GIDEON RELIVES MTN SOCCER ACADEMY EXPERIENCE
3rd July 2012
After being adjudged the winner of the maiden edition of the MTN Soccer Academy TV Reality show in 2007, Gideon Baah (GB) sat down with www.gideonbaah.com to talk about his time on the TV reality show, the lessons learned as a footballer and most significantly; the experience gained in the course of playing association football after his triumph in Ghana's biggest and most thrilling reality show on prime time television.
Q: How did you feel about being selected by the scouts of the MTN Soccer Academy and being told you would appear as a finalist on the show?
GB: It was a great experience because it was the first of its kind in Ghana. Honestly, I was very excited to have made the cut for the show. It was tough making it into the house looking at the number of other applicants who turned up for the auditions.All that happened was the making of the good Almighty God; who has been my pillar for all my success in life.
Q: Did events at the MTN Soccer Academy meet your expectations?
GB: Well, initially all I was concerned about was taking part in this new adventure that was about to hit the screens of Ghana TV.
I didn't really know what to expect but by the end of the journey, it turned out to be a lot more than anything I could have imagined. It was a very positive experience for me, both from a personal and a professional point of view. I joined the series with the intention of just being myself and enjoying myself and I think that helped me a lot as it meant that I didn't put myself under too much pressure.
Q: In footballing competitions worldwide, it is more often than not the offensive players who get applauded and celebrated ahead of their defensive counterparts. As a left-back, were you stunned to have been named as the winner of the competition in 2007?
GB: During the run of the competition, I wasn't playing as a left back but was frequently deployed as an offensive midfielder. It was only about three seasons ago that I started playing as a left-back and I haven't looked back since. I have matured as a left-back player and I hope to continue winning trophies for any club I play for and hopefully one day, my country. Whether or not I would have won if I played as a left back in the competition is something we'll never know.
Q: As Gideon Baah the player, what have been the lessons learned from your exploits in the academy house?
GB: During our time on the show, all of the competitors learned the fundamentals of football. We were mentored by celebrated and highly skilled coaches and I personally learned a lot through my participation of the competition. We used to play in front of smaller crowds in a relatively smaller environment and that helped me learn how to preserve my focus throughout the full length of a game. My self confidence and mental strength grew whilst in the house which prepared me for playing in front of larger and sometimes hostile crowds. All in all, it was a memorable experience for my maturity in association football.
Q: How did you feel as players got eliminated week after week? Did you at any point start to believe you could win the competition?
GB: We all went in with hopes of winning otherwise we wouldn't have been in there. Because you are in such a small space, you start to make friends in the house which makes it harder as you see people leave. However, I had to stay focused and remember why I was there. Although, it was sad to see people go, it also meant that I lived to see another week, so it was a bitter sweet feeling.
Q: Tell us how you felt when your name was announced as the winner.
GB: I can't really describe it but I remember feeling on top of the world and believing at that moment that I was capable of doing anything, hahaha. It has to happen to you to know how it feels.
Q: Have you met or are you in touch with any of the other winners?
GB: I communicate with Arago Jamal who won the 2009 edition. We were both flown to the World Cup quarter finals and we remained in touch after that.
Q: Amongst past winners of the MTN Soccer Academy, you seem to stand tall when it comes to good progression so far in professional football. Does this feat of success bring pressure on you as a player?
GB: Yes, but there is pressure everywhere; even more so for those who have already made it onto the bigger stages. Everyone wants to see you excel and you are not allowed to fail; that is a lot of pressure. But I believe that the publicity that came with my win brings positive pressure on me as an individual. It makes me work harder in order to achieve the personal goals I have set myself.
Q: Beating off competition from 32,000 other applicants to win the reality show earned you a two-week trial with Chelsea Football Club in 2007. Whilst you were there, the ex-Chelsea FC academy team captain, Nana Twumasi and current Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien tagged you as a fantastic talent with amazing skills. Have we seen the real Gideon Baah yet?
GB: I believe I have a lot more to give and my best is yet to come. I am still learning new things everyday and still have a lot more to learn especially after my long break from the game due to injury. My 14-day trial at Chelsea was nevertheless the experience of a life time. It was great training with players who have made it to the top in one of the biggest and most popular leagues in the world. It also serves as a form of motivation and morale booster for me to make it to the top as a professional player. Enjoying some of the luxuries as a successful player would be a dream come true but I know it will come with hard work. Victory belongs to the most persevering and my advice to any up and coming player would be to remember that champions keep playing until they get it right.
Gideon Baah's 2011/12 season officially came to an end on Sunday, 1st July when Berekum Chelsea came back from a goal down to beat Asante Kotoko 2-1 in the President's Cup at the Accra Sports Stadium; a match that was played to mark Ghana's Republic Day celebrations.