High-school soccer: Gahanna Christian sophomore dazzles

High-school soccer: Gahanna Christian sophomore dazzles
Emmanuel Dapaa

Emmanuel Dapaa has been offered a tryout with a feeder club for powerhouse Manchester United.

The Columbus DispatchThe legend surrounding Gahanna Christian sophomore soccer sensation Emmanuel Dapaa began years ago. Eagles coach Scott Ramsey remembers the awed whispers about him in elementary school.

“I had heard rumors about Emmanuel and his abilities and potential when he was a lot younger,” Ramsey said. “And then he started for us as a freshman and was our third-leading scorer, and he really matured. We moved him to the wing, and he got more space and freedom.”

In his second high-school season, Dapaa has emerged as the state’s leading scorer, regardless of division. He has 38 goals and 15 assists.

“To have a season like this is just amazing,” Ramsey said.

The Eagles are in the midst of a dream season, having gone from a fledgling program to the champions of the Mid-Ohio Christian Athletic League with a 16-1 record and the fourth seed in the Division III Central District tournament.

For his part, Dapaa is more enthused about his improved distribution than the season-long scoring explosion.

“I get more excited about assisting my teammates than anything else,” he said. “But I think my brain has developed more because I used to just be able to dribble quickly by people, but now I like to use the angles and the whole field.”

Central Ohio followers aren’t the only ones taking notice. Dapaa has been contacted by officials from English Premier League titan Manchester United, who are figuring out arrangements for him to try out with its vast feeder system this fall in Europe.

Traveling abroad is nothing new for Dapaa, who was born in Italy to parents who hailed from Ghana, the same country that defeated the United States in the past two World Cups. Introduced to the “beautiful game” at age 3, Dapaa came with his family to the United States before his kindergarten year. He has four soccer-playing siblings, and the sport remains a passion to all.

“We broke a lot of stuff in the house playing and practicing,” Dapaa said. “There was always a ball around, and we just played.”

Dapaa has honed his craft as a club player for the elite Ohio Premier Eagles coached by Mike Lawrence. The roster features standouts from Dublin, Westerville and even two regulars from Cleveland.

He had a “wow” moment recently in a high-school game against Granville Christian. Dapaa took a ball from the corner and unleashed a bicycle kick with his left foot — his off foot — into the back of the net. A YouTube clip of the goal has generated nearly 1,000 views.

None of this comes as a surprise to Gahanna Christian athletic director Robert Balawajder.

“Emmanuel is an exceptional player with above-average quickness, speed, intelligence and skill,” Balawajder said. “He seems to meet any defensive scheme with ease and doesn’t shy away from any challenges. He’s such a joy to watch.”

In his most recent outing, Dapaa had three goals in a 5-1 victory over Fairbanks to set up a district semifinal showdown today with fifth-seeded International.

“They are an extremely fast squad, but they also have some size,” Ramsey said. “We will have to adjust our defense, but we still want to push forward as much as possible, and we like to play quick.”

Regardless of the postseason showing, this has been an unforgettable autumn for Gahanna Christian and its standout player. Not that Dapaa is in anything resembling a reflective mood with the tournament approaching its zenith.

“We are such a well-coached team and have a lot of players that have really developed in the last year or so,” Dapaa said. “We all just like to play the game and want to win no matter who we play.”


Categories: Community News
Tags: Ohio

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