Home away from home
It’s never easy to leave home.
But for Gershon Koffie, he hasn’t had to. Instead, he has found a second home here in Vancouver.
Today Koffie is proud to say that he is a permanent resident of Canada, as announced by the club, and he’s signed a new contract too.
MEDIA RELEASE: Koffie receives permanent residency card, contract extension
“I’m really glad to become a permanent resident,” said Koffie. “The fans have been fantastic since I came to Vancouver in 2010. They’ve welcomed me and made this my home. I love this city and I can’t wait to get back on the field.”
It was tough in the beginning though, coming to a foreign country as an 18-year-old. It was even harder considering he was thousands of miles away from his family.
That was the task that Koffie was faced with in 2010 when he moved from Ghana to Vancouver to play for Whitecaps FC, with his mother Jemima, father George, and sisters Rita and Selina remaining on the other side of the world.
“It was very, very difficult,” admitted the budding star to whitecapsfc.com last year when asked of his early transition. “I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t go out; I would just be in my room after practice.”
But that difficult period has been long-overcome by the young African. Koffie has thrived since he’s arrived in Van City.
Much credit for his smooth adjustment goes to the support he’s received, not only from the club, but from fans and people around the city.
One such example of a person who has backed Koffie since his arrival is long-time ‘Caps supporter and Curva Collective member Zachary Meisenheimer.
The two first met when Koffie arrived in 2010 and Zach came out to watch training with fellow supporters such as Massimo Cusano and Brett Graham, along with Zach’s then two-year-old son Kirk.
“Gersh is naturally a soft-spoken individual,” says the bearded Meisenheimer. “As is often the case when a person enters a new culture, he was quite reserved when coming to Canada.”
Soft-spoken off the field, yes, but a hard-nosed force for Whitecaps FC on the field. Koffie endeared himself to fans with his gritty play, and he made himself even more well-liked when he scored his first goal for the ‘Caps in a 2-0 first-leg playoff victory over Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers in 2010.
Since the move up to MLS, the now 21-year-old has been heralded by his peers for his strong play in central midfield. In September he was named #12 on MLSsoccer.com’s “24 under 24” list of top young prospects.
Off the field, Gersh has continued to develop a close relationship with fans. That connection was evident in the second half of the 2011 friendly against Manchester City at Empire Field when – after playing the first half – Koffie ventured into the stands to cheer with supporters.
“Like with anyone, once I got to know him he was as talkative and energetic as anyone else,” added Meisenheimer.
The two bonded and developed a closer relationship. Meisenheimer, a pastor, later invited the ‘Caps young midfielder out to his church and had him over for lunch and to play a bit of EA SPORTS FIFA 12.
“This is where I learned that Gersh's qualities on the pitch do not translate into playing FIFA videogames,” jokes Meisenheimer. “But that is probably because he spent more time outside playing football than indoors trying to imitate his favourite players on XBOX.”
Ever-appreciative of the support he’s received, Koffie has continued to show the love right back. He’s gone to see Finding Nemo in 3D with Zach and Kirk, and attended Kirk’s fourth birthday party.
Now, as the second-longest tenured player on the ‘Caps roster – behind only Russell Teibert – Koffie is making others feel at home. Fellow Ghanaians Aminu Abdallah – who played with Koffie at International Allies FC – and Emmanuel Adjetey have been trialing with the Blue and White in Vancouver. Gersh, as the elder-statesmen, is showing them the ropes.
Of course, those back home are always on the mind of Koffie. He still stays in frequent contact with his family and friends in Ghana, but he assures them that he’s doing well in his new home.
“They always ask, ‘How do you like Vancouver, how’s it going?’ And I always tell them it’s going good compared to the first time I arrived, and I think it’s going to get better.”
And for any fan of Koffie, it’s clear to see that the best is yet to come.