Why I moved to China to play football, Odartey Lamptey reveals

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After bursting onto the scene as a 14-year-old at the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship in Scotland. Odartey Lamptey was hailed by Brazilian great Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele. Pele named the tricky and explosive midfielder as his natural successor.

Two years later, Odartey stamped his authority on the next “Pele” tag as he helped Ghana to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Italy, Lamptey won the Golden Ball and scored four goals in the process.

Odartey Lamptey was born for greatness, he had enjoyed successful spells at Anderlecht and at PSV. Things started to go wrong when he made a big-money move to join English Premier League side Aston Villa in 1994. The talented midfielder flopped woefully in England at Aston Villa and then Coventry City, he would never recover. 

To the surprise of many, Lamptey at just 26 was already playing in China. Speaking in interview with Joy FM, Lamptey revealed why he moved to China.

“When I was initially contacted about a move to China, I talked to Otto Pfister about it and he discouraged me, but my contact was insistent on the move and I ultimately decided to go there to train,” Lamptey told Nathaniel Attoh.

“I was very surprised when I arrived in China. The facilities were awesome and I decided not to return and they prepared a contract for me to sign.”

Lamptey’s decision to play in China wasn’t pleasing to many, he however divulged it was a good move for him.

“People were criticizing me about the China deal but the facilities were good, the money was good and you can see that players are moving there now. I was there for three years.”

“When I went to my team in China, they were 4th from last. In the first season, we achieved top four. In the second season, we placed second. I was very happy. Germany was on and off for me. I was finding it difficult in Germany,” he added.

Odartey Lamptey went on to advise aspiring footballers to look beyond China if they want to start their professional career.

“China football is very good. They are not as low as you see it. When you are only skillful and you don’t have pace, you cannot play in China. Until you have those two things, you can’t make it there,” he told Nathaniel Attoh on the Joy Sports Link.

“It is a very tough league. If you want to play to the highest level, I wouldn’t advise you to start your professional career in China. You can end your career there but don’t start there. You can make money there.”

Lamptey played for Chinese side Shandong Luneng from 2001-2002, making 37 league appearances and scoring seven goals.

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