100% Inspiration

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 6, 2017 11:35

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100% Inspiration

By Satish Sekar in Accra © September 27th 2017)

Foul

I was in a foul mood. I had arrived in Accra via the sobering Assin Fosu River two days earlier and had the privilege of meeting one of Ghana’s greatest ever players, known as ‘the Dribbling Wizard’ in his prime – the great Hearts of Oak legend Mohammed Polo. He proved very helpful. Former players care about each other, and appreciate those who try to help. Former Black Stars have had a rough time. I would be left in no doubt about that.

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Arrangements had been made to meet Nii Odartey Lamptey and the Rev Osei Kofi – a pair of legends the day after, but Ghana’s refusal to take debit card was to have dire consequences. I needed more cash and my camera with its vital data was taken from a cashpoint booth and held to ransom. Infuriatingly, it was ransomed on behalf of a prison officer. It was extortion but I needed the data – it had messages of support and encouragement. This extortion, I was told, was the Ghanaian way. It was not. It was theft and then extortion. The extortion cost more than the camera was worth, but the data was too important to leave.

However, it put me in a foul mood, but Odartey Lamptey opened my eyes. It was not just ‘Rambo’, Edward Agyeman-Duah, he said. Former Ghanaian players helped Agyeman-Duah – he needed more – but there were others who got next to nothing or nothing. He told me to go and see a young man named Ali Jarra – I’m glad he did.

Remarkable

Ali Jarra was set to become a star. He was a rare talent, but he would prove to be a star that burned brightly for too short a period, but through no fault of his own. Jarra was a teenager when he became the regular goalkeeper of Accra Hearts of Oak.
In a career that lasted just two years he broke into the Ghana Under-17 team and won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup with Black Starlets. He was set for superstardom and deserved it. He appeared in a Nike advert with Ian Wright – they never met.

It’s unlikely that Wright knows what happened to his young ‘co-star’. A month after being part of the team that came second in the same tournament two years later, Jarra played his last competitive match against Hearts of Oak’s biggest rivals Asante Kotoko. They lost to a Manso Frimpong penalty. A week later, after Jarra had felt mysterious back pains, his career and the immediate hopes of his nation were over. Jarra was paralysed. Much later he discovered that Guillaume-Barré Syndrome had robbed him of the career he should have had and left him paralysed.

The Black Star

Jarra’s story is not just sad – it makes you want to rail against the unfairness of life. If ever a young man was entitled to scream, ‘Why me?’ at the stars it was Ali Jarra. I met him at his home. He still walks with a limp, but it is incredible that he walks at all. He credits his God for that miracle, but Jarra himself deserves a great deal of the credit. He absolutely refused to accept the prognosis, and it was not denial – he knew better than the medical experts. He would walk again after being paralysed for 18 months.
Now he lives in modest accommodation. He runs the Ali Jarra Academy with no pay training goalkeepers. Among those his academy has produced and nurtured is Black Star, Fatau Dauda. He also coaches amputee footballers and blind footballers. Ali Jarra deserves awards and a better hand than life dealt him, but that would do a disservice to the man. Ali Jarra has the respect of his nation – he’s earned it and then some. After meeting him my bad mood evaporated. What’s a camera worth compared to meeting and being inspired by a real legend?

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 6, 2017 11:35