The Ghanaian forward also opened up about his personal life.

It isn’t easy to have a goal in life when you’re in Africa, and most people you know are part of the Armed Forces. Likewise, Chennaiyin FC’s Ghanaian striker Kwame Karikari initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and join the military.However, football ended up being his life changer by chance. Just like any other kid trying to make it big in Africa, Karikari also had his struggles early on.

“As a kid, I never thought I’d be a professional footballer. My dad was in the military, and I wanted to be like him,” said Karikari.

“I was into sports in high school. Then I started having a change of mind for my own good. I kind of thought about becoming a football player because people around me spoke about how I play well,” he added.

Plenty of chances but no finished product

Fortunately for him, his game was noticed by the International Allies FC, who signed him up to their Academy in 2009. He trained with the IAFC youth team in the Greater Accra Region and went on to play for the Ghana U-20 side as well.

Kwame Karikari during Chennaiyin FC’s training sessions. (Courtesy: CFC Media)

He was promoted to the senior side within months and eventually scouted by Swedish club AIK Solna in 2011. That was the turning point in young Kwame’s life.

“It’s tough in Africa when you’re young. But fortunately, I had the chance to be in an academy, and we got some scouts who come every time to see players. They scouted me and took me to Sweden. And from there, my career started, playing in different countries.”

Leaving his nation wasn’t easy for Karikari as his parents’ marriage life was going through a rough patch. Keeping this in mind, he also had to adapt to life in an unknown environment. But his teammates and coaching staff at AIK were welcoming. During his time there, the 30-year-old attacker also stayed with a Swedish family, to whom he’s extremely grateful to date.

“It was more difficult for me because when I was leaving Ghana, my mom and dad split up, and I was pretty young. But when I travelled to Sweden, the club gave me a new family that took care of me. It was not the same as my family, but I still felt at home. They helped me with everything. They took me out and taught me how to use the card and everything. I’m still in touch with them,” he claimed.

Karikari has plied his trade in several other countries like Turkey, Qatar, Norway, Georgia and most recently Thailand before moving to India. He has experienced quite a few highs and lows through this journey, including the hard-fought 2019 Georgian top-tier – Erovnuli Liga – triumph with Dinamo Tbilisi.

Can Kwame Karikari solve Chennaiyin FC’s goalscoring issues? : Read here

According to him, the love and affection he received from fans when playing for Turkish club Balıkesirspor in the 2013/14 season, which saw the team promoted to the Super Lig, was one of the most memorable moments in his life.

“When I played in Turkey, a lot of people there weren’t used to foreign players, especially black people. One of my friends and I were the two new black players in the city. And for them, it was something special. Finally, we won a promotion for them. This is something I’ll never forget.”

He also expressed his delight about featuring in an elite European competition with AIK a year prior.

“Playing in the Europa League was great too. I played against CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven and Napoli. It was very good to play against big players like Edinson Cavani. All those experiences helped me become a better player,” he rejoiced.

With less than a week to go for CFC’s opening ISL 2022-23 fixture against ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, Karikari opened up on his team’s chances this season.

“Durand Cup was good. We had some time to play (with each other) and to feel good with the new guys, and I was very satisfied. We have a new coach and some new players also. It takes time to get everyone in order.

“We are training hard. On the pitch, we have to be at our best. In the ISL, other teams are also very good. You have to be mentally strong. You have to prepare for every challenge. Every time we play, we have to give at least 120-150%. It’s not going to be easy. But I think we can achieve our targets together this season,” he said.

Kwame Karikari is coming into the season on the back of a successful campaign with Thai club Nakhonratchasima Mazda FC, where he bagged 17 goals in all competitions. He opened his account for Chennaiyin in the Durand Cup via a penalty against TRAU FC.

However, his stunning long-ranger against Odisha FC in a friendly last weekend showed CFC faithful what can be expected of him this season.

“A striker must always score. I love to score, and I’ll be working hard every time I’m on the field. I will take my chances and try to make a difference. When you’re on the pitch, you just have to give everything you can for the team. Whether it ends good or bad, you just keep going,” he signed off.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and join our community on Telegram.