Millions of soccer players around the world aspire to represent their country in the FIFA World Cup, but their chances of achieving that – let alone score a goal – are slim.
Charlotte Independence midfielder Draman Haminu is one of the few players to see that dream come true, and in his moment on the game’s biggest stage he capitalized on his opportunity.
As a member of the Ghana national team in the 2006 World Cup, Haminu – whose name was listed as Haminu Dramani after a mixup with FIFA involving his passport – and his teammates made the trek to Germany and represented the first team from Ghana to appear in the tournament.
After not playing in Ghana’s first two matches against eventual-champion Italy and the Czech Republic, Haminu was inserted into the starting lineup by coach Ratomir Dujkovic in the team’s final group-stage match against the United States.
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“When I realized when there was a way for me to start that game, trust me, it was a tough task ahead of me,” Haminu said. “I had a very good coach who called me to tell me, ‘Hey, I give you the chance to play, and I know what you can do.’”
Twenty-two minutes into the match, Haminu showcased his abilities to a global audience.
As U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna received a pass, Haminu swept in and knocked the ball loose. He corralled the ball, and on a one-on-one opportunity against American goalie Kasey Keller, Haminu kicked the ball into the back of the net to give Ghana a 1-0 lead.
Haminu ran toward the corner flag to the left of the goal, pounding his chest, before bending to kiss the ground. His teammates sprinted toward him to celebrate.
“I have never played in that kind of atmosphere before,” said Haminu, who was 20 at the time. “It was a big match for me, and I was able to score. When I scored, everything became easier for me.”
Ghana held on to a 1-0 edge for nearly the rest of the first half before Clint Dempsey knotted the score at 1-1 in the 43rd minute. But in first-half stoppage time, the U.S. was called for a penalty in the box. Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah scored on the ensuing penalty kick, giving the Black Stars a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
With the win, Haminu and his teammates sealed a second-place finish in their group, ensuring a spot in the second round of the tournament and knocking the U.S. out of the World Cup.
The win and his performance in the game gave Haminu a sense of satisfaction for himself, his family and his country.
“I couldn’t believe I did that,” Haminu said. “(It was) at the end of the game before I realized this is what I did in the game.”
Brazil knocked Ghana out of the tournament in the second round. Haminu played in 10 matches for Ghana during 2010 World Cup qualifying, and since 2006 he’s played professionally in Turkey, Russia, France, Portugal and most recently back home in Ghana.
Haminu was playing for Asante Kotoko, a team in the Ghana Premier League, when he heard about the Independence.
“It happens a friend of mine, who is related with one of the (people on the) technical team, said, ‘Hey, there’s an upcoming club here in Charlotte, so if you’re home doing nothing, it’s better you come here,’” Haminu said. “I said, ‘OK, fine, that’s not a problem.’ We had a phone call with the coach and everyone, so I thought, ‘OK, I’ll come and give it a try.’”
When Haminu arrived in Charlotte, Independence coach Mike Jeffries said Haminu wasn’t where he needed to be fitness-wise and had to adjust to playing with a new team as well as living in the U.S.
But given his experience, Haminu has slowly overcome those obstacles. Despite playing only 15 minutes this season entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Winthrop, he is now viewed by Jeffries as a player the team can count on going forward.
Jeffries didn’t remember Haminu’s name when they first met. But Jeffries and his players recognize Haminu’s accomplishment in 2006.
“It’s a source of pride and to be able to play for your country in the World Cup, no matter what, is huge,” Jeffries said. “I think anybody that’s had that experience wears that badge with a lot of pride, and he certainly does.”