'Glory to God'. Because the children I never expected to get them and God provided them to me and I know they will be better than me in the future."

Listen to a three-part interview with Sammy talking about his football and faith on Planet Sport Football Africa, from our archive programmes dated 4th 11th and 18th November 2016.

Samuel Kuffour career:

  • Played for Bayern Munich in Germany for 11 seasons, making 175 appearances.

  • Won UEFA Champions League final in 2001

  • Was runner-up to Manchester United in UEFA Champions League final in 1999

  • Won BBC African Footballer of the Year award in 2001

  • Made 59 appearance for Ghana's Senior team

  • Is the youngest Olympic football medallist of all time, winning bronze at the 1992 Olympics at the age of just 15.