How quickly can one’s fortunes change in football?
Ask Abdul Manaf Umar Jr.
Only a few weeks ago was he frozen out of the Hearts of Oak team, his future inching towards uncertainty with every game missed. Following the second coming of Kosta Papic as Hearts’ head coach, however, the midfielder has managed to turn things around.
Manaf showed great awareness in the penalty box when he connected sweetly with a cross from skipper Fatawu Mohammed, gliding the ball past goalkeeper John Moosie at his near post. That was Manaf’s third goal of the season, and his recent performances are justifying why he has become one of Papic’s most trusted lieutenants.
Manaf looks reborn under the Serbian and is finally beginning to realize his full potential, after a tough start to the season which drew the curtains on Edward Odoom’s ill-fated spell in charge of the Phobians.
The past year has been particularly challenging for Manaf, who went from being one of the most highly-rated graduates from Auroras (Hearts’ youth team/feeder club) to a completely forgotten man.
Manaf announced himself during the 2019 Normalisation Committee Special Competition and continued to court attention during last season’s truncated campaign. However, his development appeared to have stalled at some point.
Having lost his position to the energetic Frederick Ansah Botchway sometime last year, things got worse when Manaf was embroiled in a social media gaffe.
He came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in April 2020 when his official Twitter account rolled out a tweet that appeared to join other netizens in ‘begging’ actress Efia Odo for money during a giveaway session.
It was an episode which subjected Manaf to ridicule on social media, forcing the club to come out with the ridiculous explanation that the player’s account had been ‘hacked’.
A year-and-a-half down the line, Manaf’s Twitter handle is one of the most engaging of any local footballer. He tweets relevant stuff, interacts with Hearts’ faithful, and usually hypes the club’s games days before they are scheduled to take place.
And it isn’t just his online life that has taken a turn for the better. On the pitch, too, Manaf has moved his game to the next level. Whereas he used to be content with helping his team retain possession, Manaf now adds goal contributions to his output.
He has been involved in five goals in his last four games — scoring against Wonders, Faisal and Bechem United, along with two assists in a 6-1 rout of the latter — such is his new-found levels of productivity.
Manaf’s resurgence and improvement have elevated him to the status of an undroppable in Papic’s team and, at this rate of progress, there’s no limit to how far he can go.
Emmanuel Ayamga — Ink & Kicks