I have faced some of the toughest challenges running football in Ghana for about 12 years yet writing a tribute for someone who is a father figure to me, a mentor and a teacher proved to be one of the most difficult tests I have encountered in life.
Words, even the very best of words, cannot pay tribute or truly capture the sense of loss that we in the football fraternity in Ghana are all feeling today.
The loss is there, tangible and real within everyone…because Sam Arday exemplified life, love, laughter and an irrepressible belief and faith in seeing the best in everything…even when we lose matches.
And so today, we honour Sam Arday by profoundly feeling and expressing our loss, but also by remembering Sam – an amazing person who has played a unique and special role in football in Ghana and in the lives of many footballers and administrators.
Since taking a backstage role in coaching after his immense impact in coaching on the field, Sam Arday was hugely influential by formulating policies and offering guidance to the young coaches leading to recent successes for Ghana.
Today, European clubs have huge interest in grooming African talents by setting up academies in Africa and Sam was one of the pioneers of this concept on the continent.
Dutch giants Feyenoord had so much confidence in Sam that they partnered him to form their football academy in Gomoa Fetteh in the mid-90s which led to the discovery of players such as Harrison Afful and Solomon Asante of Black Stars fame.
Subsequently he helped form the WAFA Academy and through his guidance they were able to qualify to play in the Ghana Premier League and they are now a force to reckon with, thanks to the ingenuity of Sam.
He did not stop there because he did much more by imparting knowledge. Young coaches such as Mas-Ud Didi Dramani, Maxwell Konadu, Kwesi Appiah, Augustine Ahinful and many others today owe their coaching careers to Sam Arday.
As the vice chairman of the Technical Committee of the GFA, Sam spent more than a decade of his productive life helping us formulate policies to impact positively on the game and we are forever indebted to him.
These contributions he made off the field is not visible to the public yet his impact was just as immense as what he did on the field.
We all remember Sam Arday as the trendsetter on the continent by being the first coach to win a medal for Africa at the Olympic Games with the Black Meteors, Ghana’s U-23 side.
Sam led the Black Meteors to finish third at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona with an impressive group outing where they defeated Australia 3-1 before holding Denmark and Mexico to advance to the quarter-finals.
Under the ‘Multi-System Man,’ the Meteors defeated Paraguay before falling to hosts Spain in the semis. Sam told the players to be determined despite the defeat and they dusted themselves down to beat Australia at the Nou Camp to pick the bronze medal.
The achievements of Sam at the Barcelona Olympics helped players such as Kwame Ayew, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Shamo Quaye, Joe Debrah, Sammy Kuffour, Maxwell Konadu, Ablade Kumah, Gargo Mohammed, Yaw Preko and Alex Nyarko to become household names in Africa because of their performances at the tournament.
Three years later, Sam once again led Ghana to global success, steering the Black Starlets to win the U17 World Cup title in Ecuador. The careers of players such as Stephen Appiah, Awudu Issaka who was nicknamed ‘Disco Dancer’ by Sam, Christian Gyan, Christian Saba, Emmanuel Bentil and the rest took off. All of these players accomplished their goals in football to the highest level.
This is just to mention a few of the numerous successes of Sam Arday because to write all would require a few days to finish reading.
As a football coach and mentor to many of us, Sam will be deeply missed because apart from his professional approach to his work he also had his softer side filled with jokes and things to remember with joy forever.
In the years that lie ahead, I’m sure his players such as Stephen Appiah will always joke about how Sam will turn his back to avoid watching a penalty kick of his side for the fear of the big chance being missed yet be sharp tongued to jubilate the goal!
Sam Arday was a loyal colleague to all and a special friend to many and today we honour this as we recall these special moments he had not only to himself but to the service of his country through football.
And to you Nii and Naa and the entire Arday family, of course you are in great pain over the passing of your dad but you must be thoroughly proud of what he achieved in his life. May God comfort you in these difficult times.
We’ll remember Sam with all his special nuances and our memories from all the days gone before that we were privileged to share with him.
And today we’ll grieve for you Sam, and cry for you and even smile because of you…
And in all the tomorrows we’ll feel you gone in some ways, but your presence ever near.
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