Former Ghana International Joe Addo has celebrated two of Ghana‘s past presidents for their key role in getting him to pursue his tertiary education in the US, during a period when combining football and school was rare in Ghana.
“It was far from easy. I went to school because of my parents. For them, football wasn’t a career for them so we wanted to become doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers and all.
My parents raised six of us (five boys and a girl) and wanted us to be better persons than they were. They were farmers who came from our village to Tema and wanted us to get a good education. Football wasn’t part of it. When I was growing up Football was for the vagabonds now the rich people’s kids play football.
So my parents wanted me to go to school and I was in a big dilemma so I said to myself let me go to school for my parents and play football for me,” Joe Addo recounted in an interview with Nathaniel Attoh on Joy Sports Link.
Joe Addo, who read General Science at the Tema Senior High School and had interests in business subjects as well. He also revealed that his parents only allowed him to play football on condition his grades we extra good.
“I had to be first or second. If I did any less I will be prevented from playing football. So I worked hard but it also made me smart,” he said.
Addo who played for Ghana between 1990 and 2000, pursued his degree in business under a fully paid scholarship at the George Mason University in Virginia, USA.
According to the former Hearts of Oak defender, President John Evans Atta Mills of blessed memory and President John Agyekum Kufuor who were good friends of his heavily influenced his decision to continue his education to the tertiary level.
“I was introduced to the SAT (scholastic aptitude test) examination by a friend. I wrote the exam for fun and hardly saw its importance.
I actually gave a fake address, because I didn’t take it serious. That’s the extent of my naivety rating of his important the exam is,” he said.
According to Joe Addo, he passed and showed his results to his friend who was astonished at the scores. This friend then opened Joe’s eyes to the fact that the exam scores could get him a big scholarship to study in the USA.
“I wrote the SAT exam again, this time I gave my real address and eventually got bigger results than the first one. This led to scholarships from quite a number of Universities.”
This left the defender spoilt for choice yet indifferent about whether or not to go ahead with it.
He further revealed during the interview that he consulted the late President Atta Mills, who was then in charge of Ghana’s Internal Revenue Service.
“Prof Mills gave me my first job by the way. He did not waste any time. He immediately asked me to go to school because it was good,” Joe Addo revealed.
Thinking he needed a second opinion, he consulted two more close friends; one of them was President Kufuor who had then completed his stint as the chairman of Ghana’s Premier League giants Asante Kotoko.
“We laughed, talked and I told him what was happening with me. President Kufuor then jokingly asked if I won’t play in Hearts versus Kotoko encounters anymore?. He then encouraged me to go ahead, paid for my ticket and gave me pocket money as well.
At the time I hardly imagined he would one day become the president of Ghana. I am very grateful to him and President, Mills for their wise counsel and support. They told me that after school I would have a lot of time to play football.”
So Joe travelled to school in the US with pocket money due to the kind gesture by the man who was to assume the Presidency of Ghana years later.
“Most of the Ghanaian guys in school in the US did not have anything but I had money because of what President Kufuor did for me. Prof. Mills also gave me money. So I thought to myself I could become prominent like they were at the time”
“I have never regretted the decision to do my tertiary education. I do admit that it affected my further rise in the Black Stars because obviously I was a good player and could have ended up becoming Ghana’s most capped player because I started playing the national team at age 19.”
Based on his experience, Joe Addo advises young players in Ghana to combine sport with education.
“It’s not an easy task but will eventually pay off. Ghana is yet to synchronize with the system in other countries where sport is developed through the school system,” he added.
Joe Addo is currently based in the United States with his family and runs an export business. He has also been influential in the movement of some Ghanaian players to the Major League Soccer (MLS) where he once played.
Notable amongst them are current Columbus Crew Skipper Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful.
Joe Addo earned 44 caps for Ghana over a 10 year period and also played for all of Ghana’s other national teams and featured on big stages including the Africa Cup of Nations and the Olympic Games.