Credits: STVV and Wouter Biesemans photography.
As this year’s UEFA Champions League Final draws ever closer, football fans from around the globe are itching to see who will stride out in competition for the Cup. Will it be a clash of the titans as Real Madrid and Juventus battle it out together?
A man who knows only too well about the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with a Champions League final is Sammy Kuffour. The former Bayern Munich and Ghana defender has seen it all. We recently caught up with the man himself to talk about his tough start in life and how things were transformed by the beautiful game.
Kuffour, raised in Accra, Ghana, spoke of his humble beginnings and the strain that everyday living had on the family:
“We were living in an uncompleted house, my upbringing was tough. My father was nowhere to be found and my mother would wake up early to do her job.”
His desire to play football was clear, but before school he would shine the neighbours’ shoes, going door to door. Attending school at that point was just a necessity.
“Whatever you set your eyes on, with your faith behind you, you can achieve”, he said, never losing sight of his real ambitions. His mother was supportive and encouraged Sammy to ‘do what pleased him’. When he made the Ghana U17 squad this resulted in his mother selling the family TV so that she could buy Sammy some football boots!
He told us about the change professional football made to his life and how his faith in God was growing in strength alongside. He recounts the U17 World Cup triumph over Spain in 1991 with his beloved Ghana, then later signing for European heavyweights Bayern Munich. Talking of the change in his life the former defender stated:
“People may doubt you but nothing happens by accident, God knows why it happened like that. God is God and we have to respect him.”
Fellow players were surprised at the sight of him kneeling down in prayer, before his debut in the Bundesliga against Stuttgart, teammates that would become his close friends, particularly those who shared his faith, Brazilian icons Jorginho and Ze Roberto.
He would go on to play 175 times for Munich and spent twelve years contracted to the club, an emphatic rise from a shoe-shine boy.
When asked about his Champions League final experiences he has contrasting tales, first of a hurtful defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the '99 final. However, two years later he lifted the trophy second time around. This is his take:
“It wasn’t our day, I was hurt, but two years later I had my hands on the trophy which tells you that there is a time and a season for everything. In life you can never doubt God, he can turn things around. Everything is possible for him.”
Kuffour has always remained fully grounded in his faith in God and knows where the credit lies, on and off the pitch.
His advice is simple, “Give God a chance to come into your life and see what he can do for you, God knows better than we do in all circumstances so we should just rely on him.”