Crew SC announced that the club has signed Ghanaian international defender Harrison Afful.
Afful, 29, has spent the past six seasons with Esperance Sportive de Tunis in the Tunisian topflight, the Ligue Professionelle 1. Afful will officially be added to the Black & Gold roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa.
Afful has 53 caps for Ghana, registering five assists for the Black Stars. The 5-foot-6, 128 pound defender made his international debut at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, appearing in 23 Africa Cup of Nations matches, 17 World Cup qualification matches and 11 international friendlies before playing two matches for Ghana at last summer's World Cup, notching an assist in a 2-2 draw against eventual champions Germany.
"Harrison is an experienced, versatile defender whose playing style will fit well into our system," Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter said in a statement released by the club.
"He has established himself in the highly competitive Ghanaian National Team and has participated in both the Africa Cup of Nations and in the World Cup. After an extensive search, we're happy to welcome Harrison to Columbus and we feel that he is going to be a great addition to our defensive corps."
Afful made a total of 173 appearances across all competitions in six seasons with Esperance, scoring 16 goals and adding 25 assists. In the five years spanning the 2009-10 and the 2013-14 seasons, he helped the club win the Ligue 1 title four times, finishing runner-up in 2012-13.
In 2011, he captured African club soccer's biggest crown by winning the CAF Champions League with ES Tunis.
In the two-legged final against Wydad Casablanca from Morocco, he scored the lone goal, giving the Tunisian club the title and passage into the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
He made two appearances in that tournament, against Al-Sadd and Monterrey.
Q: Harrison, welcome to Columbus. Have you had a chance to explore the city already?
A: First, I have to give thanks to God Almighty for bringing me here safely. So far, it’s been great. It’s been good. I just got in the city yesterday [Tuesday] night and I think everything has been nice. I’ve seen a couple people; they are nice people, I must say.
What was your first impression of Columbus?
What I heard was they love football. For me, I want to enjoy the place I’m here and then hope for the best, because it’s not easy to get such an opportunity. I just love the place and everybody has been nice to me since I’ve been here.
What are you looking forward to most about playing for Crew SC?
I just hope I’ll be able to adapt to the system of the team and then make sure I will do my best for the club, even though it’s a short time. But for me, I believe in myself and I know I can do it. Even though it’s a big challenge for me, I believe I can do well for the club.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a soccer player?
My biggest strength is to attack. That is what the coach told me about his system. The first time, when he spoke to me on the phone, [he said] that is what he used to play. This system is what he used to play and I said, ‘Oh that is my style.’ So I think I will be very happy here and I will be able to adapt.
What inspired you to come to Columbus?
What inspired me, I think I have to give all the credit to a former Black Stars defender. He was the one who made the move. I learned he played with the coach [Berhalter] before, and they talked about me, and then he showed coach some clips and he was also interested. For me, I’m just happy to be here, and I want to enjoy the play time here.
What are your thoughts on playing for Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter?
I don’t know him in person, but when I just met him today, I must confess he’s a good guy. For me, in football, you just have to have that coach-and-player relationship to be happy and then you deliver on the field of play. And you, as a player, you need to listen to what the coach wants you to do on and off the pitch. So, I’m that type of player who will listen to advice a lot, and I’m ready to deliver for the club.
How much do you know about Major League Soccer?
I don’t really know a lot about MLS, the League, but what I know is, a lot of names are coming in here. I know they are improving the game, so I think in the future, it will be great.
You have a lot of experience both on the club and international level. How do you think your experience will help you adjust to MLS?
I always say one thing to myself. I already have the talent, so if you have the talent, you need to work. You need to work more. This is a great challenge I have taken in. I need to work a lot to get to my standard. And there is a saying: to be at the top is easy, but to maintain it is very difficult. So, I’m just hoping I’ll maintain my performance.
You have won multiple championships on the club level. How do you think this will translate into playing for Crew SC?
It’s a great challenge I have taken in, and I am ready to deliver for the club. It’s a short time being here, but I believe in God and I believe in myself because I’m always a winner. I always want to win and I always want to fight. I like challenges because when you challenge with somebody, it makes you grow on a higher level for you to be at the top. I’m very happy to be here and I hope I will do well.
What is your nickname?
I have a lot of nicknames, but I have chosen one at the moment, which I am using on my social account, which is ‘The King Harrison.’
Do you think your new teammate will call you “The King?”
Why not? A king is always a winner. He’s always at the top. I’m not saying this to boost or something, but I’m the kind of person who always wants to be at the top, so that is why I chose the name ‘King.’
What do you like to do outside of soccer?
For me, I just want to help the needy. When God blessed me with something, I always want to give it out to the needy. I want to be an advisor, to advise people when they are going on the wrong path. Because I’m the kind of a person who will listen to advice, or if I listen to advice and take it, I have to share it with my friends, and my loved ones.
What player did you emulate growing up?
I would say Philipp Lahm. I really looked up to him because I met him in the World Cup. I was watching him on TV before I even met him in the World Cup. I was very happy to meet such a player because I always said to myself, ‘he’s my role model. I’ve got his style he’s playing.’ He can play on the right back or the left back or the midfield, and he’s talented, even though he’s not that big. But he has the God-gifted talent. I also think I’m blessed with that and I really looked up to him.
Are you looking forward to meeting Crew SC supporters for the first time?
I love to play when the supporters are around. When you play and you see the supporters, it makes you want to like kill yourself for the club. Sometimes it’s very difficult for a supporter to even get money to buy a ticket to come and cheer you on. So, for me, when I see a supporter dying for the club, I also want to give it back to him or her.
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