By Akyereko Frimpong Manson
In an era when Spanish football is gracing the world with artistry, flair, deft and excitement, there is a Ghanaian youngster who is taking his place in that amazing system in southwestern Europe.
Thomas Teye Partey, 19, arrived in the Spanish capital in 2011 – a year after helping Tema Youth, a Ghanaian Premier League side gain promotion to the top flight.
Upon touching down at the Cerro de Espino – Atletico’s youth center that has produced most of Spain’s illustrious footballers, he was handed over to MENA, the Rojiblanco’s youth development coach.
“When you arrive in a big club like Atletico Madrid, You’re thinking: ‘Am I a bit too small for this big space. It is there and then that you realise the hefty challenge at hand.”
But there was a debut success in the line for the lanky middle man as he starred in Atletico’s Juvenile league triumph in the 2011/12 season.
At Atletico, the emphasis is on growing through the youth ranks and adapting to Spain’s football culture in a systematic manner.
“It was somehow amazing because I didn’t get to play for the team C but got promoted to the team B straight.”
With the collection of stars at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, a senior team debut cannot come a silver platter.
Partey walked onto the Estadio Nemesio Camacho “El Campín” pitch as a starter for Diego Simeone’s side when they defeated Columbia’s Millonarios 2-1 in an international friendly last May.
Partey breaks into laughter as he tells the last story, and he recalls what it was like to be a teenager mixing with players such as Tiago, Raul Garcia and Arda Turan – players he watched on the screen in Tema.
“The 76 minutes I lasted on the pitch was really a great joy for me because these are players I idolise and playing along with them was a dream accomplished for me.”
On his qualities and style of play, Partey’s comment is carefully delivered in a softly spoken manner. He is a humble and courteous young man, brought up with strong values by religious and hard-working parents in Ghana.
“I combine Alonso, Gerrard and Busquet. I like the vision of Alonso, Gerrard’s power and dedication and Busquet’s deftness in the middle.”
On his future in the Spanish capital, Partey is modest with his progress but talks with a burning ambition.
It is easy to understand why he is tipped to be a world class midfielder for years to come.
“I don’t want to just settle for making it, I want to make it as big as possible here in Spain and elsewhere in big European leagues,” Partey says. “There’s no limit. You just keep doing it until you hit stardom.”
Whilst keeping his focus on the Spanish Segunda B where Atletico Madrid B are struggling in 14th place on the long, he still keeps an eye on Ghana’s progress in South Africa.
“I follow the team passionately and I always cheer them when there is game. I watch them win games and I become very happy about their success. I believe they can go all the way to the final and claim the ultimate.”