I was about 13 years old and was about a year and half into adjusting to my new life. Moving from Ghana to America was a bit difficult in the beginning. It meant a new school, new friends and being under the supervision of my parents again. I had not seen my dad for about four years and I had not seen my mother for a year. It was good to finally spend time with them again. I missed a lot of things about Ghana but what I missed most was the football. Being able to just walk to the park and train with my team in the beautiful and sunny weather with kids my age whom I had become very good friends with. My dad did his best to take me to Kozak Sports in Randolph on some weekends. The only problem with this was that Kozak was more than an hour drive and for my dad to do that on his only off day from work was just something I didn't want him to do. He worked hard and deserved his rest. Some days he will take me to Weequahic Park in Newark,NJ where we lived just so I could kick the ball around for a bit.
On this particular afternoon, there was a team training across from the field my dad and I kicked about at. They seemed about my age even though they were physically bigger than I was. My dad went and talked to the Coach to see if I could train with the team. He introduced himself as Luis. Luis said I could train with the team and after the training, he said he would like for me to join his Den of Lions team. It seemed everything was falling into place. I believe my dad was pleasantly surprised at how good I was as he had never really seen me play up until that point. Soon it was official, I was the new Den of Lions #18. Back then I did not think much of Luis apart from him being the coach from Portugal who was a very good coach and knew his football. As time goes on, I realize I am right. Not only is Luis a good coach but he was a great man. This would be the beginning of a special relationship, one I still value very much.
Coach Luis would go out of his way to pick me up to and from training. It was the only way I would have made it to training because my parents were working. Luis would take me as his own and on the field I simply just wanted to win for Luis. I would get very upset when we lost and he would simply tell me I was young and to never forget to have fun. I was the captain on the team and the top scorer. I became good friends with my teammates and it felt like family and Luis was our father figure. Luis even wanted me to move to Portugal and try out for Den of Lions' parent team, Sporting Lisbon(Academy) but I was a bit too young and wasn't ready. Healways told me I will play at a higher level and that I was a difference maker on the field.
Few years later I would join the New York Red Bulls academy and a few things will change in my life. One thing that remained constant was that I always had Coach Luis' phone number memorized in my mind and would keep in touch with him throughout the years. I was happy to reunite with him a few months ago and have lunch with his family together with mine. I hope to always have Coach Luis in my life and I am forever grateful to him because one thing is for sure, Luis was more than a coach to me.