Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Kwesi Appiah: From London to Guwahati, via Ghana

Posted on 23 December 2020 by Sam Jacot

Ghanaian forward Kwesi Appiah has had an eventful career. After growing up in England, Appiah has gone on to score at the African Cup of Nations in 2015, netting in the Championship, League One, League Two and the Norwegian top division as well.

None of them, however, compare to his latest challenge, with Appiah swapping the comforts of England for the Indian Super League.

After leaving League One side AFC Wimbledon in June after three seasons with the Dons, Appiah eventually signed for NorthEast United – who are based in Guwahati, the capital of Assam – in October.

It is an adventure the 30-year-old is relishing after netting three goals in the opening eight games, to help his team move into fourth.

“I am loving it here. It is a new experience which I tasted a little before in Norway, but this is obviously totally different being outside of Europe,” said Appiah.

“Overall, it’s a very good standard. We’ve had a good start, personally and as a team and I’m quite excited about the start.”

While the striker has adjusted to life in India well, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought difficulties for Appiah which he has had to adapt to.

Appiah said: “The circumstances of the actual tournament are tricky because we and every team are in quarantine for the whole season. This means we are stuck in the hotel for six months and cannot leave our bubble.”

“You go from the training ground to the hotel room, to where you eat, to the stadiums and that is it. You don’t really get a chance to explore or go and see things.

“Having been here now for nine weeks though, I am pretty much settled in now which is great.”

Appiah is not new to a challenge in the football world. In February 2015, he played in the final of the African Cup of Nations against Ivory Coast, facing off against Yaya Toure and Eric Bailly.

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While Ghana lost out on penalties, it was still a superb tournament for the Black Stars and one Appiah remembers fondly, with his goal in Ghana’s 3-0 quarter-final victory over Guinea a highlight.

He said: “I thoroughly absorbed every moment of it. To play with those quality players such as [Ghana’s captain] Asamoah Gyan, you cannot help but learn from them.

“To be part of a successful team and get to the final and narrowly miss out on penalties was obviously devastating but the experience as a whole was life changing.

“Not just in football but learning about things, being away from home, travelling around Africa. It was very eye opening.”

Appiah had spent the preceding sixth months on loan with League Two side Cambridge United.

His performances for Ghana grabbed the attention of a number of Championship clubs though, with Appiah signing for Reading on loan for the rest of the 2014/15 campaign.

It was another successful period for Appiah, with a wonderful solo goal against Derby County a highlight.

With momentum at an all-time high, an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament struck in June 2015 while Appiah was training with Ghana. It resulted in a major set-back in his journey.

“The injury was sad. I had never suffered anything like that before and I would not wish that upon anybody. It was a very testing time for my mental and physical well-being,” said Appiah.

“The most devastating part for me was that prior to my injury, I had just had a conversation with Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace manager at the time and he said to me that this was my moment.

“That I should go away [with Ghana], come back and show him [Pardew] that I was going to be a part of his team and that’s where I was at.

“It was a crossroads from breaking into that Premier League squad, so that was the most devastating part for me because as a kid you dream of playing at the highest level.”

Appiah, who is extremely grateful for the support Palace gave him during his rehabilitation, never would play in the Premier League after this, signifying how brutal elite sport can be.

He signed for Norwegian side Viking FK on loan from Crystal Palace in February 2017 as he sought game time, before eventually winding up at AFC Wimbledon of League One that summer on a permanent transfer.

Appiah on Football League Experience

On his time in London, Appiah wished he could have done more to have greater success with AFC Wimbledon, who have recently returned to Plough Lane after 29 years away.

He said: “We fought relegation in the three years I was there which was also tough to take as it is a great club with great people who deserved better.

“But I am buzzing now for Wimbledon to be back home. It adds so much glitter to the story of the club. It is something I look at and smile and I am really proud of them all. It’s a beautiful stadium.”

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After leaving the Dons in June and before signing for NorthEast United, Appiah was linked strongly with a return to Cambridge United. Appiah’s brief time at the club is remembered fondly by Cambridge fans, with the forward scoring ten goals in 14 appearances to help them return to the Football League in 2014.

Although a move never arose in 2020, Appiah is hopeful to be re-united with the League Two side in the future.

Appiah said: “Ultimately I am very open to come back to Cambridge.

“The relationship I had with the fans was magic and it’s a very special club that I hold dearly in my heart and I hope to return there.”

Currently though, Cambridge supporters will have to wait for their wish. Appiah’s focus is on his adventure out in India as he aims to use all his experience in a bid to have a successful season.