A Ghanaian football star, Frank Acheampong, has been named captain of a top Chinese football club, Tianjin Teda. This has made the Black Stars winger the first Ghanaian to captain a club in the Chinese top-flight.
Fans of the club regard the decision of Head Coach, Uli Stielike, a reward for Achaempong’s hard work, dedication, commitment, exceptional leadership skills, and most importantly the quality he continues to demonstrate on the field. The 26-year-old Ghanaian history maker said “I’m particularly honoured to be made captain of this great club, it has come at a very challenging time where the club is struggling very early in the season, I hope that with a collective effort we can turn around our season,” MyJoyOnline reported.
Frank Acheampong joined the Chinese football club in 2017, and has made 56 appearances, directly involved in 43 goals, scored 26 goals, and provided 17 assists. The young player’s 17 goals tally in the 2018 season as the highest by a player in a single-season in the history of the club. Acheampong is captaining his team in an ongoing Chinese super league competition, in which he and his teammates are poised to turn around the fortunes of the club after a poor start to the campaign.
In recent years, China seems to have become a popular destination for top African players who have boosted support for Chinese local football games. Cedric Bakambu from Congo; Benjamin Moukandjo from Cameroon; Richmond Boakye and Asamoah Gyan from Ghana; Gervinho, Demba Ba, Didier Drogba, and Stephane Mbia from Ivory Coast; John Obi Mikel, Seydou Keita, and Obafemi Martins from Nigeria are but a few African football stars who have switched clubs to China.
The most interesting aspect is that most of these professional African stars were snatched under the very noses of the most established clubs in the world. Why? Some football analysts have speculated that it’s “mainly because these Chinese sides have become the highest bidders in their spending spree to attract big names to boost the support for the local game.” Again, “China super League may as well have become the top destination for any African player because of the prospects cash influx and career growth without being overshadowed by the likes of Messi and Ronaldo.”
What does this mean for China-Africa relations? It is instructive to mention first of all that football has made Africa extremely popular among young Chinese football lovers and non-football enthusiasts alike. It is common to hear “I like Ghana because of Asamoah Gyan” after one introduces themselves as a Ghanaian to a new Chinese friend. These African football stars have undoubtedly positively shaped the image of their countries and the African continent as a whole in China. On a people-to-people front, these players get the opportunity to mingle with their Chinese teammates for cultural exchanges.
What is the role of this emerging ‘Footballplomacy’ in Sino-Africa relations?