The time has come for Thomas Partey to open up to what has been a very difficult rise to the top.
The 23-year-old midfielder is just coming off a breakthrough season with Atletico Madrid, where he was a trump card for Diego Simeone both in the League and in the UEFA Champions League.
The Ghanaian speaks to Citi Sports’ Rahman Osman on how life has taken him from Krobo Odumase to the greener pitches of Madrid where the right to wear the striped jersey of his club is earned through hard work and determination.
Rahman: Hi Thomas
Rahman: These days you are a big star in Ghana but did you grow up in Krobo Odumase or you grew up in Ashaiman?
Partey: I grew up in Krobo Odumase where I started playing from U-10 before later moving to Ashaiman where I played till U-17 and later joined Tema Youth. I must add that my juvenile coach died recently.
Rahman: The story for those who are familiar with you is that your dad had a club. Is that really true and did you play for that club?
Partey: (Laughing) Yes. That is the club we call Krobo Youth and I played there when I was ten before moving to Ashaiman.
Rahman: So how did you respond to instructions from your dad. Did you call him daddy or coach?
Partey: Laughing I use to respond to him as daddy and other player responded to him as coach.
Rahman: How many are you in the family?
Partey: Well with the same mother and father we are five and I am the oldest but I must say my mum had three children before meeting with my dad.
Rahman: Were you the only one who decided to play football?
Partey: No my dad likes football so we all played football some did not get to the high level and some are still coming so it’s like a family of football because even my sisters play football these days but off course not the highest level.
Rahman: So how was growing up like? I ask because some footballers really had to go through hardship and had to forgo schooling to chase their footballing dreams. Was that the same for you?
Partey: For me I was schooling because my father wanted me to be schooling and also play football. In fact my dad use to keep reminding me that the book was also important so I was in school till I got the chance to play at the highest level
Rahman: Which sort of home did you come from? Could your father provide three square meals?
Partey: Yes. As for food, I think my father made sure that we always had something to eat in the house.
Rahman: Let’s move it on. How did you get the opportunity to travel to Europe from Tema Youth?
Partey: This is a long one but in a few words, from Krobo Odumase to my colt club in Ashaiman, I played a justifier for Tema Youth and I was picked. At Tema Youth I met players like Derick Mensah, Jeremy Akofo and our general called Charles Akonfo.
I helped Tema Youth, then in Division One, to qualify for the Premier but could not play because the chance came to go to Europe.
Rahman: Since you mentioned Europe how did you make that jump making it from Tema Youth to Europe?
Partey: Yeah so when I was at Tema Youth there was a man called Alex working near a hotel where we trained. So my agent now came to sleep in his hotel and I think Alex liked me so he mentioned me to him. He then started also looking out for me without me knowing.
So one day I was going to take money from my dad when the white man approached me and spoke to me and that is how everything started.
Rahman: So when your father found out that the white man wanted to take you to Spain what did he say?
Partey: Well he did not say this to me but I heard him tell his friend that he had to sell some of his stuff to get me clothes to travel
Rahman: Ok. So now you arrived in Europe. How was your first day in Europe like?
Partey: (Laughing) The first day was very cold trust me and let’s say we got there around 5:00pm and had training around 6:00pm but I ensured I did well.
But that was enough. I played justifiers for about a month at Atletico Madrid C. I then moved to the B team where I met Oliver Torres and Saul Niguez. I played with them and I went to Mallorca and then to Almeria all on loan before coming back for my first season with the first team.
Rahman: After pre-season, how did you feel when you were told you were not going on loan again and that you were going to be part of the first team?
Partey: To be frank, I really felt great because that was what I had been working for since I arrived in Spain. Atletico Madrid is a competitive team where everybody wants to play so I was happy I had been given the opportunity to finally work hard.
Rahman: What is your relationship with Diego Simeone, a man almost every player wants to work with ?
Partey: Laughing he is a good coach and I have a good relationship because he knew from the juvenile team and always asked us to train with the first team so yeah we have a good relationship.
Rahman: Do you have a personal relationship with the coach?
Partey: Yes. In fact, he keeps telling that I have the talent and if I work hard I will give myself the opportunity to become one of the best in the world.
Rahman: I am not trying to remind of your pain but when you were being introduced in the Champions League final, Felipe Luis got injured. Did you feel your chance had gone?
Partey: No. I was really worried because I am close to Felipe and whenever I am playing he gives me the pass so I was really worried for him. Also, I was concerned because we needed him to be on the pitch because he was one of our best players.
Rahman: Again, how did you feel when Ronaldo scored his penalty to win the Champions League at your team’s expense?
Partey: First, I was sad but after I picked myself up and released that it was not the end of football and that there was a lot to still come.
Rahman: You made your debut against Mauritius but how did you feel when you were told you had a call up?
Partey: I was really happy because for me it was a dream come true especially when I came for the U-20 some few years ago and did not travel with the team I don’t know why but I was really happy to be back.
Rahman: How did your team mates receive you in the national team?
Partey: They received me great I must say maybe because I knew some of them already and because most of them play in Europe. It was very easy for me.
Rahman: Were you made to do the customary initiation dance for a new comer in the national team?
Partey: Yeah. They made me dance when we were coming back from Mauritius on the flight. It was really nothing big but I did my best.
Rahman: I have to let you go but will you move to a club where you will play regular football or you will fight for place at Atletico?
Partey: For now I am going to be at Atletico Madrid and fight for my position in the team.
Rahman: Any final words?
Partey: I just want to tell everyone that they should believe in themselves and let’s allow God to lead.