Professionals | 17/04/2019

FC talent

Nikolas Nartey: Six seconds to remember

Scientifically, a moment lasts up to six seconds. It's the time when eyes are open all the time. This season, Nikolas Nartey experienced a special six seconds.

It was only a moment, just six seconds, but for Nikolas Nartey, the highlight of the season. The home game against FC St. Pauli. The number 38 lit up on the substitute board. Nartey’s 38. He’s going to come on, it’s Nartey’s first minutes in 2. Bundesliga. Not his first for the club, but his debut was a league above and 439 days before. In the home game against Hertha BSC on November 26th, 2017 – Nartey came on for Matthias Lehmann with six minutes left. “It was an indescribable feeling, when I got the signal that I was coming on,” said Nartey. The atmosphere in RheinEnergieSTADION, in front of almost 50,000 pairs of eyes, the excitement – Nartey was concentrated. “In this moment, you’re simply in a tunnel.”

It took more than a year and a half, before Nartey was able to experience such a special moment again. Injuries kept holding the midfielder back. In the meantime, he’s injury free again – and against St. Pauli, he managed to make his next appearance as an FC player. He was brought on for Dominick Drexler as the 90 minutes rolled over.

“I ran onto the pitch and just thought, ‘Please ref, let me get a touch. I just want one touch.’”, laughed Nartey. Six second later, Sören Storks blew for full-time. What then happened, still gives Nartey a smile: “Jonas came to me, laughing. Jorge Meré with the thumbs up and shouted: well done! Unfortunately I didn’t touch the ball, but it was a funny situation.” FC posted the video of Nartey’s six-second appearance on Facebook, which reached over 150,000 people.

Even when it was just a moment, for Nikolas Nartey it was worth it to keep going through the 439 days previous. Nartey was born in Bagsværd, close to Copenhagen. His father comes from Ghana, his mother is Danish. Both cultures have stayed with Nartey. “I grew up in Denmark, but there are also lots of things I like about Africa – for example, the music or the food.” He wears a necklace with the African continent and is a big fan of Fufu, a national dish of Ghana. It is mainly prepared from manioc rooting powder and served with a spicy tomato and beef soup. “You shouldn’t eat too much of it, it’s not good for sport,” laughed Nartey.

UEFA Youth League

The way to the top began at an early age. At 8, he completed a trial at FC Copenhagen. More than 100 kids were there, but Nartey stood out. He was a key player in Copenhagen’s under-19s, which played in the UEFA Youth League. “It was so organised, that we had games on the same day as the first-team in the Champions League. Therefore, we flew to our away games together. It was a great experience and very motivational to be with players like Thomas Delaney in the plane,” said Nartey. The Copenhagen U19s faced Porto, Leicester and Club Brugge. “We knew that these games were a chance to become known internationally. But we weren’t hugely interested in that. We just wanted to win our games.”

Everything else was done by the scouts. FC also noticed the extraordinary talent. In January 2017, the FC prevailed against the other competitors who wanted to sign Nartey, and convinced him of a move to Köln. At the age of 16, he moved to the sports boarding school in Köln, right next to the RheinEnergieSTADION. "I had to learn to be self-reliant from then on. I probably won’t be a good cook, but my pasta with pesto can now be eaten," he says, smiling.

“I was so happy in the moment”

When it comes to his first training session with the first-team, Nartey remembers it well. Jörg Jakobs, a current member of the FC board, rang him and said that he was there. “I didn’t believe it and was so happy in the moment. With the first session, I was a little nervous. But that soon went away,” said Nartey. The FC players welcomed him in, with fellow countryman, Frederik Sörensen taking particular time for the midfield talent. Nartey worked on his weaknesses and continued to improve his performances. That applied to the Danish youth teams, where he is regularly playing.

He trains with the first-team, is a part oft he team and earns game time with the under-21s in Regionalliga West. In the under-21s, he is getting used to the battles in senior football. “These games are very important for me, so that I can keep developing.”

With the upturn in form of the under-21s since Christmas and the recent run of five wins in a row, Nartey was a big part of that. Against SV Straelen, he fired home two spectacular strikes from distance. Nartey also found the back of the net with a tidy finish against Borussia Mönchengladbach II, as FC ran out 3:0 winners.

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