MEN'S SOCCER: Nana Chases The Moon
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
As the 5-foot-9, 145-pound, Mohawk-sporting forward steps onto the pitch, chants of “Nana, Nana, Nana, Nana, hey, hey, hey, goodbye” fill the home fan section of the Newton Soccer Field. They are referencing freshman Derrick “Nana” Boateng, a native of Ghana and one of Boston College soccer’s brightest young stars. While Boateng appears to have all the confidence in the world while making moves around the pitch, a deeper look into his life reveals a journey of hard work, sacrifice, and a promise made to a loved one.
Growing up in Ghana, Africa, Boateng was not born into wealth. He realized that there were not many options for him to overcome this poverty and help his family. One of the few ways he could make a difference was through soccer.
“Soccer is Ghana’s favorite game,” he said. “For some, school was the only way to get out of the poverty, and for others soccer was the only way. I used soccer as my motivation to leave the poverty.”
Boateng recalled a promise he made to his grandmother. This promise, though made when Boateng was a young boy, has been the catalyst behind his rise to BC, as well as his continued dedication to working hard all his life. He begged his grandmother to buy him a jersey, and in return he would work his hardest to have success for them and wear that jersey for real when he was older. The jersey was that of the Ghanaian national team.
“I wanted to come to the United States to leave the poverty, but it was mostly to fulfill that promise,” he said.
Despite his youth, Boateng is very conscious of his background, where he comes from, and what it takes to take advantage of the opportunities in front of him.
“If you are born on top of a mountain, it is very easy to touch the sky,” he said. “But if you are not, it is very difficult to see the brightness of the moon. You have to work hard to climb up to the top. None of us get to where we are on our own because I believe that in life there is no such thing as a self-made person.
“Our parents and our grandmom made sure that we were taken care of. I was not born at the top of the mountain, so it was very hard to see the brightness of the moon. However, I think that everything you put your mind into in life and you believe in and you work hard towards and speak positively about in your future, positive things will happen for you. That is what I believe.”
Boateng credits his successes to his grandmother, as well as the promise he made to her. The young forward does not see his performance as a result of his athletic abilities, but rather the installment of hard work given to him by his family and God.
In 2008, after being selected to play for the Ghanaian Youth National Team, Boateng came over to America, driven by his talents on the local circuit. He played for the New England Futbol Club for three seasons in which he was under the advisement of BC head coach Ed Kelly for some time. Kelly kept an eye on the young star, and ultimately stuck by him during the college recruitment period, something that Boateng will never forget.
“Coach is like a god to me,” Boateng said. “He gave me this opportunity, and I appreciate it so much. I will do anything Coach asks me because he believes in me and he has given me this chance.”
Beginning in 2011, Boateng joined the FC Greater Boston Bolts Academy. He continued playing soccer constantly, trying to make sure that his promise would be made certain. He captained his high school squad at South High Community School in Worcester, Mass., where he was the team’s leading scorer from 2009-2011. He was named an All-Central Mass. and All-State player in 2009 and 2010, and named the 15th best player in TopDrawSoccer.com’s New England’s Top 20.
Kelly gave his former player a shot to play on his ACC-contending squad, realizing the potential of the Ghanaian recruit. College soccer would be a definite adjustment for Boateng, but Kelly gave him a chance. For the freshman, it was the greatest thing that could have happened.
“It is something that I will never trade,” he said. “It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me because whoever knew who I was growing up wouldn’t ever believe that I would get to where I am today. To be at one of the best schools in the world and playing for a Division I school, I am closer [to my goals] than people would think. If tomorrow never comes and I have come this far, it is still a dream come true. It’s that promise. Getting here makes me proud of myself and my grandmom, because not everybody has this advantage and this opportunity to be here.”
Although the early-going has been an adjustment for Boateng, he is maintaining his common attitude of calm in adversity. No matter the challenge, he realizes that there are always worse situations. As with most things, he credits his successes to those around him.