While Ghana’s decision to send a second-string squad to play Uzbekistan in a away friendly match in March may have raised some eyebrows given the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the match proved worthwhile in launching the senior international career of one of the best young talents on the continent of Africa.
Abdul Fatawu Issahaku certainly marked the occasion of his first Black Stars appearance—albeit for Ghana’s ‘B’ team—in a fashion that perfectly demonstrated the confidence, swagger and panache with which his emergence has been typified.
Issahaku had previously drawn parallels with fellow Tamale native and Ghana great Abedi Pele before his assured debut, and had already bewitched the hosts’ defenders with his movement and dribbling skills before – in the 71st minute – taking responsibility for a free-kick, 35 yards from goal, as Ghana sought an equaliser.
It would have been a perfect position for a right-footed in-swinger, but the precocious Issahaku had other ideas.
After a deep breath, he began his run-up and duly slammed home a remarkable effort with the outside of his left foot.
The Uzbek keeper ought to have done better, but a combination of Issahaku’s audacity and the thunderous power of the shot proved too much for the hapless shot-stopper.
This, if you believe the local buzz, is a sign of things to come from the prodigy, who also clinched the Player of the Tournament award as a 16-year-old as Ghana claimed the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania earlier this year, announcing himself to a continental audience.
Previous winners of the award include Benni McCarthy and new Leicester City signing Patson Daka, so while Issahaku must avoid the many pitfalls and obstacles that can befall the game’s brightest wonderkids, it is certainly an encouraging start to his career.
As highlighted in the Uzbekistan game, he also excels with shots from range, and having scored sensational efforts from just inside the opposition half during his club career; he repeated the feat at the U20 Afcon by netting from near the halfway line against Tanzania.
These were not simply strikes from range, they were audacious attempts by a player who is harnessing his explosive abilities at a startlingly young age.
“His performances are magical,” Mohammed Gargo, head coach of Issahaku’s current club Steadfast FC, tells Goal. “It’s been a long while since I have seen a youngster with this talent.
“The goal [against Uzbekistan] was exceptional, and we were expecting that someone like him should do even better.”
Issahaku has been with Steadfast since 2019, when he was spotted by the club playing in an U13s tournament while at the Tamale Utrecht academy in the Northern Region.
Even then, the fleet-footed forward was head and shoulders above his peers, top scoring in the competition with 13 goals.