On a rainy day in April 2015 that found me working in the office, a nice-looking white man popped in with striking looks and blond hair. He greeted everyone and asked of my boss, Kurt E.S Okraku. The latter was not around, so we offered the visitor a seat.
His face looked familiar but I could not make a connection. I kept on stealing glances at him, simultaneously typing a story. He came over to have a look at what I was working on and told me he had also been a sports journalist before diverting into mainstream football management. Then it clicked: this was Sascha Empacher, the German renowned for managing footballers.
Sascha is registered with the DFB (German football’s governing body) and is the owner of SPOCS Sports Consulting, a global sports agency and consultancy network with operations in cities across Europe, Asia and Africa. With regard to spotting and marketing African talents, few – if any – do it better than Sascha. Boasting a rich working experience in Africa, the continent is Sascha’s second home. Since 2007, he visits every summer to scout for players ahead of the transfer window.
Sascha’s path to becoming a player manager was hardly accidental, as he was already a well-known sports journalist in his native Germany and had worked with Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. He admits, though, that he never dreamt of coming to Africa to do business until he met Okraku – mentioned at the outset – years ago in Europe. Thus began a fruitful relationship that has benefited many young African footballers, beginning with former Ghana international Isaac Vorsah, brought to German top-flight club 1899 Hoffenheim in 2007.
“Deep friendship is the reason. If I had not met Kurt Okraku, I may never have come to Africa.” Sascha told Daily Mail GH.
“Sometimes in life, you meet a friend and a brother who changes everything. Later, we ventured into Egypt with Yahia Aly and Ibrahim, but the roots remain in Ghana. You can say that, without having met Edwin [Okraku’s middle name], the world probably wouldn’t have heard of Salah.”
The Salah Sascha speaks of is the very one you likely have in mind – first name Mohamed, Liverpool and Egypt’s celebrated forward. Sascha — whose SPOCS represents as many as 31 African players — brought Salah from Egypt’s El Mokawloon to FC Basel in Switzerland and later England’s Chelsea. Others on Sascha’s list include current Chelsea and Ghana defender Baba Rahman (now on loan at Stade Reims), Al Makasa’s John Antwi, Benjamin Tetteh of Sparta Prague, and Dauda Mohammed at Vitesse Arnhem.
“I like Africa,” Sascha confesses. “It’s in my heart. To develop the career of a young boy until he reaches top-level football satisfies me as a sports scientist, and also emotionally. To give someone a platform, especially a young African, can be a big life-changing experience. The feeling is incomparable.
“By the way, I also love Africa’s culture and its wildlife. From lions and elephants to the great white shark, I’ve seen them all in Africa.”
More than anything else, though, the astute Fifa-licensed player manager has eye for quality young talents and has always been around for the ‘Best in Ghana Soccer Scouting Fiesta’ organized regularly by Okraku’s Proton Sports. It is through that platform that Sascha first spotted the aforementioned Antwi, Rahman, Tetteh and Mohammed. Sulley Sadam, Emmanuel Sowah, Zuberu Sharani, Leonard Owusu – all of whom now play in Europe – are also beneficiaries.
Europe isn’t the sole destination of players exported by Sascha’s agency, however.
“To reflect the truly global nature of my company, we have brought young George Dwubeng and Basiru Alhassan from Dreams FC to Al Wasl in UAE where both are playing very well,” he reveals.
Another summer transfer window is upon us and, as is his custom, Sascha is in town scouting African players.
With his eagle-eyed acumen, he might just spot the next Salah on these streets.
Edmund Okai Gyimah – Daily Mail GH