In the mid and late 1980s, football fanatics of the West African nation of Ghana trooped always into the various stadia in the former British Colony just to watch an amazing African Legend on the green turf who later also produced fantastic footballers as children. This legend’s name is still the most mentioned when you speak with most football lovers who grew up around the late 80s and early 90s in Ghana, all because of what he achieved personally on the pitch and the influence and impact he has made in Ghanaian football history.
Abedi Pele’s rise to fame began in his native country as he was playing for one of the most respected teams at the time. Real Tamale United (RTU) was the club at the time where almost all players who hailed from the northern parts of Ghana one way or the other got involved with, Abedi Ayew went on to become one of Africa’s greatest players on the world stage as he is still revered today among many football sympathizers in the world especially in Africa and Europe.
Unfortunately for the technical carbon-copy of the great legend, this young one didn’t have the opportunity to taste the warm reception of the Kalanda Park in Tamale where Abedi Pele played most of his home games whiles playing locally for RTU, because, he took a different path for his development as a professional footballer which is the academy system. He was born in Bolgatanga, a smaller city in Ghana which serves as the capital of the Upper East Region and lies at the north-eastern part of Ghana but exactly 41.5 kilometers from Paga the hometown of the Legend Abedi Ayew Pele.
The young Ghanaian player whom many German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 teams feared, bears almost the same qualities of the legendary Abedi Pele and these words are direct quotations from old Ghanaian football fans both home and abroad who happened to see the three (3) times African Footballer of Year whiles he was playing for Olympic Marseille and the Black Stars. Quote from one Ghanaian football fan who lives in Berlin told author of this article, “See, whenever I am watching David Atanga play for Furth, he just reminds me of Abedi Pele, he has almost everything of him and that’s refreshing to see a modern Ghanaian player bring back the memories of the legend on German soil”. Another quote from a 70-year old former civil engineer who lives in Accra but visited his children in Austria in June said, “ This is the modern-day Abedi Pele”, after watching Atanga play for St. Polten in the Austrian Bundesliga last season and these comments are not surprising to me because this is how he is called back home in Bolgatang, ‘Abedi’.
Atanga started his playing career at a tender age and was recruited by Red Bull Ghana, a sub-company of Red Bull Salzburg based in Austria. He later moved from Red Bull Ghana to Salzburg with two others because of his qualities as a footballer and the ability to adapt to new teachings and techniques. He was given the opportunity to join the Red Bull Salzburg team but couldn’t sign a professional contract because he was not 18 yet, hence he joined the farm team for Salzburg, FC Liefering but got opportunities to train and play some training games with the first team which then had Liverpool and Senegal’s captain Sadio Mane. He later joined the team A after celebrating his eighteenth birthday.
David then began to show the qualities he had as a player in training and gradually became part of the core team that won the 2015/2016 Austria Tipico Bundesliga for Red Bull Salzburg which included Liverpool and Guinea’s playmaker Naby Keita. During that period, he has featured for the Black Satellites, the national U-20 male team for Ghana at the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup in New Zealand where they existed in the second round after losing to distance neighbors Mali.
To not exaggerate the qualities of David Atanga as a player and for the young ones who have not had the opportunity to watch Abedi Pele, just picture a more determined former Manchester City player Robinho and Juventus winger Douglas Costa combined, with a higher ability to also defend when the team is under pressure and tactically discipline when he doesn’t have the ball. This is the kind of player one will get as a manager or a team if you manage to get the signature of the Ghanaian player who will turn 22 on the 25th December 2019 (Christmas Day).
Before David joined his current team Greuther Furth on loan in the German Bundesliga 2, he had made a strong statement with his talent on the pitch where ever he has been over the past few years in his career as a footballer. From FC Liefering, Salzburg, St.Polten, FC Heidenheim, Mattersburg including the Ghana national Under-17 and Under-20 teams.
Statistically, the 22-year old has done very well in terms of contributions to goals, creating chances, assists and goals scored. He is that kind of player that when you have in your team, the opponent’s defenders find it very difficult especially when the round leather is literally glued to his feet and in the middle of the park or when he takes off from the wings on both sides of the pitch, he is very difficult to catch unless he is fouled.
Atanga at 22, should be walking onto the pitch on Champions League matchday or Europa League game day or probably be playing for one of the top six teams in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and England, considering the kind of qualities he possessed as a player and the kind of impact he adds to the game whenever he wears a kit to play, whether training session or official match.
As I conclude this short piece on Atanga David Doona, my hope and believe is that, the managers of the top six teams across the countries I mentioned in the previous paragraph will give this little African gem a look-in as Olympic Marseille did for the legend Abedi Ayew Pele to explore the full potential of this talent from Bolgatanga.