PORT-GENTIL, Gabon, Jan 20, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - When Ghana got to the final of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Andy Yiadom was plying his trade in the fifth-tier of English football.
Now the 25-year-old is a member of the Black Stars squad in Gabon
alongside the likes of Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan, hoping to play a part for Ghana as they bid to win a first Cup of Nations since 1982.
It has been an unlikely rise to the international stage for the versatile full-back, who worked under Dutch legend Edgar Davids at Barnet, a modest club from north-west London.
His performances as captain there in the fourth tier last season led to a move to second-tier Barnsley, from Yorkshire in northern England, and from there a call-up by coach Avram Grant to the Ghana squad for the Cup of Nations.
"I was playing for Barnet for a good four years and then last year I signed for Barnsley and obviously there things have been going well, I caught the attention of the national team and got called up and here I am," Yiadom told AFP at the Ghana team hotel in Port-Gentil, the home of Gabon's oil industry.
Yiadom started with Watford but had to drop down the divisions before now working his way back up.
His first call-up came for a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Egypt last
November, after Grant had seen him perform well against the Newcastle United of Christian Atsu, a star of the 2015 tournament.
"It is a wonderful experience. I am honoured to be here," adds Yiadom in a quiet spot outside a hotel which, bizarrely, has its own zoo where the star attraction is a gorilla.
The Cup of Nations can be a culture shock to those coming from Europe, and there is not much in steamy, sweaty Port-Gentil that will remind Yiadom of Barnsley, an old mining town.
Ghana are sharing the same hotel as Uganda, who they beat 1-0 in their opening Group D match on Tuesday with Yiadom watching on from the bench.
"A few years back I never would have thought I'd be playing in the Africa Cup of Nations so to be here is wonderful. I'm learning new things, taking in a different tournament, because the Africa Cup of Nations is massive."
Born and brought up in London to Ghanaian parents, Yiadom says he has visited the west African country several times and describes it as "a beautiful place."
He did not represent the country at youth level but he insists his
different background has not been an obstacle to settling in with his new international colleagues.
"When I came in here it was very welcoming, players like Ayew and Gyan have played in the UK as well so I have come in here and learned from them. Everyone is very welcoming even though I am new to this squad," he said.
He knew he had his work cut out to get any time on the pitch but the knee injury suffered by left-back Abdul Rahman Baba and the slight concerns over the health of right-back Harrison Afful could open the door to a place in the team with Mali to come on Saturday.
"We have a good squad with a lot of experience, so if I do get a chance, then I'll by all means try my best to take it and take in the whole experience of playing," he added.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)