Stephen Appiah and Son Rodney

How do you explain the challenges of bringing up a child to someone who does not have children? And how do you do that when you are Stephen Appiah, one of the greatest Ghanaian footballers of all time?

The former Ghana captain attempted to do so on Saturday morning, but got emotional and had watery eyes.

His teenage son, Rodney, is currently taking baby steps in football at Ghana Premier League side Accra Great Olympics. The legendary footballer revealed that the decision for his son to quit schooling to focus on football was not an easy one.

“It all started two years ago,” Appiah began, recalling how private-school educated Rodney repeatedly came home with a moody countenance. Upon further interrogation of his son, Stephen described how surprised he was to hear the boy say all he wanted to do was football.

“I told him that ‘look, [Ghana] is not like Europe where you can play football and school at the same time.”

But Rodney was persistent, so after discussions with Stephen’s wife, the family took the decision to support his second son’s dream. And that is how the hard work began – but it has not been easy.

“One day I woke him up at around 4am. He turned around and said ‘Oh daddy [why are you waking me up at this time?]’. I knew that for sure this guy is insulting me in his head!”

Stephen confessed that “sometimes I get scared that I push him too hard”, but quickly reminds himself: “does [Rodney] think it was easy for me before he is now enjoying [in life]?”

The former Juventus star gave a peek into the motivation he gives the 19-year-old.

“If you want to quit school and play football, there will be nothing left for you. But at times I have to close my eyes and push him. So we took a decision that he will quit school and concentrate on football. And so far so good.”

Speaking to TV3, Stephen teared up when told that his son wishes to do better than him.

“Yes, [it makes me proud]…” [wipes tears]. Taking that decision was not easy. When you become a father, you know how it means. When he said he wanted to be better than me, I was happy, because there is no way I want to be better than my children, never!”

“I have done mine, and he is coming. The mindset of being better than me, I think it is fantastic. I always tell him you are Rodney Appiah, I am Stephen Appiah, I came to this world with a different spirit. Just follow your spirit, don’t be like me, be better than me.”

The celebrated footballer is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, who has to watch his son take the path he trod so well. Here in Ghana, perhaps, the most famous are the Ayews, and Stephen confessed his admiration, and good-natured envy of the storied family.

“I must say I envy Abedi Pele because I know the joy the man has when he is watching football. Even when I see my son warming up, the joy!”

Rodney is a midfielder and has made cameo appearances for the Wonder Club, who are having a terrific season in the Ghana PL. They lie fourth with 40 points, equal on points with second- and third-placed Hearts of Oak and Medeama respectively.

Stephen concluded: “We always tell him that there is no magic. Some of us we made it because it was determination, hard work, focus, discipline, and passion. You have to have passion for your job.”

“That’s what I have been telling him, and it will be difficult for him to fail.”