From The Streets To Hearts Of Oak - The Inspiring Story Of Larry Sumaila Ibrahim Featured
24 Jan

From The Streets To Hearts Of Oak - The Inspiring Story Of Larry Sumaila Ibrahim

Hearts of Oak fans pine for the glory days when they used to be a force to reckon with not in Ghana but on the continent also, when winning silverware at the highest levels was achievable and when they had the sort of committed and talented heroes that other teams in their division would kill for.

There’s no doubt that Hearts’ supporters, currently facing into tenth season in the doldrums of domestic and continental football, miss the halcyon days.

The famous rainbow shirt of Hearts of Oak has graced the shoulders of many legendary footballers over the course of the club’s rich, successful history.

Varying personalities, profiles, and backgrounds put this shirt on over the Phobians’ storied 108-year legacy, administering an array of different playing styles and methods of expression on the pitch. Emmanuel Osei Kuffour is one of such legends of the club.

Having joined the Phobians from Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs, Kuffour won everything there was for him to win at the club- league titles, CAF Champions league, CAF Super Cup, CAF Confederation Cup among others.

His talent was there for all to see but what actually endeared Emmanuel Osei Kuffour to the fans of the club was the versatility of his prowess.

He could play several positions on the pitch- from defence to attack and at point was in post for the Black Stars during a game with the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Many years after Kuffour’s exit, the Phobians seems to have unearthed another of Kuffour’s kind. Unlike Kuffour, who joined from a premiership club and was to some extent known by the football loving populace, this is new gem is virtually unknown and is yet to make a case for himself domestically.

Larry Sumaila Ibrahim signed a four year deal with Hearts of some days ago. He became the fifth player to join the Phobians.

For those aware of his talent and upbringing, it was refreshing news to have such a talented youngster join one of the country’s biggest clubs.

Born in Madina Zongo, a suburb of Accra, Ghana’s capital; little Ibrahim was obsessed with football as a kid and showed an immediate aptitude for the beautiful game on the floor of a shabby park.

The Zurak Park at Madina became the theatre of his first marauding runs, the ball already glued to his right foot. His mother was very protective of her eldest son and had other ideas though and tried to steer the young Ibrahim towards formal education to help him avoid any football related injury.

His dad saw much more in him, though, and convinced their mother to allow their son to stick and commit to both education and Football at the same time. Her leniency stretched to letting the young boy join Top Ten Academy, a colts club in his locality.

Just when Ibrahim was enjoying his new found trade, tragedy struck when his protective mother died when he was in Basic Class 3. He was hard hit by this unfortunate incident but with a faith of a prophet and nerves of steel he pressed on.

Ghanaians will one day be grateful that he decided to carry on. Many were amazed by the youngster’s talent, not just his dribbling, passing and technique, but his ability to dictate the tempo of a match.

There were also lightning bursts of speed and fantastic strength for a player standing at just five foot seven inches. It is easier to count the number of clubs which weren’t interested in signing Larry Sumaila Ibrahim than those that tried to acquire him after his consistent impressive showings but it was Vision FC then playing in Ghana’s second division that won the race to sign him on and was with them for only a season and played an integral role in helping them gain promotion to Division One.

Just when things were beginning to take shape as the young Madina Zongo boy was gradually gaining the recognition he so deserved, another disaster struck but this time it was his father who would exit the world leaving Ibrahim and his kid sister Fati Ibrahim Larry to their fate.

With Ibrahim’s position as oldest son placing him at the head of the household. It was a hard upbringing, one which required him to learn who he was from an early age.

“Life has not been easy for me,” he reflects. “I’ve suffered a lot. I’ve been there before. Now look at me, I might not be okay, but my life has changed. He told

He had to engage in menial jobs to support himself and his kid sister financially. He would always assure his sister of turning the fortunes of the family around because he had the conviction of becoming a great footballer in the future. Kid’s play has now become reality.

After leaving Vision FC, He joined Narita FC. It was with this club that a Greek agent, Dimitris Ganakis discovered him while playing in a local tournament.

Lady luck had smiled on him and got selected among the many that participated in the tournament, but as to whether he was prepared enough to meet that opportunity was another thing altogether. How was he going to make that trip to Greece?

Eventually, some friends toiled and found money for him not to miss his train of destiny.

In Greece, he flirted with some clubs but it was PAOK that would express interest in signing the young Ghanaian. He impressed after weeks of trials with the Greek side.

However, Sumaila could not land a permanent deal with PAOK albeit being with them for 18 months due to a contractual disagreement between his agent Ganakis and officials of POAK.

Mid last year Ibrahim returned to Ghana to relaunch his career and that saw him training with the Continental Club Masters for months culminating in him signing a deal with them some days ago.

He is a mature performer and leadership comes naturally to him. He executes his defensive and other assigned duties efficiently and effectively.

His playing style has won him more plaudits. He could become Hearts’ next Emmanuel Osei Kuffour given the way he approaches his game: smooth, subtle and extremely stylish. Emmanuel Osei Kuffour is a club legend and the fact that the teenager is being compared to him is a huge compliment.

His temperament is outstanding; moreover, he plays with maturity that belies his tender years. He is physically strong, pacey and extremely good in the air, but also possesses technical skills on the ground.

He’s incredibly gifted in possession and a key component in starting attacks from defence. He’s shown the capability to play at full-back due to his speed, and also in defensive midfield given his ability on the ball and is equally adept at a right/left wing-back role.

He excels well with the ball at his feet and also confident enough to play passes between the lines. His composure is terrific. Being naturally two-footed is another great quality, which is rather rare among players his age.

The accuracy of his in-swinging corners and wide set-pieces affords Hearts a new dimension. .”I chose to be a footballer and thus have no option than to work hard if I’m to achieve as an athlete.” He gushed

Few gave him the chance to succeed but Ibrahim’s appetite for big impact on elite-level football was not sated.”I have come this far by believing in myself and I hope to do more than what I am currently doing. I’ll continue to learn and do more. I shall make my dead parents proud wherever they are. Insha Allah!” He confidently quipped.

In the end, football shows us there are many roads to the top. We’ve seen countless cases of child prodigies who promised plenty but ultimately amounted to little.

Similarly, we’ve seen the late bloomers who never quite made it in their pomp but came good in the latter years of their career. Then there are the players who slip through the net altogether. What matters most is that you make it in the end.

So while Larry Sumaila Ibrahim doesn’t have the world talking about him just yet, if he continues in the same vein, it may not be long until he does.

By: Edmund Isaac Obeng

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