From West Africa to the Big Apple
The capture of Ebenezer Ofori from Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart undoubtedly adds some extra quality, depth and vital experience to the New York City FC squad.
Growing up as one of five siblings, Ofori began his footballing journey playing barefoot football on the streets of his hometown in Kumasi, Ghana, where his talent quickly became recognizable. By the age of 15, a move to Glory FC beckoned, but courtesy of his quality, he subsequently made the step up to Ghanaian first division outfit New Edubiase United FC in 2012.
It didn’t take long for him to stamp his mark at the senior level, however, with the powerful, stocky prospect quickly impressing. While earning a call-up to the national U20 team was a fine reward for his exertions, a team he’d later help to a remarkable third-place finish in the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup, a dream move to Europe complimented the aforementioned achievement beautifully.
Having caught the eye of Swedish Allsvenskan side, AIK Solna, they rapidly snapped him up on a three-and-a-half year deal. Shortly after completing his transfer, Ofori was handed a fairytale debut against none other than Manchester United in a friendly, playing an invaluable 77 minutes.
Following an expected period of adjustment to life in Stockholm, the versatile Ofori, who’s capable of operating as a fullback or in central midfield, began to show his class. By 2014 he’d evolved into an instrumental figure for the club, appearing 23 times for the first-team. Running out 27 times for AIK in the following two league seasons, he cemented his reputation as one of the premier midfielders in the division, something that was illustrated by him winning the 2015 award for the midfielder of the year.
Unsurprisingly, courtesy of his fearless, authoritative displays, he’d attracted the attention of clubs from some of the continent’s bigger leagues. Stuttgart, a highly renowned German club, who were in the 2. Bundesliga at the time got in first and secured his services in January 2017 for a reported fee of just €1.5 million. So after roughly three-and-a-half years, in a period where he made 101 appearances, scored five goals and supplied 15 assists for AIK, he was off to Germany.
“In Ebenezer Ofori, we have secured the services of a young player, who has the potential to develop further, has already broken into the Ghanaian national team and gathered experience in European football in Solna,” gleamed Stuttgart sporting director, Jan Schindelmeiser, to the club’s website.
“He is an agile, industrious and gifted left-footer, who we have had an eye on for quite some time. Ebenezer can play in a number of midfield positions, or at left-back, which is a combination which was very important for us in our assessment of the player.”
Competing with Ghana at the African Cup of Nations when he signed, where he made his senior bow for the Black Stars, meant he was forced to wait till he could link up with his new employer. As a consequence, he missed the vital winter break training regime with his teammates, seeing him return underdone and not as well off physically as his colleagues, leaving him behind the eight ball to start off.
Once up to speed, though, the diminutive 172 cm destroyer played a key role in ensuring his team gained promotion to the Bundesliga. Featuring nine times in the run home, including eight starts, Ofori’s composed showings saw him quickly endear himself to manager Hannes Wolf, as he ended the season in perfect style by becoming a 2. Bundesliga champion.
Ofori’s accomplished start to life at Stuttgart wouldn’t continue into the 2017/2018 campaign, unfortunately, with competition for places extremely fierce, thus curtailing his capacity to have an impact. Facing off with the likes of Christian Gentner, Santiago Ascacibar, Dzenis Burnic and Orel Mangala, he only managed nine minutes of Bundesliga action and one DFB Pokal outing in the Reds’ win over Energie Cottbus.
Aware of his current situation, New York City shrewdly pounced, bringing Ofori across on an initial loan deal containing an option to buy come season’s end. Stuttgart sporting executive Michael Reschke’s farewell summed up what a respected figure he was during his time at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, saying: “He’s an exemplary professional with an immaculate attitude. But in the end, he failed to win a place on the team against the big competition. In such cases, it’s better for everyone involved to look for a new club where the player has better chances to win minutes.”
Stuttgart’s loss should work out to be NYCFC’s gain, however, something Patrick Vieira duly noted when speaking about his new acquisition. “I’m really excited to bring in Ebenezer – he’s a young player who is looking to improve, he is really dynamic and can cover ground. He’s really aggressive but he’s good with the ball too. I’m really pleased that we managed to bring him to the football club.
“He’s a competitor, he’s a guy who likes to win, he’s a strong character. He’s coming to this club to compete with the midfielders we have and, like I always say, that will bring the best out of all of the players we have at this football club.”
An equally delighted Ofori mentioned what a thrill it is to be embarking on this next chapter of his career with such an exciting and ambitious team. Adept at adapting to new and unfamiliar surroundings, it’ll be expected the well-traveled 22-year-old will hit the ground running and provide immediate and immense competition for a starting spot.
Excelling on the defensive end, he possesses a fine positional sense and reads the play smartly, allowing him to situate himself ideally to deal with whatever scenario he’s confronted with. He then supplements this with his astute judgment, that sees him usually pick the right moments to step up and apply pressure, hold his post or support a colleague. A tough tackler, with a fierce determination and intensity to match, the Ghanaian international certainly makes up for his lack of size with his fearless yet considered approach. Indeed, upon settling in he’ll give the Blues’ stopping efforts plenty of stability, security, and solidity.
Meanwhile, on the attacking side, the technically proficient Ofori is a tidy passer, who uses his solid range of passing to connect, construct and occasionally decisively animate his team’s work in possession. Another striking weapon in his armory comes in the form of his dribbling, where his low center of gravity and imposing strength, in combination with his rapid changes of pace and direction, ensure he’s extremely difficult to outmuscle and mark with the ball at his feet.
Undertaking his work with tremendous power, intelligence and spirit, there’s no doubting Ofori will relish working under Vieira’s tutelage and give NYCFC some additional quality on both sides of the ball.
Now in New York and assimilating himself with his new environment, this next adventure in his fascinating career looks a superb fit for the multifaceted Ofori, who should be hugely proud of how much he’s already accomplished in the beautiful game so far.
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