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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 11:15 UK

Ghana's talented talent-spotter

By Farayi Mungazi
BBC Fast Track

Alhaji Sly Tetteh's name does not ring too many bells in Africa.

Alhaji Sly Tetteh
Tetteh has displayed a hawkish eye for talent over the years

However, nobody can dispute his eye for a footballer's potential.

Tetteh is the president of Liberty Professionals FC, the Ghana Premier League club that nurtured a certain Michael Essien.

He also runs three football academies under the Liberty banner in Ghana, Togo and Kenya - overseeing dozens of youngsters united by a desire to win professional contracts in Europe.

Sitting in his office at the Liberty Academy in Accra, Tetteh was, for once, reflecting on his phenomenal success rate at identifying the superstars of tomorrow.

In life, everyone has a talent and I believe my talent is to identify other people's football talent

Alhaji Sly Tetteh

"There are many clubs that have failed because of poor recruitment policies, always going for quick-fix transfers," said the understated, unsung hero of Ghanaian football.

"But at Liberty, we believe in scouting and developing our own players from a very young age - and you can see some of them today playing for the national team."

Tetteh is a man who shuns the limelight and spoke to BBC Fast Track reluctantly, and only after being repeatedly coaxed to do so.

"In life, everyone has a talent and I believe my talent is to identify other people's football talent," he continued.

"In Africa, talent abounds everywhere but my job is to look beyond the talent to see how far the player can go.

"It gives me great pleasure to see a player who came through my hands playing in the Champions League in Europe."

A meticulous football man, Tetteh told BBC Fast Track that he often motivates his recruits by constantly reminding them that they can use football to escape from grinding poverty.

But like any scout worth his salt, he admitted that spotting good players is an art form where dismissing the chaff and retaining the wheat is what matters most.

Michael Essien in action for Ghana
Michael Essien's talent was nurtured at Liberty Professionals

"Sometimes it's the parents who come and tell me that their son is going to be the next Essien or Drogba.

"But not everyone has a future in football but almost every boy I meet thinks he can play in Europe.

"My job is to assess the boys and advise whether they can go further or look for something else to do in life outside football."

Aside from Essien, Tetteh has smoked many other players out of unglamorous surroundings and dispatched them on the path to football stardom and untold riches.

In fact, it almost goes without saying that Tetteh's ability to discover future stars is one of the main reasons behind Ghana's resurgence as an African football power.

No fewer than five members of the current Black Stars squad were signed by European clubs on his recommendation.

Sulley Muntari, John Pantsil, Asamoah Gyan, Derek Boateng and of course Essien, are the players in question - all of whom are key beneficiaries of Tetteh's hawkish eye for talent.

What does he look for in a young player?

"When you look at Essien or Muntari you can see that both of them are strong and powerful players," Tetteh explained.

"In Africa, there are a lot of skillful players but you need physical strength to supplement the skills.

It requires a lot of patience to bring up and develop a player

Alhaji Sly Tetteh

"I also look for players who have the desire to work hard because in this field, nothing comes easy.

And what does it take to uncover a hidden gem?

"It requires a lot of patience to bring up and develop a player.

It's like an investment and it can take a few years before you see a good return on that investment."

One of Tetteh's greatest assets is his ability to not only act as a friend and father figure to the players under his wing, but also get to know their families.

"It's very important for me to have a relationship with the parents because it enables me to understand the players better, he concluded."

No wonder this urbane, charming man has a scouting track record few can match and a contact book many would covet.



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see also
Ghana celebrates 2010 success
07 Sep 09 |  African
Chelsea delight at Essien signing
19 Aug 05 |  Chelsea
Muntari eyes Premiership
14 Jun 06 |  Ghana
Ghanaians line up big moves
03 Aug 01 |  Africa


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