Sixteen years have passed since Anthony Baffoe missed the
decisive penalty kick in a shoot-out as Ghana fell to Côte
d'Ivoire in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations final. It is probably
the only major public mishap of a multi-faceted and remarkable
career in which everything Baffoe has touched bore fruit, arguably
even more so off the field than on it.
Versatility could be Baffoe's middle name. The son of a diplomat who grew up in Bonn and later became the first African professional in the Bundesliga, the Ghanaian's intelligent wit and disarmingly frank irony, often directed at himself, made him a hugely popular public figure. Seventy-four German top flight appearances for Cologne and Fortuna Dusseldorf merely whetted his appetite: he played for a further seven clubs, including spells in Hong Kong and Caracas, and won 16 Ghana caps. However, his playing career was destined to be merely a prelude for even greater things.
After hanging up his boots, this most flamboyant of personalities exploited his broad popularity to set up and front a new TV magazine show devoted to youth football. After a few years, it became clear Baffoe's arguably unique combination of African passion and German efficiency was good for a lot more than merely presenting. So it was that the former defensive utility man evolved into a highly-respected administrator and official, an outstanding and refreshingly different representative of the African continent and his home country of Ghana.
"I really enjoy working in management and administration, helping to organise the African Cup of Nations and playing a part at the 2006 World Cup. I'm not content simply to act as an ambassador, I'm the kind of guy who likes to get involved. I like the direction it's going and I have a few things in the pipeline - especially in Africa," Baffoe exclusively revealed to FIFA.com at the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2008 Grand Final in Berlin, where he co-presented the event.
Passion and efficiency
"I'm proud to be a representative of Africa and Ghana. I very much see myself as African, although I would say going to school in Germany did me a lot of good, because it's helped me add a new dimension to Africa. You're never going to change the whole of Africa, but you can change the people you work with," Baffoe comments. "If I don't feel passion, it's not the real me. I have to be convinced of something, that's very important to me. Authenticity is always a critical factor for me personally."
The former international has certainly found his passion in life and is determined to support Africa with all the means at his disposal. He took on responsibility for international relations at the Ghanaian FA in spring 2006, lending his expertise and zeal to the Black Stars' cause at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. The 43-year-old by no means confines his talents to management and administration, as he appears well set to become one of the key faces is a gathering boom for the African game.
Focus on South Africa 2010
"I do think it's important that I have moments of German directness. Nine o'clock is nine o'clock, not ten past nine. We can do it! That's exactly what I'm trying to get across, and it's gone very well up to now," Baffoe explains, bristling with intent. It is clear the former pro knows exactly what he wants to achieve, and also knows which of his own personal attributes will be of most help in his second career as he strives for a leading role away from the field of play. "I enjoyed my time as a player, but now it's time to shoulder responsibility and pass on my experience. It's the best way for me to give something back to my continent, and it's important to me personally."
Baffoe, now based in Ghanaian capital Accra, is thoroughly looking forward to the next few years. His focus and enthusiasm is firmly directed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. "Let me be frank: many people still have a completely false impression of Africa. When the talk turns to Africa, the first thing they express is doubt: 'Are they up to it in South Africa?' People start with negatives. We have to show the world we're ready to host the World Cup. In my view, the country which is truly capable of that is South Africa. I can hardly wait to start playing my part. I want to represent Africa well, and prove we're capable of doing the job."