The Los Angeles Football Club announced another signing on Oct. 6, 2020, formally adding 19-year-old forward Kwadwo “Mahala” Opoku to the roster.
But it was a statement from LAFC Co-President and General Manager John Thorrington that really highlighted the most important news of this day.
“Mahala is our first signing from the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy,” Thorrington said. “This signing kickstarts a process and a more formal partnership with the Academy.”
Already fielding the roster with the youngest average age in MLS (24 years, 198 days) the Club is now bringing another talented newcomer to the Black & Gold, with an eye on many more young players to join the total of eight players aged 21 or younger on the LAFC 2020 roster.
A successful youth soccer academy in Accra, Ghana, which has a stated goal of providing children in Ghana with education and hope through the sport, the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy currently features 10 players representing The Black Starts internationally on the country's youth national teams.
“This is an academy that we started a relationship with, in an informal way, last off-season,” Thorrington said.
The Attram De Visser Soccer Academy was founded by former Ghanaian international forward Godwin Attram and Dutch coach Piet De Visser in 2010. LAFC joins a small but impressive list of international clubs with a formal partnership with the Academy, including Holland’s PSV Eindhoven and Wilhelm II and Germany’s FC Schalke 04.
A star in Ghana who also played briefly in the Netherlands before enjoying a successful career with various teams in Saudi Arabia while appearing 10 times for his national team, Godwin Attram has teamed up with former manager and scout Piet de Visser to complete their academy vision in Ghana.
De Visser is best known for successfully scouting Ronaldo and bringing him to Europe when he was a top scout for PSV Eindhoven, but has also coached numerous teams in the Dutch top level.
Attram and De Visser visited the LAFC training facility in 2019, and after a successful trip, invited LAFC head coach Bob Bradley to Accra to witness their academy, and the talented players they have for himself.
“Bob got to know them [Attram and De Visser] and came back impressed,” Thorrington said. “He came back impressed with the programs they run for the kids and very impressed with a few of the players, but in particular Mahala.”
The academy houses players on U-15, U-17, U-20 and U-23 teams at a facility which houses an artificial field, living and sleeping quarters, a restaurant and a pharmacy.
While already boasting one player from Ghana in Latif Blessing, the Black & Gold now have a total of four players from Africa (Mahala, Blessing, Mohamed Traore, and Mohamed El-Munir), and are hoping the partnership with the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy will open up a pipeline of talent flowing from Accra to Los Angeles.
“In Mahala we see a young player with some great potential and some starting points with how we play,” Thorrington said. “He is dynamic and aggressive with the ball and likes to take players on. He has an eye for the goal.”
And while Mahala’s technical skills are encouraging, Bradley sees a side of the youngster that has already endeared him to his teammates, and looks to be a very good sign on the type of players potentially to deliver from the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy.
“He’s got a tremendous personality,” Bradley said. “He has a great way of working every day. He has earned everybody’s respect. Not just with his play, but with the way he shows up every day with a big smile and excited for the opportunity.”
Mahala was such a hit with his teammates, that when he officially received his contract documents and signed them, the entire LAFC first team hosted an impromptu party in the lobby of the Performance Center.
“That just speaks to the type of guy Mahala is,” Thorrington said. "We do the deal and had finally done everything to get the signature. I then hear this uproar that I haven’t heard before. The players were all there celebrating with Mahala, they were so pleased for him that he would be able to join the team and Club.”
Mahala, who has represented Ghana at the U-17 and U-20 levels looks to have an impact for LAFC soon, but the hope is he will be long remembered as the first of many top young Ghanaian players from the Attram De Visser Soccer Academy.
The relationship is cemented, and Bradley and Thorrington are working closely with Attram and De Visser to confirm the next potential signing.
“The Academy has been fantastic to work with,” Thorrington said. “We hope Mahala is the first of many success stories that we have coming from the academy to LAFC and then beyond.”