Better late than never?
Danlad Ibrahim, and the small army of fans and admirers he has amassed even at the tender age of 18, would certainly find both meaning and delight in that well-worn cliché right now.
Months after Danlad’s parent club, Asante Kotoko, ought to have let him out — temporarily, at least — a deal has been reached that would see the goalkeeper spend the second half of the Ghana Premier League season at city rivals Kumasi King Faisal.
But, of course, it wasn’t like Kotoko could ignore Danlad’s craving for playing time any longer. Fresh from a triumphant run at the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations, where he finished officially as the best goalkeeper, Danlad’s stock is as high as it has ever been.
Having already also featured for the country’s U-17 and U-23 teams, Danlad has established himself firmly as a national asset, and that status was confirmed only days ago when he received a maiden call-up to Ghana’s senior national team.
He almost surely won’t get a kick — or, more aptly, a save — in the Black Stars’ upcoming pair of Afcon 2022 qualifiers, but that’s fine; for one so young, it’s the experience that matters. The minutes he seeks more desperately, the fuel his career really requires, should come at club level.
He has had none at all this season, yet that anomaly will be fixed after the international break when Danlad’s loan spell at Faisal begins. But, while that would cater for Danlad’s immediate needs, Kotoko must now come up with a comprehensive strategy that would take care of the teenager’s long-term prospects.
And if those prospects include many more years in the Porcupine Warriors’ set-up, any plan devised should involve moving Danlad up the pecking order, rather than simply farming him out some more.
Even more than minutes, at this stage on his trajectory, Danlad desires stability: his development should be monitored at really close quarters, his progress anchored to Kotoko.
Then there is the tall pecking order that keeps Danlad hopelessly away from a taste of first-team football, a congested goalkeeping department filled with three formidable, older options.
One of those — even if skipper Felix Annan, who has appeared out-of-favour for the best part of the last year — would have to be cleared off the roster to bring Danlad’s eventual destination into sharper focus.
Danlad, in case Kotoko haven’t yet received the memo, is no longer the future. He’s very much the present – why else would he be in the Black Stars? — and must be handled accordingly.
Enn Y. Frimpong — Ink & Kicks