The head of an Aston Villa supporters club in Ghana has explained how he shed tears of joy after his hero Paul McGrath phoned him in response to a video posted online by the BBC.
Owusu Boakye heads up the Ghana Lions supporters club in Juaben, where he estimates at least 10% of the village’s 10,000 inhabitants support Aston Villa.
A day after BBC Sport Africa posted a video in which Owusu explained how his grandfather used to tell him stories about McGrath being a ‘god’ of football, the latter spoke to the disbelieving Ghanaian.
The video call was set up by McGrath’s son Jordan, who contacted Owusu through one of the Ghana Lions’ social media accounts.
“He told me that his dad was Paul McGrath, and I shouted and said ‘oh no – how can I believe this?’ as he is the man I’ve been looking for since birth,” the 20-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.
“I didn’t believe it but he messaged me and told me that he was going to call with his dad in five minutes. I was still doubting until I saw Paul McGrath face to face, and Paul said ‘Owusu – hi, how are you doing? I am very happy and honoured about what you are doing and saying about me’.
“I couldn’t hold back my tears. They were tears of joy. Because my dream has already come true because I’ve talked to the greatest defender to ever grace the league. And yet he – Paul McGrath – was asking me about life in my village!”
McGrath, whose father is Nigerian, made over 250 appearances for Aston Villa between 1989-1996, a period in which the Birmingham club twice came second and once finished fourth in the top flight of English football.
“I have always been proud of my dad but it just makes it that much more amazing when you see people that far away wearing Aston Villa kit with my Dad’s name,” said Jordan.
The town’s love of Aston Villa stems from Owusu’s grandfather Daniel, who grew up in the Ghanaian home of a Villa-supporting family from Birmingham since his father worked for them.
“My grandpa was a footballer and his dad used to beat him any time he went out to play football,” says Owusu. “Some of the whites told his dad that they would love to take my grandpa to the UK and play for Aston Villa, so they started telling my grandpa stories and the history of Aston Villa.”
Daniel died without ever fulfilling his dream of watching Villa play live but Owusu is hoping that he may be able to achieve the dream.
Should he make it, and there are web pages already dedicated to raising funds for this, Owusu will hope to achieve a family dream by meeting McGrath.
“He said that I was in his heart and he is going to meet me very, very soon,” said Owusu. “Paul McGrath told me he is going to do everything possible to meet me in person!”
Meanwhile, Paul’s son Jordan says his family are hoping to be able to fly Owusu and perhaps others to watch a game live at Villa Park one day, which would make another of Owusu’s dreams come true.
“We are trying to reach some people,” says Jordan. “Obviously we can’t say we are definitely going to do this or that, but we are going to see what we can make happen.”
Villa’s high finishes during McGrath’s era are a distant cry to the fortunes of today’s side, who only escaped relegation from the Premier League on the final day last term.
“Next season, we are going to finish seventh or eighth,” says Owusu. We deserve to play in Europe because in 1982, we conquered the whole of Europe.”
Aston Villa begin their season on Tuesday, when taking on Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup.