Former Black Stars captain Stephen Appiah has revealed that incarcerated criminal Ataa Ayi was his bosom friend growing up in Chorkor, a suburb in Accra.
According to Appiah, he could have become an armed robber if God wasn’t on his side.
Born Ayi Ayittey, the convicted robber is currently serving 160 years at the Ankaful Maximum security prisons in Cape Coast, the Central regional capital.
Speaking on Starr Chat with host Bola Ray on Wednesday, the former Juventus midfielder who captained the Black Stars to its debut World Cup in 2006 said his last visit to the Nsawam prisons revealed that over 15 percent of the prisoners there were his friends he grew up with at Chorkor.
“Ataa Ayi that everybody is talking about was my friend that I ate with,” Appiah said.
The former Accra Hearts of Oak, Fenerbahce and Parma midfielder thanked God for his life, adding that he could have ended up in a jail room with Ataa Ayi if not for football.
Appiah began his career at local club Hearts of Oak in 1995, at 15 years of age. In 1996 he had trials with Galatasaray’s youth squad but was not signed and he returned to Hearts of Oak.
In 1997 he moved abroad to join Italian Serie A side Udinese. He spent three seasons with the club and while there changed from striker to midfield.
A transfer to Parma in 1999 was jeopardised by viral hepatitis but Appiah overcame the illness to move there in the summer of 2000.
After two seasons at Parma, Appiah went on loan to Brescia for the 2002–03 season.
Appiah became a first-team regular for the Lombardians, and scored seven times in 31 games.
Appiah’s success at Parma alerted defending Serie A champions Juventus to his talents. Juventus paid Parma €2 million in the summer of 2003 to secure Appiah’s services on loan, with an option to a permanent €6 million transfer in 2004.
In 2003, Appiah finished 8th for African Footballer of the Year.
He went on to enjoy a good first season for Juventus, playing in 30 Serie A games and appearing in the Coppa Italia final. He also made his debut in the UEFA Champions League. In his second season at Juventus, Appiah played in 18 Serie A games.
Appiah officially retired in January 2015 after injuries cut short his career.