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The inside story of Abdul Fatawu Issahaku: Liverpool’s new signing?

Abdul Fatawu Issahaku

Abdul Fatawu Issahaku is a name you might have to prepare to remember. That is according to Steadfast FC’s Musah Abdul-Rahim.

Utrecht may be 7000 miles away from Tamale, but when the men from Steadfast FC first spotted Abdul Fatawu Issahaku it would have been easy to mistake him for a player from the Netherlands rather than Ghana’s Northern region.

Running around in his full Utrecht FC kit, the young Abdul Fatawu Issahaku stunned spectators watching on the outskirts of the city.

‘He was part of the U13 team that conquered the Northern Region here,’ Musah Abdul-Rahim Steadfast FC’s communication director recalls to FTF. ‘Then they went to a tournament in Nigeria and he scored in the final.’

Fatawu didn’t just score in the final. He top-scored the regional tournament with 13 goals and took everybody by awe.

‘Even at that tender age, the kind of skill and mentality he possessed you could tell that as he matured he would become a special player.’

Abdul-Rahim has followed the young boy’s career ever since.

The first 13 years of Fatawu Issahaku’s life was a constant back and forth.

He spent his days donning the red and white of Utrecht and learning his trade at the academy ran by Utrecht shareholder, Frans van Seumeren and former footballer, Abdulai Alhassan.

Until a new, plucky and ambitious club came calling with an attractive allure that was impossible to turn down.

Beginnings

The arid Northern landscape of Ghana provides the setting for its unofficial capital, Tamale.

Tamale is Ghana’s third most populated city with a vibrant sporting scene. The region is where Abedi Pele first made his mark for Real Tamale United back in the 1980s.

On the outer edges, the Tamale Sports Stadium juts out from the rest of its surroundings providing a modern charm.

It was there in the backdrop of the shimmering stadium that Abdul Fatawu Issahaku grew up.

‘Football is everywhere in Tamale,’ Abdul-Rahim says with a smile. ‘We have been able to produce so many talents. From Mubarak Wakaso to Sulley Muntari.’

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You might not have heard of him yet. But Abdul Fatawu Issahaku could be the next.

The 17 year old was the star of Ghana’s victorious U20 AFCON tournament winning the Best Player award.

In the process he attracted the interest of a host of top European clubs including – Liverpool.

According to sources close to the club, FTF can reveal Fatawu is likely to join Liverpool upon his 18th birthday – but the deal is not wrapped up yet.

Back at Steadfast FC, the club who lured the teenager from The Tamale Utrecht Football Academy , no one is surprised by Fatawu’s mercurial talent.

He has been the leading star of the club’s senior team playing in Ghana’s second division since the 2019/20 season back when he was only 15 and 16 years of age.

He top scored Division One in Zone One with 8 goals last season before the pandemic hit.

And he followed it up with 9 goals and 7 assists in 14 games for Steadfast FC in the season so far.

‘When Fatawu is fit he is always part of the starting eleven,’ Abdul-Rahim says proudly. ‘You will never find Fatawu starting on the bench.’

‘Out of the 14 games he has played for us so far, he has won the MOTM award 8 times,’ Abdul-Rahim continues.

‘Even though he is one of the youngest players we have in the team, all the senior players respect him on the field and they look for him. The rest of the players love to send the ball to where Fatawu is.’

‘Because of his input in the games and his posturing he has been able to command respect from the senior players. He has been very influential for us. Everybody loves what he can do with the ball.’

A unique talent

The 2021 U20 AFCON tournament was the perfect showcase for Abdul Fatawu Issahaku’s brilliance.

As the architect in a phenomenal Ghana side, Fatawu dominated almost every game at the tournament.

According to Wyscout he averaged a whopping 10.56 dribbles per 90 and was successful in 50% of his duels. His 2.4 progressive runs per 90 was the best for Ghana at the tournament.

He made 3.36 shots per 90, but was also unselfish and averaged 1.12 shot assists creating opportunities for his teammates throughout the tournament.

His shooting is one of Fatawu’s best assets. Montage of his goals both for Ghana’s youth sides and Steadfast FC draw attention to a wonderful range of long distance pile drivers.

One of the highlights came in the opening game of the tournament against Tanzania when Fatawu chipped the goalkeeper from close to the half-way line.

‘The coach, Mohamed Gargo, could score from the centre-circle directly back in his heyday, and he has been able to nurture that in Fatawu too. They practise together in training and in the field of play too.’

‘When he (Fatawu) gets a little chance, he will always try one (shoot).’

‘That goal which he scored at the tournament, before the game there was a conversation between him and the coach and he was told to watch the goalkeeper moving off his line. They told him every time he will get an opportunity he should try it (shoot from long range). They almost knew even before he did it that he was going to do it.’

Position

Both for Steadfast FC and Ghana, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku has been deployed either in central attacking midfield roles or on the right flank.

‘We play him in the number ten position or on the wing. If you want to see him playing his best, put him on the right wing,’

It was as an RW that he tore the U20 AFCON apart. From his heatmap at the tournament it is clear he does like to drift inside. But he can also put in a defensive shift too.

(Fatawu’s heatmap at the U20 AFCON)

‘Most of the goals he scores he picks it from the right side, then he dribbles past the opposition and he shoots,’ Abdul-Rahim explains.

‘His left foot is very strong and it is always accurate.’

(Fatawu shotmap via Wyscout)

The range of Fatawu’s shots at the tournament highlights just how much he likes to shoot from long range and cut into the middle of the park.

The fact that he was able to get almost half of hit shots on target (47.6%) despite only taking one shot inside the penalty area is a testament to his unique ability.

One that the 17 year old will only improve at.

‘The more he plays the more he brings out those skills in him and he has this particular passion to fight and to make a name for himself,’ Abdul-Rahim adds.

The next step

The success at the U20 AFCON has made Fatawu a hot property.

He earned himself a call-up to the senior national team in March and June and even played in an exhibition match against Uzbekistan where in true Fatawu fashion he scored a long range strike.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Issahaku Abdul Fatawu (@issahakufatawu10)

Despite the fame Fatawu has kept his feet on the ground.

The 17 year old’s humility is innate according to Abdul-Rahim

‘Fatawu doesn’t talk a lot, if you don’t push him he will be silent because he is always listening and wanting to learn.’

‘We cannot be prouder than him, because of him we are getting more exposure than most of the Premier League clubs in Ghana. It is all because of him and we hope to have more of his type coming through the club.’

Interest from the likes of Red Bull Salzburg, Ajax and Basel should come as no surprise. Bayer Leverkusen came inches away from sealing the deal before Liverpool pounced on the teenage talent.

What the future holds remains to be seen. The path to Liverpool’s first team is not an easy one, he will likely take the route through a loan spell to settle into the European game.

Back at Steadfast Abdul-Rahim is certain about the potential of the club’s young protege.

‘If you knew how Fatawu started, we have not seen anything of him yet.

‘The only thing we are worried about are perhaps injuries which are enemies to footballers.’

‘But if it all happens as it should, I promise you Fatawu will make a name for himself the entire world will know.’

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