It is perhaps extremely difficult for the younger generation of Ukrainian football fans to imagine now how steep and competitive the level of the Ukrainian Premier League was 10-12 years ago. Despite the fact that not a single “third party” then managed to break the championship monopoly of Dynamo and Shakhtar, many matches were very difficult for the people of Kiev and Donetsk, and getting a result (especially on the road: in Dnipro, Poltava, Lviv, Simferopol, Odessa, Kharkov) sometimes succeeded with great difficulty and even image losses.
At that time, the Ukrainian Premier League was literally filled with high-quality legionnaires who left the middle peasants of the Spanish, English, French, Italian or German leagues to move to Ukraine. Of course, not only and not so much for the level of football, but above all for huge money.
One of those who arrived to play in the UPL during this period was the Ghanaian defensive midfielder Derek Boateng, who was recently called by the commercial director of Dnipro-1 Vyacheslav Fridman one of the most problematic legionnaires in the history of the orthodox Dnipro. Isn’t this a great occasion to remember this African legionnaire, his career path in Ukraine, and also to find out how Boateng lives now?..
Shocking offer from Ukraine
The transfer of Derek Boateng to Dnipro took place in the summer of 2011. At that time, the Ghanaian legionnaire played for the Spanish Getafe, where he had good conditions under a personal contract and a clause in the amount of 15 million euros. Two years earlier, Getafe signed Boateng from Cologne, having spent only 750 thousand euros on the deal, and at the time of the completion of the deal with Dnipro, Derek’s estimated market value fluctuated around 2-3 million euros.
It is clear that he would not want to sell Boateng to Dnipro for 3 million Getafe, just as the Ukrainians would not dare to pay 15 million in compensation. The parties agreed on a compromise – 5 million euros, after which they informed the midfielder himself about this. As the African media wrote then, for Boateng, the agreement between Getafe and Dnipro was a complete surprise. The defensive midfielder, in principle, expected to leave the Spanish club, but his agents consulted with Aston Villa, West Bromwich, Trabzonspor, and therefore the unexpected Ukrainian trail confused Derek.
Moreover, Dnipro demanded that Boateng make a decision as soon as possible, citing the fact that the start of the Ukrainian Premier League will occur earlier than in the championships of Spain or England, and therefore he will have less time for pre-season training. They wrote that Derek was initially inclined to reject the opportunity to move to Ukraine, but when he discussed in more detail with the agent the conditions of the “shocking”, as the Ghanaian media wrote then, offers from Dnipro, he decided that there could be more of such an opportunity in his life never arise. We are talking about the financial side of the issue, of course …
Boateng and Juande Ramos: from a great coach to allegations of ridicule
As soon as Derek Boateng was in Ukraine, journalists asked what influenced the decision of the Ghanaian legionnaire to move to Dnipro. Predictably silent about the money, the opornik said that he talked a lot with the then head coach of the Ukrainian team Juande Ramos. Derek even called the Spaniard a “great coach” and stated that he “is highly respected.”
And in the first season, Boateng and Ramos’ relationship was generally pretty conventional. The midfielder played 21 matches in the Ukrainian league, scoring 2 goals and receiving 6 yellow cards. It was a tenacious and uncompromising opponent for everyone, although even then Boateng’s game showed some notes of relaxation (as Friedman, already mentioned above, described them – “he saw that you can play the fool here”), which he could hardly afford to demonstrate in Spanish La Liga. But it doesn’t matter…
FC Dnipro. Derek Boateng
The real explosion in the relationship between Boateng and Ramos occurred in 2012. That summer, the Spanish coach unexpectedly did not extend the vacation of Derek Boateng and Samuel Inkum, who played for the Ghana national team, and wished to see them at the training camp along with all the other wards. It was rumored in the press that this complicated the relationship between the players and the coach, and subsequently Ramos repeatedly complained about Boateng. In particular, after the match of the third round with Metallurg Donetsk (2:0), the Dnipro coach said that Derek no longer wants to play for the team, and at the end of August, when the African refused to enter the field in the European Cup match with Slovan ”, Ramos finally put an end to Boateng.
“Derek flew with us to the Czech Republic for the Europa League match with Slovan, but refused to go on the field. He said that he had a psychological trauma. I don’t understand how you can make fun of your club like that? Let’s keep laughing. For me, as a football player, he is no more, ”the Dnipro coach said then.
Psychological problems due to murder
The psychological trauma that Ramos was talking about at the time seemed like it could actually happen in Derek Boateng’s life. What is true, it happened not with the football player himself, but with his wife, and subsequently influenced the defensive midfielder.
The fact is that the wife of the Ghanaian legionnaire “Dnepr” witnessed the murder that occurred on April 14, 2012 in the center of the Dnieper. Then the well-known businessman in the city, Gennady Axelrod, became a victim, and the story about this press was later revealed by the then owner of Dnepr, Igor Kolomoisky.
“Yes, Boateng has a problem in everyday life, this is an issue with his wife. He is connected with the city, with security. You must have heard about the high-profile event. And she, unfortunately, became a spontaneous witness or eyewitness of this. I mean the murder of businessman Axelrod. She has a psychological breakdown. But I’m not sure it doesn’t happen in Ghana or somewhere in England or France where they want to move. But there is a problem,” Kolomoisky said at the time.
The decision of Lausanne and leaving in English
At the end of August 2012, rumors appeared in the press that Derek Boateng had agreed on the terms of a personal contract with Fulham and was waiting for a transfer to the English club, but the deal never took place. At the end of December, the media again got information that the Ghanaian opornik was about to move to the camp of “dacha residents”, but again the parties failed to agree on all issues.
And no matter how they assured Dnepr then about the opposite, but in the summer of 2013 Boateng still managed to achieve his goal. The African, through the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, located in Lausanne, achieved the status of a free agent and terminated the contract with the Ukrainian club. Thanks to this, Derek officially became a Fulham player on July 1, 2013, but he did not find happiness in this team, having played only 5 matches in all tournaments during the season …
Both Dnipro and Fulham, Boateng left in fact in English – without saying goodbye. In July 2014, Derek signed a contract with Rayo Vallecano, but in mid-August he moved to Eibar as a free agent. Then in the camp of the “bees” they commented on the decision to part with the African so quickly that the head coach of the team had doubts about the level of physical fitness of the midfielder.
Getty Images/Global Images Ukraine. Derek Boateng with Eibar
Boateng also left Eibar a year later, and then his career finally and irrevocably began to move towards the end. The Ghanaian football player spent six months without a club, then briefly signed up with the American Rayo OKS, and spent the second part of the 2016/17 season in the Greek OFI. Actually, the team from the island of Crete was the last in Derek’s career. And if the midfielder officially announced the end of his international career in the summer of 2017, then Boateng did not say about the final decision to break with professional football, again saying goodbye to him in a traditionally English manner.
The only thing that the ex-midfielder of Dnepr spoke about then was the desire to end his career in the Ghanaian Liberty Professionals, the team where his path to big football once began. But in the end, none of the major football reference portals gives information that Boateng managed to realize this dream before hanging up his boots.
Now saving lives and helping young talents
Derek Boateng is currently 40 years old. On May 2, the ex-legionary of Dnipro celebrated another birthday, and now little is heard about him. However, Derek did not completely break his connection with football. Today he is doing something like scouting, trying to find among the crowds of barefoot boys in the vast expanses of Ghana and other African countries, real talents who need to be given a chance to change, and even save lives.
Boateng himself admitted that he grew up without a father, and it was thanks to football that he achieved what he has: “Football saved my life, because without it I don’t know where I would be and what I would do. There are many places where we all go and just have fun, but the only place I go where I feel free and calm is the football field.”
Now Boateng is cooperating with the Ghanaian academy Wright to Dream (one of the leaders of the current Ajax, Mohammed Kudus, passed through it). Founded in 1999 in Boateng’s hometown of Accra by former Manchester United chief African scout Tom Vernon, the program offers scholarships to talented children with a focus on education and football. In addition to the international school with accommodation in the capital of Ghana, Right to Dream also operates in Denmark and the USA, and is planning to open a branch in Egypt in the near future.
Boateng travels throughout Ghana, as well as the Ivory Coast and Egypt, in search of the best young talents and for the sake of recruiting them to the academy. Given his own history, trips often cause difficult emotions for the ex-midfielder of Dnipro.
“I see a lot of what I went through before – a lot of poverty, a lot of deprivation – I see myself there. Especially after visiting some of the homes of our pupils, where I visit, to see where they come from, to assess where they live and how they live – it’s very hard. I always cry inside myself, and it is extremely difficult, but I have to do what I have to. This gives me more energy, more strength to be on the road and carry out breeding work. I don’t care where this path takes me. If I have to go to Iraq for reconnaissance, then I will go. If I have to sleep in the car to scout the situation, I will do it, because the only thing I keep in my heart is that I am going to change someone’s life for the better, ”Derek Boateng shares his current views.