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BOLOGNA, ITALY - NOVEMBER 02: Bologna FC unveils new player Stephen Appiah on November 2, 2009 in Bologna, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images)

Football

“They gave me 3 days” – How Juve pushed Stephen Appiah out after representing Ghana at Olympics  

Stephen Appiah has narrated how Juventus sold him to Fenerbahce after he went against the club’s will to represent Ghana at the 2004 Olympic Games. 

The former Black Stars captain had shown in his first season with the ‘Old Lady’ what a tremendous talent he is, playing in 30 Serie A games as a 22-year-old and was primed for bigger things the following season. 

However, accepting to represent his country at the Athens Olympics meant the club no longer has him in their plans no matter how good he was. 

Appiah was called into a meeting after training one day.

“I was told the club had received a letter from Ghana. Even before I went in, I knew that it was about the Olympic Games,” he told Asaase Radio. 

“I went into the Sporting Director’s office only to see three men; Luciano Moggi – Juventus Director of Football, Geraldo, the club’s lawyer, and the legendary Berttegga himself. 

“Without even asking whether I wanted to go or not, they explained at length how much they needed me. They suggested I stayed and not represent my country at the Olympics. I asked for time to think about it and decide. They gave me three days.”

Appiah had made up his mind already he was going to the Olympics after hearing stories about the multi-sport event even before entering the meeting. 

“I had previously spoken to some teammates who had been to the Olympics and what they described was unmissable. Beyond the immeasurable sense of pride of representing your country at the multi-sport event, it was a festival. 

“The description of the Games village, getting to see other world-class athletes up close and in action was indescribable, they said. This was better than the World Cup. So I had to be there. 

“And on a personal note, I had played at the Fifa U-17 World Cup once, twice at the U-20 but never at the Olympics. This was my chance. And as a matter of principle, only injuries or suspensions could stop me from representing my country. That’s non-negotiable.”

Thus, his mind was made up. 72hours later, the 23-year-old sat in the intimidating presence of the trio. Now, Moggi wasn’t just a director at Juventus. He was potentially the most powerful man in Italian football at the time. Others, like Appiah, believe his influence transcended the confines of Italian football.

“People don’t know Moggi. Not even the investigators. He was the most powerful man at the time. Look, he was even more powerful than Sepp Blatter – then Fifa President. He did things even Blatter wouldn’t dare do. 

“Milan and Inter were our biggest threats at the time. Lazio and Roma were good but they didn’t have any pedigree like Milan and Inter. Yet, Moggi could influence our rivals and their matches. It could be through their opponents, refs. I mean the Calciopoli (a match fixing scandal in Italy’s top professional football league) lifted the lid on some of that. But that was only as much as Moggi allowed. The world knows only as much as Moggi allowed to be known about Moggi.”

If he could influence matches involving the Italian Prime Minister’s club (A.C Milan), then you can imagine the punishment he could visit on Appiah if he were so minded to. As it were, Appiah refused to stay and asked to be permitted to leave.

“I know they valued me. I was one of the more talented midfielders there. But this is Juventus where there are always options.”

And there’re a lot of them. In that season, Juve had the gifted Adrian Mutu, Ruben Oliviera, Mauro Camoranesi, and the uber-talented Pavel Nedved among their midfield options.

As fate would have it, Appiah would not only leave but also score a howitzer in Ghana’s second group game at the Olympic Games. The whole world watched in admiration as Appiah set the tournament alight. The whole world but Italy. They were the latest casualty of Appiah’s deadly right foot.

He signed for Juventus from Parma in 2003. Played 30 games in the 2003/04 season, only 18 the following season after returning from the Olympics and was sold to Fenerbahce at the end of the campaign. 

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