Friday May 01, 2020. 09:00
With top-level football ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus epidemic, we look back at a legend of yesteryear. This week’s spotlight falls on Ghana’s Samuel Kuffour.
What’s his origin story?
Born Samuel Osei Kuffour on 3 September 1976 in Kumasi, Ghana, the defender came through the youth ranks at local clubs Fantomas and King Faisal before being whisked away to Europe in 1991 – aged just 15 – by Italian side Torino.
Kuffour’s club career saw him join Bayern Munich in 1993 when he was still a teenager. The Bavarian giants knew they had signed a rough diamond and sent the Ghanaian defender away on loan at Nurnberg in 1995-96, after which he made his breakthrough with ‘FC Hollywood’ and became a regular for the Bundesliga giants.
Kuffour enjoyed a superb spell with Bayern which saw him make the better part of 300 appearances across all competitions from 1994 to 2005. He is remembered in particular for his pitch-pounding frustration and unabashed tears after Bayern lost the 1999 UEFA Champions League final to Manchester United, but he and the club earned redemption two years later when they defeated Valencia on penalties to finally lift the trophy. Kuffour was also named African Footballer of the Year in 2001.
That Champions League was added to six Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokals, two DFB Ligapokals and the 2001 Intercontinental Cup (the equivalent of the Club World Cup today) as Kuffour’s haul of silverware from his time with Bayern, which ended in mid-2005 when he went back to Italy, signing a three-year deal with Roma.
By this time, Kuffour’s career had already peaked and he found relatively little success with the Giallorossi – who sent him out on loan to Livorno and Ajax – before hanging up his boots after a spell back home in Ghana with Asante Kotoko in 2009.
The rugged defender was part of Ghana’s triumphant U-17 World Cup winners in 1991 as well as their Bronze medal-winning team from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. A year later he made his senior debut, aged just 17, in a match against Sierra Leone.
Kuffour would go on to make over 50 appearances for the Black Stars, and was a squad member at four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments (1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006) as well as the 2006 World Cup – Ghana’s debut at the global showpiece.
“I have never even watched the game [the 1999 Champions League final], I don’t want to see it. If it is on TV, my friends will call me and say, ‘Hey, they are showing your game.’ I say to them that I don’t want to watch it. It still gives me pain. I need to let it go but I’m still holding it in my heart. It’s very difficult and I don’t want to watch it.”
Anything else to add?
In February 2015, as part of a bet with fellow SuperSport presenters, Kuffour had his head shaved live on air after his prediction that Ghana would win the Africa Cup of Nations that year failed to materialise.
Check out this profile of Kuffour, courtesy of Bayern Munich’s official YouTube channel: