In 1991 Bernard Tapie, chairman of Olympique Marseille, made a 20 million dollar bid on Anderlecht player Nii Lamptey (December 10, 1974). Lamptey was going to be the new Pele. But the Mauves, convinced that Lamptey wasn't good enough, sold him to PSV.
Nii Lamptey's story starts in 1980 in his home country Ghana. The young player is six years old and playing football in the streets of Accra. One day a rich business man notices his talent. Salifu Abubakari promisses to take care of Lamptey and suggests joining Kaalun Stars, a club from the city Kumasi, at four hours of Acca. Nii's father refuses to agree, because he wants his son to have a decent education. He partially succeeded, but Lamptey still isn't able to write simple English sentences today. "My father worked in a garage. He wanted to give me a better future, so I went to school. But I didn't like it and only went two days per week. My father was furious when he found out. But today he's proud at me, because he realises football was the only thing on my mind."
Nii Lamptey and Salifu Abubakari stayed in touch. The business man converted the young player into a Muslim. "My father was surprised, but to me it was all the same. Christians and Muslims both have a god, we only name them differently."
Nii prayed five times per day. "I can't always pray at the right moment. When I'm playing football, it's impossible. But Allah knows that I'm doing something else for Him. If I miss a goal, it's because Allah wanted it that way. He'll guide me through my carreer. My last year in Anderlecht was a big disappointment, but I have my god and my beliefs to comfort me."
Lamptey didn't speak English, but 'Ga', the language of his tribe. His grandfather was king of this tribe, that's why he was named 'Nii', which means 'king'. But Nii Lamptey didn't want to be king. He wanted to play football and joined F.C. Cornerstone United, a club from Accra. After a few games, he was invited to join the national youth selection. He was 14 years old. On the World Cup for youth teams in Scotland, he was eliminated in the first round by Scotland and Bahrein. But Lamptey stole the show. Scouts of Anderlecht, Glasgow Rangers, Queens Park Rangers and Vasco Da Gama attended the game. Assistant trainer Jean Dockx and scout Roland Van Ginderachter of Anderlecht reported: a big talent, but it won't be easy to get him to Belgium.
Lamptey was eager to go to Europe. And the famous Nigerian Stephen Keshi played for the Brussels' team. Lamptey: "I was informed of the interest of the Glasgow Rangers, but they never contacted me. Then I heard about Anderlecht and Keshi. I went to see him in Lagos where he played an international game."
It was the start of a whole adventure. Nii Lamptey took a taxi to the Ghanese border. The taxi driver told the police, guarding the border, that Nii was his son. That way they finally made it to Lagos. After the game of Nigeria against Lagos, he went to see Keshi. He introduced himself and convinced Keshi to take him to Europe. The Nigerian player agreed because he was interested in becoming a manager for Anderlecht. This was his chance to prove himself. But officials in Ghana were informed of Lamptey's departure. Stephen Keshi contacted the Ghanese ambassador in Nigeria and arranged the needed documents. On Brussels' international, Keshi called Anderlecht's manager Michel Verschueren. Lamptey's documents turned out to be incomplete, making him an illegal in Belgium. But Verschueren solved the problem in a jiffy.
Nii Lamptey: "I had nothing, only a small bag with a tooth brush, pants and a shirt. Verschueren first didn't believe I was the real Lamptey. But he was convinced when I did a few tricks during a training."
Lamptey's arrival was a big event. There were three times more fans attending Anderlecht's trainings. Dockx explained how he discovered this talented player and trainer Aad De Mos announced Lamptey would be better than Marco Van Basten. De Mos lined up Lamptey for a few reserves' games. His debute came six days before his 16th birthday on Deecember 16 of the year 1990. Lamptey replaced Luc Nilis against Cercle Brugge and scored a goal.
Lamptey: "I've always been modest thanks to Allah. But I'm proud to play for Anderlecht. I'm able to send a huge amount of money to my family in Ghana every month!"
The club was careful with Lamptey. He never played three games in a row and was never in the starting line-up. Though the player thanked his coach for the confidence by scoring several important goals, 7 in total. Lamptey also scored in the quarter finals of the Europa Cup against AS Roma. In 1991, he won his first title with Anderlecht.
Three months later, he celebrated his biggest triumph. Nii participated another World Cup for youth teams and defeated several other teams with his country, including Spain. Lamptey was the best player of the tournament and all big clubs in Europe wanted him. Olympic Marseille, in person of Bernard Tapie, really wanted to land the player. The press announced Tapie wanted to pay 20 million, but in fact he only offered 10 million. Tapie used his Belgian coach Goethals to come to an agreement, but Anderlecht wisely refused all offers. A decision they would regret later on...
One year later, Lamptey got injured at the groin. Lamptey: "My body wanted to play, but I can feel it's not possible."
It finally came to a conflict between the player and Anderlecht. The Brussels' club blamed Lamptey for always being injured in the Belgian league and never when he had to play for his country. And that criticism was justified. Lamptey participated on the Olympics in Barcelona and won a bronze medal. Later on he reached the final of the Africa Cup. Ghana was considered as Africa's strongest team ever. Though in the final Abédi Pele was injured. Opponent Ivory Coast was able to hold the nill and won after a shoot-out (11-10). Meanwhile it also became clear that Lamptey wasn't the player he used to be... The conflict in Belgium came to a climax.
At the start of the season of '93-'94, Lamptey was tested by PSV Eindhoven, but the Dutch club wasn't able to pay the high transfer fee. During the next season (93-94), Lamptey ended up on the bench again and he finally left Anderlecht for PSV, on loan this time. PSV, trained by former Anderlecht coach Aad De Mons, was building on a new team. In Holland, Lamptey was seen as Romario's successor. An impossible task for such a young player. Lamptey was PSV's best striker that season. Together with Arthur Numan, he scored 10 goals. A few low amount of goals that... He played 22 games, 2 cup games and one European game for the struggling Dutch club. Meanwhile, he still played for the Ghanese national team. But the year of 1993 turned out to be a huge disappointment. Ghana met Algeria in the qualification games for the World Cup in the United States. After an easy win in Ghana, the team had enough on a 1-1 draw in Algeria to qualify. Everyone expected would easily make it, so the Ghanese Football Organisation sent Lamptey with the reserves to Australia, where they were participating on an important tournament. Lamptey reached the final and showed signs of recovering from the bad form he was in. He was elected as second best player on that tournament, behind the Brazilian Adreano. But meanwhile, Ghana's first team was eliminated by Algeria. Lamptey: "That was a shame. We could have reached the final stages of the World Cup in the USA. We were clearly stronger than all other African nations. But I insisted on playing in Australia. It was also important. I did it for God."
On February 6 of the year 1994, Nii Lamptey scored twice against Ajax. Later on, he also scored once against Feyenoord. Those were his best games for PSV. But when the Dutch club bought Luc Nilis and Ronaldo, who cost less together than Lamptey would have cost, he had to return to Anderlecht.
Lamptey realised that wasn't a good thing and left. His next club was Aston Villa, where he barely played because of several injuries. He went to Coventry City (Engeland) but had to leave after a conflict with the direction board about his participation on the Afrika Cup. He went to Italy (Venezia, serie B), Argentinia (Union de Santa Fé), Turkey (Ankaragücü), Portugal (Uniao Leiria), Germany (Greuter Fürthen, 2nd division) and China (Shandon Luneng). In China he had to interrupt his carreer due to illness. He wanted to return to Europe and applied for a job at FC Twente, PSV and Anderlecht. Neither of the clubs were interest. In 1996, his international carreer was also over. He played his last game for Ghana on the Africa Cup in South Africa.
In Argentinia, Nii became the father of a son named after his idol, Diego Maradonna. But Diego suffered from an infection and became very ill. He wanted to spend time with his son and skipped matches and trainings. Eventually he was fired and a few days later his son died. Diego was only amongst us for four short months.