Felix Afena-Gyan divided opinions when he rejected the opportunity to play for the senior National Team (Black Stars) for the first time during the November international break.
Milovan Rajevac included the teenager in the provisional squad for the Ethiopia and South Africa double header in the final fixtures for the group World Cup qualifiers but Felix failed to honor the call-up saying it was too early for him and that it was important for him to stay and train under the tutelage of manager, Jose Mourinho.
Felix tweeted “I felt it was too early for me to answer the call from the national team because I need to grow, physically but also mentally and psychologically.” “I also thought it was important for me to stay in Trigoria to accumulate training under [Jose] Mourinho’s orders, to continue improving and growing.”
Ghanaians were divided over the ‘rejection”. While some think it was the right time for the teenager to don the national colors—others thought the call-up wasn’t a well thought through idea, and that it was a knee jerk reaction by the FA.
Felix was promoted to AS Roma senior team in October and had already made a historic debut against Cagliari—where he help his team equalized and went ahead to win the game, picking up all the three maximum points.
In that Cagliari game he became the second youngest debutant in the 2021/2022 Serie A season. And after that Cagliari game Jose Mourinho knew he’s got a gem in his hands.
Mourinho told reporters why he was interested in Felix “With Felix, tomorrow he is a player who is not registered for the Conference League. But he is a player with qualities that we don’t really have in the squad. He’s a player who looks for opportunities that we don’t often try to exploit.
“We have a lot of players who want the ball at the feet; we don’t have many who look for the spaces to run into. I like him because of how he tries to run into space and how he works out on the pitch. How he presses. He’s aggressive in the spaces.
These kind words from arguably one of the best managers in the world got to Felix and believe had surged through his veins since then and so when things were not really going to plan in the game against Genoa and he was called upon at the expense of Zaniolo he knew he has to deliver.
With just 15 minutes to end proceedings at the Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris he came on from the bench and held the game by the scruff of the neck and scored two beautiful goals in the 82nd and 94th minutes to win the game for AS Roma.
But it was the way he did it that really seared into both skin and soul. With ten minutes to go he latched onto a through-pass from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and hit a low-grounded shot into the bottom corner of the net. 1-0 Roma leads.
His second goal was exquisite but effortless—Felix drilled home from 30 yards into the top corner in the 94th minute after pouncing on a loose ball with literally the last kick of the game to help his side cruised towards the finishing line comfortably. With those two goals he became the first player born in 2003 to score in Serie A.
Felix didn’t play for any professional team before leaving the shores of Ghana—he only played for his college team and two juvenile teams in his hometown Wenchi, incidentally the hometown of the legendary Asamoah Gyan. Does that ring a bell?
He’s yet to have a full debut but Felix Afena-Gyan has catapulted himself into the upper echelons of the world football talent pool since arriving at Roma.
By: Tang Shuaib/@tangdeboy