Throughout the 2020 offseason, Detroit City FC will be sharing the stories - both on and off the pitch - of its men's and women's players. Kicking off the series is Evans Frimpong and how his journey from Ghana inspired his desire to give back to his hometown. Wanting to provide the opportunities he was able to take advantage of early in his career, Frimpong co-launched Desire Academy Football Club to give the kids in his village a chance to play organized soccer and pursue continued education.
Player Spotlight: Evans Frimpong
The Detroit City FC men’s side was close enough to their first professional tournament title that they could reach out and grab it.
Le Rouge, up 2-1 in the final against the Oakland Roots, was hanging on with every second as the Roots pushed for an equalizer. As the sides entered stoppage time, the gaffer Trevor James looked to his bench for a spark to close out the effort - on came midfielder Evans Frimpong.
Frimpong, who had seen just under 10 minutes of action for the entire tournament, delivered one of the most memorable moments of the entire competition with a spectacular line-clearing deflection off the crossbar to keep Detroit City a goal in front and eventually claim the NISA Fall title.
The road to Detroit has been full of turns for Frimpong, but it is his unique path that helps Frimpong feel a piece of home. Frimpong was born in the small Ghanaian village of Obuasi. At the age of 12, he was given a tryout in the city with the famed Liberty Academy - known for turning out some of the top talent in Ghana.
“You either pick football or education,” Frimpong said. “Liberty gave us the opportunity to do both at the same time. For my parents, there was no soccer if there was no school. If you ask any kid back home in Ghana where do you want to play, they say EPL, Arsenal, Man City, and all of these teams. But at the time I had in my mind that I can go to school and play soccer.”
At the age of 20, Frimpong came to the United States where he played collegiate soccer at the University of Texas-Brownsville in the NAIA before transferring to the University of Delaware. From the moment Frimpong arrived in the U.S. and began his collegiate career, he knew it was his mission and responsibility to help lead the way for other young footballers in his village to follow in his steps.
“The way I came is the same way I want to help everyone else,” Frimpong said. “I wanted to build the bridge between staying in the bigger city where you can get more chances than staying in the village. If you are in the village, nobody is going to look for that talent. If we can do it in the city, let me transfer it to the village. Let me organize something where they can get off the street and start playing organized soccer.”
From this desire to bring accessible, organized soccer to his home, Frimpong co-founded the Desire Academy Football Club with Sammy Appiah - which now consists of 62 players and students from under-12 to under-16. The academy provides kids with the ability to learn and prepare for possible opportunities in the United States. Students are involved in classwork throughout the day before heading out to afternoon practice. Academy players are then given additional classwork and tutoring post-practice. The academy values preparation of more than just the game.
“The goal is to not just play soccer. It’s not just to make it to the pros after. It’s to find a job and also go back home to help the people that are in the village.”
While the academy has continued its growth, the recent pandemic has created a myriad of difficulties for Frimpong and Appiah - who manage Desire Academy from overseas.
“This year has been the roughest year of all,” Frimpong said. “We’ve had to break everything down. The coaches don’t go to work and every kid is at home. We’re trying to open them and get everyone back in November where we can have a fresh start. Right now, we are looking at next year because there is no football at all.”
Frimpong takes an immense amount of pride in being a leader for children in his village and doesn’t take the responsibility lightly of being able to change a child’s life.
“It is like you are a father to the kid,” Frimpong said. “The happiness you see from a kid who enjoys football. I’m happy to see them succeed and smile with hope. I love the fact that they are happy to give themselves a chance in this massive football world we are living in. They can say, if Evans did it then I can also do it.”
Much like he is in Ghana, Frimpong is actively involved in helping in local Detroit communities, joining teammates Tendai Jirira and Sebastian Capozucchi in working with the Detroit Pistons’ Neighborhood Program, providing free soccer clinics to kids in the city.
“Just call me. This is something that I am doing at home and we know how hard it is for these kids to get what we have.”
This offseason, Frimpong will be making his first trip back to the academy in three years. While they continue to grow their academy, help is always needed to continue improvements for infrastructure and essential needs.
“The kids will be happy to see us come back. I can not go back every year but when I am there certain things need to be done for the future before I come back.”
Usually relying on the generosity of academy graduates now in the pro ranks, the on-going pandemic has put Desire in financial need to provide equipment, supplies for teachers, food and transportation to practice. For those interested in learning more about Desire Academy FC or would like to donate, Frimpong and Appiah have established a gofundme that can be found at the link below.