HAMILTON – It’s never easy doing something for the first time, especially when the stakes are high, and the weight of expectation is heavy upon your shoulders.
But, for Forge FC defender Kwame Awuah, a battle in Finals 2019 against Cavalry FC to settle the 2019 Canadian Premier League season is an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned over the last few years. Awuah, just 23, has already had the privilege of sharing the field with some legends of the sport – and he’s turning to their wisdom to help with preparations for Finals 2019.
Who might they be? His former New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira, for starters, as well as teammates Andrea Pirlo and, most recently, David Villa.
“I spoke with David Villa about a month ago. He was telling me about how he’s been following me, and how it’s good to see that I’m enjoying myself and I’m playing well, and he was like, keep it up,” Awuah told CanPL.ca during Media Day at Tim Hortons Field.
“He said ‘I always thought you were a good player.’ It’s things like that from guys who are legends that keep you motivated and lets you know you’re a good player, and that maybe the situation you were in before didn’t really assist you. In all honesty, just to hear from him and hear good words from him is really important.”
Villa is, of course, an icon in his native Spain, the top scorer in the nation’s soccer history, and one of Valencia and Barcelona’s most prolific goal-scorers. The 37-year-old, affectionally known as “El Guaje” – that’s “the kid” in Asturian – is currently kitting up for Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe. While he’s living on the other side of the world, Awuah says he’s been keeping tabs on Canada’s new league, all the same.
“It’s hard for him because he’s in Japan now, so there’s like a 12 hour difference, but we follow each other on Instagram, he sees what I post, and if he tells me, ‘Oh, nice, you just had an assist’ or something like that,” Awuah said, revealing a smile.
“It’s important for me to know that guys as big as him are still following me, even if they are my ex-teammates. I’ve been in those positions where I’ve played with him, and it’s just good. I always asked him for guidance and he was always willing to give me feedback.”
Of course, for Awuah, those lessons imparted during his time in New York are the biggest takeaways.
What’s the one message that’s resonated most with the Forge FC man? ”Even if you might not be having your best game, you control the things you can control,” Awuah answered. “You can control your work ethic. You can control how professional you are, day-in and day-out. You can control your relationship with your teammates and how you act around them and your coaches, and the guys in the head office. You have to focus on those things that you can control, and make sure that you do your job.
“Patrick Vieira told me that, Villa showed me that, and Andrea Pirlo taught me that.”
When Forge FC hosts Cavalry FC for Leg 1 at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday, Oct. 26 (4:00 p.m. ET, available on OneSoccer and CBC) Awuah will likely play a key role in Bobby Smyrniotis’ side, bringing his trademark versatility and hustle to the match.
But, the ever-humble Awuah – seriously, check out his Instagram, where he frequently posts wholesome, motivational stories and quotes – has a bigger goal in mind.
“For me, I want to create history with these guys,” Awuah concluded. “We’ve been through the ups and downs and a lot of us have known each other for 10 plus years. So, to win something together as monumental as this would be very touching, and very humbling. And, of course, we’re going to have fun. We have fun playing soccer, and when we win, we want to have fun as well. We want to bring the trophy home and celebrate with our fans, and keep enjoying it.
“There’s two weeks left, and we’re going to have fun as it goes on.”