This special feature from Benjamin Hagan chronicles the happenings in the life of former Ghanaian footballer Nii Odartey Lamptey. It details his rise from the slums to a more recognizable platform among the upper class, his love affair (previously unapproved by his father figure, the Alhaji Njei) with his estranged ex-wife Gloria and how perhaps all these could have been avoided.

This piece is in memory of Alhaji Njei who once served on the board of Kumasi Asante Kotoko SC. He also owned a colts club, Kaloum Stars formed in 1979 in Kumasi.

Abubakari Yahuza who was part of Ghana’s Black Meteors team at the Athens Olympic games in 2004 together with goalkeeper Samuel Okyere, ( Oso) formerly of King Faisal, Muftawu Mohammed of the 1993 Starlets fame and Nii Odartey Lamptey are just a few of the players who had gone through the mill at Kaloum Stars.

Abubakar Yahuza, Ghana (Photo by Neal Simpson – Getty Images)

Alhaji Njei was the unassuming type who barely was seen in the thick of affairs but his contribution to Ghana Football can never be in doubt. How many of you even know he had a deal with Turkish giant Galatasaray in the late 90’s to produce at least two or three players for them every year. Find out about Akwadaa Moko, Iddi (Rash) of blessed memory and Yaw Rash who played for ‘Kotoko’, also a colts team based in Ahenboboano in Kumasi.

The late Alhaji Njei played a huge role in Odartey’s early rise as a footballer

Alhaji Njei’s right hand man during the formative years of his football adventure and even up until his demise was Yahayu aka Gbegbee. Yahayu is actually credited for discovering Nii Odartey Lamptey at Aboabo Number 2.

Odartey with the consent of his parents moved in to live with Yahayu at Aboabo Number 1 around The Kamaria Islamic School. It was during this period that Odartey converted from a Christian to become a Muslim and adopted the name Nasiru.

Yahayu however had to leave Odartey in the care of Alhaji Njei when he had to embark on a voyage in search of greener pastures in Bouake, Ivory Coast

For his exceptional quality, Odartey was loaned out to Cornerstones who competed in the first division right from colts. His exploits will not go unnoticed as he courted the attention of Black Starlets Coach, Paulo Luis Campos for the U-16 World Championship held in Scotland in 1989.

Odartey’s claim to fame was to come two years later when he played a mercurial role at Italia 91 U17 World Cup when Ghana beat Spain in the final courtesy an Emmanuel Duah solitary header to win Africa’s first piece of silverware at the juvenile level.

Nii Odartey Lamptey hoists the trophy at the world cup in 1991

In came that golden call from RSC ANDERLECHT who expressed interest in the boy from the slums of Aboabo who had taken the world by storm.

Stephen Keshie of blessed memory was the facilitator of this deal…from visa procurement till Odartey got to Belgium. But it wasn’t until Alhaji Njei arrived before Odartey signed the dotted lines.

Odartey while at Anderlecht

This has been a happy “marriage” before Gloria got into the fray. It is also worthy to note that, during the hustling days of  Odartey ( Nasiru), A lady by name Zakiya did everything in her might as a fiancée to see him succeed. She literary took care of Nii in every sphere to ensure he survived the bumpy moments

So story now unfolds that Odartey has reached elite status and wants to match that up with an elite sweet eloquent Gloria and in the process left poor Zakiya to her miserable Zongo fate. But here is the thing, “What our elders see sitting down. The tallest child can stretch to the unimaginable heights but still won’t be able to figure out anything”.

Alhaji Njei who’s had to play the father figure role all along out-rightly rejected Odartey’s choice of a life partner and that was the beginning of the horror movie. First, the player moves from his first home he acquired which was just next to Aljahji Njei’s around the Aboabo Post Office and later sells the property even against the wishes of the former Kotoko board member who had expressed interest in buying it.

Nii subsequently moved to Accra with his beloved ‘Glo Glo’ and eventually had to swap faiths again to become a Christian and this would also mean that, the once sweet father – son relationship tuned sour between the pair.

Odartey with ex-wife Gloria Lamptey

So Odartey against all odds ties the knot with sweet ‘Glo Glo’ and from all accounts must have been great joy for a ‘Zongo’ guy to rise from obscurity and be married to a beauty pageant.

Life has been so fulfilling for Nii and it couldn’t have been any better to be blessed with 3 kids after years of marriage with ‘Glo Glo’. But we all know the story afterwards. Don’t we?  It was all merry for Ghanaians when news broke out Nii finally made his own babies having been denied by a paternity test of the 3 kids he thought he had with sweet ‘Glo Glo’. God’s been good ‘chaley’!!!.

My very good brother Victor Atsu Tamakloe cautioned people to be circumspect about their commentaries in the aftermath of a court asking sweet ‘Glo Glo’ to vacate the former National U17 Star’s  7 bedroom mansion at East Legon she  prayed the court granted her as part of her alimony. You can vilify her for all you want but it’s in her civil right to fight for what she thinks is due her.

In one of my evening Fufu sessions with Alhaji Njei whose soul should continue to rest in perfect peace, he said to me together with about 5 senior players of Kaloum Stars in the year 2000, never judge a man if you know Jack about their ordeals. He had grown to forgive Odartey after so many years of harboring pain and I choose to respect the dead not to give detailed account of our conversation.

What if Odartey found his greatest ever joy with his association with sweet Glo Glo at the time but then again.. Never lose sight of where you came from and the people who put their bodies on the line for you just to see you win.

Yahayu is very alive but visually impaired now by the way.. and I hope you remember him; the man who discovered Nii Odartey Lamptey.

Big Shouts to Alhaji Njei; the man who made the good people of Wenchi so proud. May His Gentle Soul enter Jannah!

The late Alhaji Njie

But before I go… here’s my new banger I discovered too Sarkodie Ft Stonebwoy, Strength Of A Woman.

Writer: Benjamin Hagan (Empire FM, Takoradi)