Read a lengthy interview with Hearts of Oak star Laryea Kingston talking about his life, challenges, achievements and failures.
When Eddy Blay caught up with Laryea at his home on the Spintex Road, he was very welcoming, as he introduced me to his children and showed me his collection of trophies, pictures, and awards.
After offering me a drink and exchanging pleasantries, we sat down in his living room and began the interview.
E: Laryea, thanks so much for hosting me in your home. What have you been up to?
L: I was in Israel. I had a 2-year contract with a team over there. But due to a few uncomfortable circumstances, I decided to cancel the contract and come back home.
E: What were some of the problems?
L: Well the city I lived in was very close to Gaza, and sometimes missiles were fired into the city, making it unsafe. So after staying there for about four months, I had enough and decided to end my stay there.
E: Letís talk about your career. Which would you say has been your greatest moment?
L: That would have to be in 1999, when Ghana hosted the Africa Youth Championships, and we won the trophy. I had a very good tournament, and scored the winning goal in the final against Nigeria. That goal remains very special to me and all Ghanaians.
E: And the worst?
L:That would have to be when I was dropped from the team that went to the 2010 World Cup. That was very heartbreaking for me, because I truly was not expecting it. I was part of the team that qualified for both World Cups, (2006 and 2010) so to not make it was very disheartening. But life goes on.
E: Looking back, which team would you say was the toughest to play against?
L: Barcelona. I remember in 2008, I was with Hearts (Scotland) at the time, and we played against them in a pre-season game in Edinburgh. The stadium was sold-out, because it was a huge game. After the first 45 minutes, I had to go into the ice bath, as it was a very difficult game. Not just for myself, but the whole team. Barcelona is very quick at recovering the ball, so itís quite tedious to keep up with them.
E: Which team mate would you say is the most dependable, such that when you know heís with you on the pitch, you íll have great chemistry with?
L: Stephen Appiah. Heís a childhood friend, so anytime Iím with him in the National Team, I know heíll back me up 100%. If I get tired I know heíll take over for me until I regroup. In fact, as most people know, once you have the ďQuartetĒ as we are called (myself, Essien, Muntari, Appiah), you have a winning combination. We help each other out, and I donít remember losing a game that featured the four of us on the same team. I even remember Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur manager,) saying in an interview at the time, that Ghana has the best midfield in the world, referring to the 4 of us. When I play with those 3, I feel very happy.
E: What do you think of the team we have presently?
L: Ghana is a football-loving nation, so you can select 11 players from the streets, and they can become stars. Iíve always said that I would never turn down any invite, because you say you wonít play, someone will quickly fill your spot. We have a very good team at the moment.
E: Where does your passion for the game come from?
L: Well I love the game. My dad played for both Hearts of Oak and Accra Great Olympics, then for the National Team as well. He was also a big star in his time. Like my big brother Richard Kingston, we took over from my dad. I was in SS2 when I told my parents that I wanted to play football. Education is very important, but football was the way for me to achieve my dreams and enjoy life. I have no regrets.
E: At which point would you say your career has reached?
L: Iím the type of person that wants to keep working harder. I am happy with what Iíve done so far. I have done a lot in football, and achieved so much for myself, family and friends. But Iím still working hard to deliver even more because I still have a lot of football in me. I work out and train everyday, looking forward to pushing my career even further.
E: Which team do you support?
L: Locally, Iím a Phobian but I donít support any foreign team.
E: It looks like Ghanaians are more into the foreign leagues than the local ones. Why do you think that is?
L: Well for starters, there are not enough facilities in the country for the local players. Thatís why most young players want to play outside. Secondly, they are not being paid well. If their salaries were a little bit reasonable, at least it would serve as a motivation for them. South African players donít like to go outside because they have many sponsors. Even if I can get half of what I get outside here in Ghana, why bother to travel? Adjusting to living conditions outside can be very hard for a player. Living without your friends, family, and food that you are used to, can be difficult. Weather is also a problem so why leave when you can earn well here?
E: What do you miss the most about Ghana when playing outside?
L: Family and friends. After training, you go home and watch TV or spend your time on the laptop. Itís boring! I always used to be the first one in, and last to exit the club because staying home was too boring.
E: Did you experience any racism while playing in Europe?
L: Yea, sure! Racism is very much alive and well. When I was in Russia I would here racist remarks from our opponents, and the fans. Itís not as bad as it used to be, thanks to human rights laws, but in places like Russia, itís very bad. Some coaches donít even like black players. If you find yourself in a club with one like that, you had better move on quick.
E: Ghanaian fans are quick to condemn players when they donít perform well. Is it the same outside?
L: I would say itís even worse outside. Especially in the UK, were the stadium is built such that the fans are closer to the pitch. Everything they say can be heard by the players, and let me tell you they are very passionate about the game. If you make a mistake you will hear from them.
E: How do you deal with bad officiating during a game?
L: Well the ref is the boss on the pitch. Once he whistles for something, no matter what you do, he wonít change his mind. But itís also good to complain, sometimes so he checks himself on future decisions. However you must understand that many referees also go through the same tension players go through, and some games might be bigger than them, so they sometimes make mistakes.
E: How do you prepare yourself for a match?
L: Well, many people think itís all about your performance on the pitch alone, but preparing yourself mentally, before a game is very important. Some players like to meditate or listen to music to ease the tension. Personally, I watch what I eat and drink. I donít wait until Iím thirsty before I drink water. Itís important that I drink lots of fluids before a game. Sleeping well is also important. You need to get enough rest. I also stay away from the family before the game so I can concentrate on the task at hand.
E: How do you spend your free time?
L: Well Iím usually with my kids at home, or with close friends, sitting down and talking. Sometimes we might go to the club. Itís good to hang out with friends and relax.
E: Is it important for football stars, entertainers, etc. to give to charity?
L: Very important! But it has to come from the heart. Many do it just to get their name in the media, but true charity comes from your soul. I grew up in Teshie, so I always donate to the Childrenís Home there, but you donít see me making a big deal out of it in the media. You donít have to tell people.
E: How would you like to be remembered?
L: Well I would like for people to remember me as the hard working football player that put his job on the line for his country. Thatís it.
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