This time in 2021, Kwame Peprah was neck-deep in a relegation dogfight with his club, King Faisal.
The Kumasi-based outfit faced the threat of going down not long after they’d returned from the second tier, setting them up for a tense finale to the Ghana Premier League season.
In the end, they stayed up, thanks in part to their collective effort, sheer will, and the expertise that head coach Nurudeen Amadu brought to bear late on in getting them over the line.
A special chapter of Faisal’s survival story, though, ought to be dedicated to the goalscoring brilliance of 20-year-old Peprah. He scored 12 of Faisal’s 32 goals, finishing only a few strikes behind Karela United’s Diawisie Taylor in the league’s scoring charts.
Faisal knew they wouldn’t be able to hold on to such a hot property too long, but that wasn’t much of a worry for Alhaji Karim Grunsah, owner of the club.
The good old man has quite the reputation for grooming young players who go on to achieve bigger things — the most famous example being Bayern Munich great Samuel Osei Kuffour — which, as long as he gets good money for his work, is alright.
For Peprah, that next destination would be South African side Orlando Pirates. The Buccaneers finished third in the league that season, though still a good 17 points behind runaway champions Mamelodi Sundowns. There was the need for a squad upgrade to take them closer to the top, and Peprah was one of the players brought in to provide that facelift.
Playing for a club outside his homeland for the first time, there certainly were lots of uncertainties. Remember, too, that Peprah hadn’t played for any of Ghana’s bigger clubs, leaving many wondering whether he’d be able to make that giant step up. It didn’t help, either, that Ghanaian players had, historically, experienced checkered fortunes in South African football.
Indeed, it took a while for Peprah to get going, seemingly confirming his worst fears and those of well-wishers. To Peprah’s credit, he did show a lot of industry and desire from the start, but the goals didn’t come in until a little later – quite late in the year, actually.
On December 20, not long after a 4-1 thrashing inflicted by Sundowns – dominant once again, yes – Pirates hosted Marumo Gallants. With the game ticking just beyond the 20-minute mark, Peprah seized his moment – two moments, actually – to overturn a 12th-minute lead taken by the guests.
Three days later, Peprah repeated the feat when AmaZulu visited the Orlando Stadium. Again, Pirates went down 1-0, before Peprah took full responsibility for his team’s goalscoring needs, delivering another double to seal a 2-1 victory.
If anyone believed that four-goal week would be the trickle to bring in a torrent of Peprah goals, well, that didn’t quite happen.
Peprah would score just thrice more, once in the league against Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs – a game that was lost, anyway – and another when his team made the short trip in the CAF Confederation Cup to play Royal Leopards of Eswatini, one of only six Pirates goals on that occasion.
But it was Peprah’s seventh goal of the season, also in the Confederation Cup, that would go down as being of the greatest value. Pirates hosted Tanzanian side Simba in the second leg of their quarter-final, with a deficit to reverse. A 1-0 loss to those opponents a week prior saw Mandla Ncikazi’s team needing to mirror that score, at the very least, to force a shootout.
And that’s just what they did, courtesy of a fine Peprah finish after an hour. He was fastest and strongest to a cross swung in from deep, heading firmly to level the tie; the rest of the team finished the job on penalties.
Peprah, subbed off, had no part in that nail-biting finale – aside, perhaps, biting his nails, such was the tension – but he did have the vicarious pleasure of seeing countryman and Pirates goalkeeper, Richard Ofori, draw the curtain on all that drama by converting the all-important spot-kick.
Pirates would go on to win the semi-final, too – with the nerves jangling again, this time after a tight aggregate triumph on Sunday evening – to book their ticket for the final, due next Friday in Uyo, Nigeria.
Ncikazi would likely not look to Peprah for the match-winning cup-winning goal(s), for an outcome that would more than make up for this season’s domestic struggles. Peprah may be joint-topscorer for Pirates, alongside Namibian Deon Hotto, but the goals fuelling their continental ambitions have come from farther back on the pitch – from the likes of Bandile Shandu, Happy Jele, and Kabelo Dlamini.
For Peprah, though, the prospect of being in the matchday squad for the upcoming duel with one-time champion Berkane alone – regardless of the extent to which he contributes, or even if he features at all – is a long way from where he was a year ago.
He’d take that, really: his medal, if you like, before the final.