As hard as reaching the pinnacle of any field of endeavour might be, according to conventional wisdom, maintaining one’s standing at such heights is the truer test of eminence.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for fleeting brilliance, a star that shines so bright only to be extinguished quicker than it took to emerge.
Ransford Osei, the former Ghana youth international.
When he first broke out to national and international fame, in the summer of 2007, Osei was heralded as Ghana’s next great forward, cast in the mould of legends like Peter Lamptey and Kwasi Owusu.
At that year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea, Osei bagged six goals to finish just behind Nigerian Macauley Chrisantus on the scoring chart.
That tournament also introduced the world to the special talents of Toni Kroos and Bojan Krkic — two players who, between them, have gone on to win six UEFA Champions League titles and a FIFA World Cup.
Their African colleagues haven’t seen as much success afterwards, however, and Ghanaians would find Osei’s tale — which ended on Monday, when news broke of his retirement — particularly disappointing.
Here was a kid who possessed incredible close control, a first touch that was the stuff of dreams, and a performance level far higher than you’d expect of one so young.
Osei, clearly, was destined for the top, but the final verdict would be that he never quite took off.
I doubt we will ever have a definitive reason, but a study of a career that finished in Lithuania — of all places — reveals one obvious obstacle: a seemingly never-ending struggle with injuries.
Once a national treasure, Osei appeared deeply entrapped in the bowels of an echo chamber, with every one of his attempts at escape reverberating with the same infuriating, futile result.
In that sense, then, Osei’s retirement feels like a release, a relief felt by him and us all. Osei’s playing career was no great joy, overall, but his pension — at the grand old age of 30 — shouldn’t be as miserable.
And then, of course, there is the glittering evidence of that bright start he had, at least for his country: two metallic boots (one golden, one silvery) from four major international tournaments that bear witness to his goalscoring prowess, along with a collection of other laurels, the most cherished of which is the gold medal awarded for winning the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup with Ghana’s Black Satellites.
That, after all, represented Osei’s pinnacle, even at the tender age of 19, from which his subsequent descent was all it needn’t have been: sharp, steep, and saddening.