In-form Ajax Amsterdam forward Mohammed Kudus will shoulder masses of pressure in Qatar, as he appears to be a poster boy for the Black Stars of Ghana.
Fortuitously for the Black Stars, his upbringing at the prestigious right to Dream Academy in Akosombo, Ghana, formed the 22-yr-old flawlessly for coming face to face with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Son Heung-min, and Darwin Nunez in their group.
From gaining the technical versatility to play as a box-to-box midfielder, to demonstrating the intellectual power to play through pain, Kudus passed all the tests thrown at him on the Academy. Consistent with Ghana’s assistant coach Mas-Ud Didi Dramani — he became a mentor for Kudus in his teens – as well as right to Dream founder Tom Vernon.
“I met Kudus in 2014 [or] 2015,” Dramani, also the head of Right to Dream’s Ghana academy. “I remember very well, I think he broke his thumb and he was in a cast and still working with the group. I still recall those moments and how mentally stable and tough he was, playing with a cast on him. Didi Dramani said in an interview on ESPN
“I think he was not a player that was scouted immediately from our normal scouting, even though he was noticed, and then they (Right to Dream’s scouts) kept monitoring him. We played against his team and in that situation, he stood out, and we needed no time to bring him in and he still stood out [after being signed].
“At that time, I remember, we saw him more as a box-to-box midfielder. What he’s doing today is things that he was doing in that period – where he [took] the ball right from a deep midfield role and wanted to go further up the pitch and find the possibility of finding goals and still having his own creativity of play.”
Right to Dream’s academy in Ghana became the business enterprise’s authentic home base, even though they’ve since expanded. This year, they have ventured into Egypt after forming a partnership with Mansour group, which was introduced in January 2021.
In addition they have targets of entering the United States, but the original big move outside Ghana’s borders was in December 2015, when the not-for-dividend organisation acquired Denmark’s FC Nordsjælland (FCN).
Right to Dream’s Ghana academy is in a relatively isolated setting in Akosombo, over two hours by car from Accra. Kudus’ upbringing at the academy, which he joined aged 12, was thus relatively sheltered at first.
However, his world changed quickly in his late teens as he was integrated into Ghana’s U17 national team, and then subsequently signed by FCN at the age of 17 in 2018.
“Fortunately, he’s had the opportunity to play in the U17s and play in the U20 squad,” Dramani said. “He then joined FCN in 2018… I was the transitional coach and my role was to facilitate [players’] integration and adaptation in so many aspects on and off the pitch.
“On the pitch, I helped them with individual training and in tactical orientation in terms of what Kasper wanted – Kasper Hjulmand, the [current] Danish national team coach [and then FCN boss] – what he wanted at that time.
“If the boys were not getting it – not only Kudus – if the boys were not getting it in the right way, I was closer to them to facilitate [than Hjulmand was].”
Kudus starred for FCN, scoring 11 goals in the 2019/20 Superliga – his second full season – and earning a move to Ajax. However, he struggled to make an impression at the Dutch giants initially.
By then, he was an established Ghana international, so his patience was tested, but he toughed it out at Ajax and his perseverance has been rewarded.
Heading into the World Cup, he has 10 goals and two assists for his club in 982 minutes in all competitions this season, including a stunning strike against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.
Inside the warfare with Brian Brobbey for a beginning berth upfront, he has matched his teammate blow for blow.
“I know what to tell Kudus… and he knows what role I have played in his development from Right to Dream to FCN – and from FCN, even getting into the Black Stars and getting to play in the U20 [Africa Cup of Nations 2019] in Niger.
“When things were not going well, I said: ‘Just keep training. We have trust in you. When they give you five minutes, show them that you need 10 minutes. When they give you 10 minutes, show them that you need 20 minutes and you will grow with your minutes.
“Now, who would want to drop Kudus? I’m sure if they want to drop him in Ajax, his teammates will tell the coach:
‘Please let him play. He gives us what we need to play.’ I think that his development has come at the right time.” Didi Dramani said.
Mohammed Kudus has performed for Ghana from Under-17 stage through to the senior national, after being mentored at right to Dream Academy. Dramani referenced his standout performance within the 3-zero defeat to Brazil on September 23 for instance of Kudus attaining a height.
Ghana’s current form is a long manner off from the exploits of the golden era that changed into one of the top teams in the Africa Cup of Nations, and reached the knockout rounds of successive international Cups in 2006 and 2010.
They will need a quick fix if they are to turn their fortunes around for their World Cup campaign, which kicks off against Portugal on November 24 before clashes with South Korea on November 28 and Uruguay on December 2.
Apart from being one of their best hopes of driving a surprise run in Qatar, Kudus looks set to be the man to drive Ghanaian football’s revolution in years to come, putting his Right to Dream education to practice at precisely the moment his country needs him most.