The Black Stars striker discusses the despair of missing the Afcon and the joy of returning to action in this exclusive interview
By Ed Dove, Goal.com
Finally, Majeed Waris is approaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ghana striker has become a fine example of just how hard it is to predict the fates and fortunes of football’s protagonists.
A year ago he appeared set to be a key figure for the Black Stars at the 2014 World Cup, having made an impressive first impression in Ligue 1—his maiden opportunity in one of Europe’s major leagues.
After eight goals in 14 games on loan at Valenciennes from Spartak Moscow, there was talk of a big-money move, with Manchester United just one of several clubs linked with the hotshot.
The summer in Brazil passed him by—Majeed was overlooked for the first two matches as he recovered from injury—and when the transfer away from Moscow came, it was to Trabzonspor, rather than Old Trafford.
If this peripatetic frontman felt he had finally found a home, then settling in hasn’t been completely straightforward; Waris didn’t score in his first 14 matches for the Black Sea Storm.
“I’ve moved around a lot,” began the striker, speaking exclusively to Goal, “I have also realised that everywhere you go, they have their own culture.
“You have to adapt.”
Waris I The need to adapt
The settling-in period appeared to come to an end towards the end of October. Waris was superb as Tranbzonspor beat Mersin at Huseyin Avni Aker, and he contributed an assist in the club’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Gaziantepspor.
The goals soon followed.
An effort against Lokeren in the Europa League helped Ersun Yanal’s side to a 1-1 draw in November, while Waris also found the net against Keciorengucu in the Turkish Cup in early December.
When Manisaspor came to Istanbul in the cup on Christmas Day, the former Hacken man truly found his groove, netting twice as the Turkish giants registered a 9-0 victory.
Most importantly, perhaps, Waris also rediscovered his scoring boots for the Black Stars.
He scored against Togo in Tamale in November, ending an eight-game goalless streak for the national side and helping Maxwell Konadu’s team to a 3-1 victory—confirming a spot at the Africa Cup of Nations in the process.
The striker signed off in style and was a shoo-in for Avram Grant’s preliminary squad for the trip to Equatorial Guinea.
However, a muscle injury suffered in action against Eskisehirspor on December 29 threatened and ultimately—despite feint optimism at the time—ended any hopes he had of starring at the Afcon.
Waris | Has featured in only one of Ghana’s last nine tournament matches
“Sometimes, it’s just bad luck,” Waris reflected, remembering the difficult start to 2015, “getting injuries at the worst time.
“But these are part of the game and they’re something I have to accept and learn from.”
The striker was also a doubt ahead of the World Cup, having taken a knock during the Black Stars’ pretournament friendly victory against South Korea.
Injuries have limited him to just one appearance in Ghana’s last nine in major tournaments—’bad luck’ seems something of an understatement.
“It was difficult watching from the outside,” the striker admitted, “you always want to be on the field helping the team.
“The feeling when I knew I wouldn’t be part of the Afcon was so hard, particularly after all of the sacrifices we made during the qualifiers.
“However, I know and I believe that everything happens for a reason, and only God knows the reason.”
Waris | The view from the outside
Suggestions that Waris might have returned for the Cup of Nations have been undermined by his subsequent lay-off.
The striker only returned to action for Trabzonspor on March 9, making a brief 12-minute cameo in a 5-1 victory against Mersin.
“It’s been really great to start playing again after a long wait,” he confided, “it’s not been easy coming back, but at least, finally, I can see I am there!”
While it will doubtless take time for Waris to return to the form he had begun to enjoy ahead of his absence, he has every reason to push for a big finish to the season.
While Trabzonspor have been eliminated from the Europa League, they are still firmly in the race for European qualification in the Super Lig, where there are still 10 games to play.
Then there is Ghana.
Competition for a spot in the Black Stars attack is as fierce as ever. Asamoah Gyan, of course, has one place nailed down, Jordan Ayew scored in Ligue 1 last week while, in Waris’s absence, Kwesi Appiah has emerged as the new darling of Ghanaian football!
David Accam and Mahatma Otoo also provide additional opposition.
However, if Waris can begin to return to the levels of performance that he has enjoyed in the past and had begun to demonstrate before his injury, then the Black Stars striker will be out of the darkness and back in the light once again.
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