It may vary from country to country, but there is a strange hierarchy of positions, and in Ghana, a particular emphasis is placed on the centre of midfield is seen as the place to be for the most exceptional players to leave their imprint on the game. Majeed Ashimeru, 26-year-old midfielder for Anderlecht, was born in Maamobi and started his football career playing for the youth team of Strong Tower FC in Ghana, where he shared the field with none other than Mohammed Kudus, who now dons to colours of West Ham. Their early collaboration forms a compelling chapter in the narrative of Ghanaian football talent.
After spending some years plying his trade in Strong Towers’ academy, he then had the opportunity to join West African Football Academy (WAFA) at Sogakope in the Volta region. “It wasn’t easy growing up from Maamobi a slum, I was not from a wealthy home and there were ups and down with the family,” Ashimeru recalls. “My father was trying so hard to bring something to the table but my mother sacrificed a lot just to support my football career.”
His move to West Africa Football academy was a massive step for him towards his dream of forging a career in football. He started through the ranks of under-12’s and quickly caught the attention of scouts and academy coaches, leading him through the ranks and eventually into the senior side playing in the Ghanaian Premier League.
He was with WAFA from 2009 to 2017 but played for just two seasons for the first team in the Ghana Premier League. In WAFA’s famous victory against Ghanaian giant, Accra Hearts of Oak in June of 2017, the midfield dynamo was the main man in that game, tormenting defenders, breaking up play and crucially scoring the opener in the game. As a result of his good performance in the Ghana Premier League, most clubs in mainstream Europe showed strong interest in the midfield prodigy.
“It was really a good experience, and it shaped my career really well,” Majeed said about his time playing in the Ghana Premier League.
His brain perhaps is his greatest asset. Watching him closely, one will notice that Majeed rarely makes the wrong decision with and without the ball. He knows where and when to run to complement the movement of his attacking teammates. When in possession, he often makes the right pass or dribble. Where many are quick to make a rash decision, he is patient; his calmness perhaps contributes to his ability to pick out passes that few could imagine.
On 30th August 2017, the young sensation from Ghana joined Austrian club RB Salzburg and became the sixth Ghanaian player to play for the Austrian club. It was a new environment and Ashimeru was sent out on loan three times by RB Salzburg before breaking through as a starter. Most notably, his spell on loan at Swiss Super League club St. Gallen is where he caught the eye. His four goals and eight assists from central midfielder in St. Gallen’s attacking 4-4-2 diamond provoked a reaction from Red Bull Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch, who made Ashimeru a big part of his plans going into the 2019/20 season.
Fans recall the Salzburg of that season as the illuminating, fearless attacking side that propelled Erling Haaland’s career forward and showcased the dynamic talent of Takumi Minamino and Dominik Szoboszlai. Ironically, the zenith of their superb performances was perhaps in defeat. Salzburg fell to a 4-3 defeat away to Liverpool in the Champions League and, notably, this came during Liverpool’s peak under Jurgen Klopp where the Reds’ were in the midst of a four-year unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League.
“The atmosphere was crazy at Anfield and I didn’t believe it was me, from Maamobi to making my Champions league in a historical venue, I grew up watching Champions League on TV and I’m glad I’ve had a feel of it, it is a dream come true,” Majeed commented after his Champions League debut.
At the Austrian club, he secured a league and cup double in 2020. Despite this success though, a consistent spot in the Ghana national team has always alluded Ashimeru. He missed out at the shot of appearing in The Black Stars’ short but spirited run in the 2022 World Cup but for many Ghanaian fans, his exclusion is often a source of disapproval. Asamoah Gyan, the country’s all-time top scorer, recently took to his socials to say “Majeed Ashimeru is the best midfielder in Ghana after Arsenal star, Thomas Partey.”
Since joining Belgian giants Anderlecht in July 2021, he has impressed in the Jupiler Pro League and showcased his skills. He made a total of 39 appearances across all competitions in 2021/22 as Vincent Kompany’s side finished third. In the 2022/23 campaign, Ashimeru averaged the highest pass completion among all central midfielders in the league, with 87.7% and he in the 91st percentile for successful take-ons, at 1.47 per game. His two and half seasons in Belgium have, regrettably been plagued by injury, thereby affecting his quest to become a more established and prominent player in the league.
A fully fit Majeed, though, is a different breed. He has has a sensational ability to dictate tempo and can lead a team by example. He is central to everything the team does on the field and given the adversity he has had to overcome to get to this stage, there is no doubt that Ashimeru, still just 26 years old, can direct in career back on to a positive trajectory.
By: Alfred Amoah / @Laka993
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Photonews
Edited by: Louis Young / @FrontPostPod