Anthony Yeboah: Missing The Frankfurters
In this special we look back to a glorious Eintracht era: Anthony Yeboah is one of the all-time SGE heroes, an absolute legend of the team in the 90ies that celebrated ‘Football 2000’ as their style of play was branded back then. This interview with Yeboah was kindly made available by German weekly football magazine 'kicker' (taken frome the series ‘Legendary Legionnaires’).
Ghana born Yeboah - who later was made a chief of the ‘Ashanti’ tribe - joined the Eagles in 1990 for five years and had a major impact. Tony is still loved by the fans and during his time at SGE became the first African team captain in Bundesliga history. He also won the league’s golden boot twice.
kicker: Tony, we’re in your hotel in Accra. What does the name ‚Yegoala‘ actually stand for?
Anthony Yeboah: That’s the invention of a Ghanaian journalist. Whenever I scored during my time at Eintracht Frankfurt he simply added ‘goal’ to my name. Interesting, isn’t it?
k: Is ‘Yegoala’ still a trademark these days?
AY: Absolutely, it is very popular in Ghana. Both my hotels carry that name, one here and one in Kumasi. It is also on the license plates of my cars and if people call me they will ask for Yegoala not Yeboah.
k: Plus there is your club.
AY: Exactly. I knew it is a good name so I gave it to the Kumasi club also. It is kind of a little enterprise by now, also with the nightclub in Dansoman.
k: But you still remember being called Yeboah?
AY: At the moment everything is Yegoala, even on the phone. And there is a new version now – as I play golf successfully they call me ‘Yegolfer’.
k: You commute between your home town Kumasi and Accra. Is Tony Yeboah a multitasking business man these days?
AY: Yes, I am two to three times a week in the North. I have to look after the hotel and after the football club. And my parents live in Kumasi while my family is in Accra so I am on the road quite often.
k: And how are Yegoala FC doing?
AY: We’re a second division team with plenty of young talents. When I bought the club it was in the third division, last year we nearly made it to the first.
k: How much is it to buy a club like that?
AY: It was not that bad, the previous owner was in financial troubles so I got a good price: 50,000 dollar.
(Tony on the ‚kicker‘ cover in 1993)
k: How do you relax from your busy daily routine?
AY: I like playing golf, it’s an incredible sport. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d like it that much. I am on handicap 14 and it is great fun.
k: When did you start playing?
AY: I started three years ago in 2009, on handicap 28. But I learned fast with a lot of discipline, I am a very ambitious sportsman.
k: You came to Germany in 1988. Why did you pick the German league and not for example England?
AY: I was very lucky that a German guy saw me play. That was Harald Dubberke who at the time was working with the Ghanaian boxing federation. He did not have a clue about football really but he told me that I had to go to Germany for a trial. Because he did not know much about it he called Joachim Leukel who was a player agent back then.
k: Why did you fail the trial at Borussia Dortmund?
AY: It was winter time and freezing cold, coach Reinhard Saftig did not have the time to build up a young player. He was aware of my potential but had to focus on the relegation struggle. I remember Andy Möller picking me up from the hotel, I know him since then and later we met again at Eintracht Frankfurt. My first club then was 1. FC Saarbrücken.
k: You left Germany 10 years ago. Do you miss anything by now?
AY: Yes of course. Germany was always like a second home to me. When I got there I was 22 years old and I learned a lot. People were very helpful and I made many friends. I miss lots of things, for example Frankfurters, the sausages - why didn’t you bring any? Germany is a great country.
k: Had you ever heard of Saarbrücken when you came to Germany?
AY: Yes I knew the name of Saarbrücken as a few Ghanaian players had gone there before me.
k: How did you cope in the first few weeks?
AY: I was lucky that I got on well with my first coach Werner Fuchs. Then Klaus Schlappner took over who appreciated my talent but also hinted that he felt I was lazy. I thought what’s going on – he doesn’t like me! His tone was different but he helped me a lot when my salary of 3,500 Deutschmark was doubled for a new flat - I felt like in paradise.
k: What were the major obstacles in the beginning?
AY: At the start it was the climatic change but also the different nutrition, and the language.
k: And the midfielder Eugen Hach became a good friend of yours?
AY: Yes, he was a great help to me with many things and a good friend. He was always there for me plus he spoke English which was an advantage. And he was a midfielder so I had to rely on him as on any midfield player for passes towards the front.
(Taken fom a match programme in 1991)
k: Can you shed some light on your date of birth? Are you born in 1966 or 1964 or was it even in 1962?
AY: Oh yes, the old story. When I came to Germany I had a pass stating 1964 as my year of birth. The truth is, back when I was 17 years old I wouldn’t have been allowed to play for the seniors. So they moved back my birth year to 1964. Later on in Germany I wanted the original year back in my passport – 1966.
k: How often do you come to Europe these days? And where do you travel to – Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, Hamburg – or Leeds?
AY: Depending on how busy I am I make it to Europe once or twice a year. Usually I go to Frankfurt, sometimes also to Hamburg. Occasionally I visit my son Anthony who studies in London, I haven’t made it to Leeds for a while now.
k: At Eintracht Frankfurt you became the first African team captain ever in the Bundesliga history. Did that make you especially proud?
AY: Yes, of course. But being black it was not that easy to achieve it back then. I was made captain for my performances, my discipline and the trust I received from my team mates.
k: You were always considered as a proud African. How did you cope with racism?
AY: It was difficult. On the one hand there were the chants and on the other hand the same people wanted my autograph. I was affected by it but I also tried not to take it too serious at all times and to convince people with effort.
k: Does your Frankfurt based fan club ‘Yeboah’s Witnesses’ still exist?
AY: I am not 100% sure, a few years back some fans of the group visited me and gave me a t-shirt and a fan scarf. Both do now decorate my restaurant.
k: You won the Bundesliga golden boot twice - the highlights of your career?
AY: Absolutely, especially being the first African to achieve that. In the end I made Bundesliga history which makes me proud in particular.
k: And where are the trophies today?
AY: They have a place of honour in my house in Accra. They are the most important trophies of my career, they always remind me of my great achievements in Germany.
k: Who were your best mates in the team?
AY: There was Uwe Bein, and also Andy Möller. And Dietmar Roth, he was my room mate and he also spoke English – a great guy.
(Players Lasser, Yeboah, Bein, Andersen, Möller and Studer in 1991)
k: And who was the best player in the team? With whom did you play together well?
AY: That has to be Uwe Bein! I scored so many goals from his passes – he was my congenial team mate.
k: If you could turn back time, would you then make the move to Bayern Munich? The deal was nearly settled at the time.
AY: Yes, I wanted to join Bayern. I had some issues with Eintracht at the time and it was all set with Munich. But it did not happen in the end as the Eintracht board favoured a transfer to a club outside Germany.
k: What do you recall regarding Jupp Heynckes?
AY: Our relationship was based on misunderstandings. I am a proud Ashanti and Heynckes is proud in his own way. None of the players were treated different to others, he did not accept the hierarchy within the team. He never talked to me, he chose to speak to Köpke, Binz or Bein even though I was team captain. Seeing him now at Bayern it seems that he learned a lot since then and that he loosened up.
(Mauricio Gaudino, Jay Jay Okocha and Tony Yeboah were left out during the reign of Jupp Heynckes.)
k: You were always regarded as a sensitive player. How important is the respect of your manager, the team mates and the fans to you?
AY: Very important. A manager can put a lot of trust in a player, and you need the support of the fans. I was very lucky as I had the backings of everyone nearly all through the years. The crucial point though was that I had to perform well!
k: Against which defender was it most uncomfortable to play?
AY: Gudio Buchwald, the German international and World Champion from Stuttgart. He was tall and strong, it was always very difficult against him.
k: The most painful defeat?
AY: The one against Hansa Rostock on the last matchday of the 1991/92 season. I will never forget how we gave away the title that day.
k: The biggest win in your long career?
AY: Thank god there were loads! But one of the the biggest ones was probably in Cologne in 1993/94 on the last matchday. We needed a win against 1. FC Köln in order to join European competition the following season and I needed a goal to become that season’s top scorer. In the minutes just before the final whistle we achieved both.
k: The absolute highlight of your career?
AY: That was when my wife Tesha gave birth to our first child. There was snow in Germany that day and I had to get up at five in the morning. We went to hospital but it was too early. So I joined the training session with the team. We were on the pitch when I was called and told the baby was born. My daughter Shereena had arrived – simply fantastic!
ANTHONY YEBOAH - CAREER STATS
European Club Career: FC Saarbrücken 1988-90, Eintracht Frankfurt 1990-95, Leeds United 1995-97, Hamburger SV 1997-2002
Bundesliga: 223 games / 96 goals
2. Bundesliga: 65 games / 26 goals
Premier League: 47 games / 24 goals
European Cup competition: 29 games / 17 goals
International Career: 59 caps for Ghana, 29 goals. Part of the team during the African Cup of Nations in 1992, 1994 and 1996
Successes: Ghana’s top scorer in 1986 and 1987; Bundesliga top scorer in 1993 and 1994; Quatar championship and cup winner in 2002 (with Al-Ittihad Doha).
Interview: kicker magazine - Images: eintracht-archiv.de / Eintracht museum - Translation: Holger Ruhl