All you Don’t Know About Blackstar Ex-Captain Stephen “Tornado” Appiah
24th December 1980 Ghana was blessed by GOD with the birth of the greatest captain in the history of our football nation, Stephen Leroy Appiah .
His life began in a poor socio-economic background in the Chorkor and Mamprobi suburbs of Accra which was where he grew up. Stephen started playing football informally at a very tender age and joined the Accra Heart of Oaks Team in 1995 at the age of 15, he had trials with Galatasaray’s youth squad but was not signed and he returned to Hearts of Oak. According to the former Juventus star, the Chorkor Kenkey sellers came to his rescue at a time when he could not afford meals after training.
In 1996 Stephen Appiah won the Ghanaian FA Cup with the “Phobias” Accra Hearts of Oak , his first major trophy of his admirable football career then followed the Ghana Premier league in 1997 . Joining the club at a tender age of 15years Stephen Appiah reped the rainbow colors of Phobia from1995 to 1997 appearing 21 times and scoring 19 goals during his time at the club.
After playing at the Under 17 World Cup in Egypt, he signed a transfer to the Udinese club and hence, started off his journey towards superstardom.
He initially played as a striker at the Italian Seria A club. He spent three seasons with the club, later changing positions during his time there, moving to a deeper midfield position. A transfer to Parma in 1999 was jeopardised by viral hepatitis,but Appiah overcame the illness to move there in the summer of 2000. After two seasons at Parma, Appiah went on loan to Brescia for the 2002–03 season. Appiah became a first-team regular for the Lombardians, and scored seven times in 31 games.
Appiah’s success at Parma alerted defending Serie A champions Juventus to his talents. Juventus paid Parma €2 million in the summer of 2003 to secure Appiah’s services on loan, with an option to a permanent €6 million transfer in 2004. In 2003, Appiah finished 8th for African Footballer of the Year.
He went on to enjoy a good first season for Juventus, playing in 30 Serie A games and appearing in the Coppa Italia final. He also made his debut in the UEFA Champions League. In his second season at Juventus, Appiah played in 18 Serie A games.
In July 2005, he was transferred from Juventus to Turkish giants Fenerbahçe for €8 million.He went on to win the Turkish Super League Championship with the club in their centenary year. That same year , Stephen Appiah became the first captain to qualify Ghana for her first ever World Cup appearance in Germany 2006. That tournament earned Stephen the nickname “Tornado” due to the fact that he is very prominent in midfield and is also, very strong. Appiah is a box-to-box midfielder who had the ability to create and score goals from all angles with his powerful shots. During Ghana’s third game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Appiah powered in a penalty kick against the United States to send the Black Stars to the second round.Tho we never won that tournament spoils of our performance lead by “Tornado” himself earned him a sponsorship deal with a sports ball brand which was named after the former Black stars captain. It was produced by the Stephen Appiah Foundation (SAF) in collaboration with Alive & Kicking Ghana (A&K Ghana). It is a new and exciting ball sold across Ghana. He also led the Black Stars squad that came close to hitting a semi-final berth at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Appiah is so far, the longest-serving skipper of the Ghana squad after independence, having led the Black Stars for a period of 8 years.
Appiah was not really able to live his career to the fullest as a result of injuries. He sustained severe injuries several times during his active years. His career almost ended when he was with the Turkish side Fenerbahce. A protracted knee injury kept him out of the beautiful game for a very long time.The long-term injury forced him to miss the 2008 African Cup of Nations as a player, instead, he became a special adviser of the team and also a lenghty dispute between the Turkish club and Appiah over contract breach, injury mistreatment and exposure to the media.
In April 2008 the case went to FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), and both parties sued each other.He unilaterally terminated the contract at the end of season, as he thought the club had breached the contract by not fulfilling its duties.He also discussed with West Ham United in summer 2008 for a possible contract.DRC ordered Appiah to pay Fenerbahçe €2,281,915 as he breached the contract without just cause on 9 January 2009.He immediately appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in May after received the decision on 5 May 2009 and the club also submitted its appeal. On 7 June 2010 CAS ruled that Appiah did not need to pay Fenerbahçe, as Fenerbahçe saved more in wages (€2,633,020.65) than losses (€2,496,278.85)
Appiah was on trial with the London-based club Tottenham Hotspur in January 2009 with a view to a 6-month permanent contract, however concerns over his knee and fitness resulted in no contract being offered, as Spurs took up the option of signing Wilson Palacios from Wigan instead. The following month Appiah underwent a trial at Rubin Kazan,but the Russian champions decided against signing the player because of the same fitness concerns. Despite being without a club since his departure from Fenerbahçe in June 2008, Appiah remained a regular with the national team throughout the 2008–09 season.On 1 November 2009, Bologna announced the signing of Appiah on a free transfer.
On 7 August 2010, Appiah signed for newly promoted Italian Serie A side Cesena on a one-year deal with the option of signing on for another year if the club managed to remain in the top flight. At the end of the 2010–11 season his contract with Cesena expired, and he became a free agent.
On 2 February 2012, after passing medical exams, Appiah signed a six-month deal with Serbian side Vojvodina. Along with Almami Moreira and Aleksandar Katai, he was the main winter-break signing of Vojvodina in order to challenge Belgrade clubs dominance and guarantee a European competition place. He made his Serbian SuperLiga debut as a starter in a 16-round match played on 4 March 2012 against Radnički Kragujevac.
Until the end of the 2011–12 Serbian SuperLiga season, he gathered 11 league appearances and has scored his only goal in the deciding last-round home 2–1 victory against Red Star Belgrade, which put Vojvodina on a final third place in the league and guaranteed a spot in next season’s UEFA Europa League. “Tornado” hanged his boots after that season .He retired from club football on the 1st of July 2012 but officially ended his footballing career in a testimonial match which was held at the Accra Sports Stadium on 27th of June 2015.
Stephen had revealed that amidst his legendary achievements, he still has a regret which is his failure to win a title with the Black Stars, as the Black Stars have not won a trophy since 1982. In an interview prior to the match, he said:
I think Ghanaians have been true to me as in supporting me; they supported me till today that I said I am calling it done so I think I have to give that respect or I have to give back to them in terms of playing a testimonial game to tell them bye bye for their support, for the love that they’ve shown to me. So I think that it’s the right thing to do and definitely there will be a testimonial match.
Stephen Appiah at the end of his career had made 315 club football appearances and had scored 33goals on the other hand he caped 67 games and scored 14 goals for his country .
The following are the awards Stephen Appiah bagged during his time as a professional footballer:
Ghanaian FA Cup: 1996
Ghana League: 1997
Coppa Italia: 2001–02
Supercoppa Italiana: 2003
Serie A: 2004-2005
Serie A: 2005-2006
Turkish Super League: 2006–07
Turkish Super Cup: 2006–07
FIFA U-17 World Championship Winner: 1995
Summer Olympic Football All-Star Team: 2004
Ghana Footballer of the Year: 2005, 2007
Footballer of the Year in Turkey: 2007
African Cup of Nations All-Star Team of the Tournament: 2006
Appiah is one of the sportsmen in Ghana who are devoted to giving back to the society. His first move towards achieving this was through the establishment of the Stephen Appiah Foundation. He said the main motivation behind setting up his foundation was the way he sees people suffer in Chorkor, a fishing community in Greater Accra region of Ghana where he grew up. The Foundation was set up to provide care, quality education, health facilities and opportunities through sports to improve the overall wellness of underprivileged children in Ghana, helping them attain their full potential in life.
He went on to build the Stephen Appiah Community library in Chorkor. Also, Appiah is involved in a variety of charity works focused on inspiring young football players. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves made him their ambassador and recalling how his own mother suffered under unhealthy cooking conditions, he vowed to use his image and influence to help the fight for clean cooking.
Stephen Appiah as a player was talented, tenacious, and physically strong, all-round box-to-box midfielder, who was capable of defending well, as well as orchestrating attacks, creating chances for teammates, and even scoring goals himself, due to his vision, technique, aggressive tackling, athletic attributes, stamina, and his powerful and accurate shot from distance with his right foot. A versatile, powerful, and hard-working player, he was capable of playing anywhere in midfield, and adapting himself to several different formations, but usually operated in the centre of the pitch.
Tornado as a man succeeded in earning almost everyone’s commendation and approval both in his career and other life endeavors. He has a lot of testimonies from different personalities both at home and in foreign lands. His various humanitarian acts have in so many ways improved the lives of many Ghanaians, including the provision of employment opportunities.
Mr.Stephen Leroy “Tornado” Appiah is now currently the assistant head coach of Accra Hearts of Oak(the club where it all started for him).