At last, D.C. United has officially welcomed its newest young prospect. Midfielder Nana Kuffour has at last been signed to a contract, after months of waiting for paperwork to arrive from his previous club in Ghana.
An unheralded teenager who emigrated to the U.S. earlier this year, Nana was so impressive in a local amateur league that spectators suggested he contact D.C. United. Since an early-season trial, has won over coaches and teammates alike with his skill, work rate, and enthusiasm.
That enthusiasm is palpable.
"I came here almost four months ago, and I really appreciate what they've done for me," he says. "(D.C. United) like me very much and they wanted me to play, and they were still waiting for my papers. No team would do that, and no coach would do that ... thank God my papers are in now."
Nana has also benefited from the presence of another African-born youth, Freddy Adu. The two youths speak the same Ghanaian dialect and have become fast friends, with Adu helping Nana adjust not only to life in the United States, but to D.C.'s clubhouse routine.
"Freddy is my brother, I love him," said Nana with a smile. "We do everything together. I don't have any (family) here, I have only my friends, and my colleagues. I have my colleagues Nellie (team captain Ryan Nelsen), Ben Olsen, Freddy, everybody. I really appreciate how they like me."
Coach Peter Nowak has also been impressed with the creative midfielder's efforts thus far, and has been influential in Nana's continuing development as a player.
"I really love Peter," said the teenager. "I haven't met such a coach as him. (The coaching staff) likes me, they show me how to play, how to do everything. I really love them and I appreciate what they taught me."
Nana was expected to make his debut in a United uniform in last Wednesday's friendly match with Nottingham Forest, but an ankle injury sidelined him until this week.
"I don't understand it," he added. "Normally I don't get injuries. It was a shock to me. Now it's a little better. I'll be OK."
The injury is minor, but after consultation with Nana and team doctors, Novak played it safe.
"I was really disappointed that he didn't play this game," Nowak said, "but that was the call that he made with (team trainer) Brian (Goodstein), and I respect this.
"He's great, a very young kid, saying always good things. The players like him very much, so he's one of the team."
Nana, who has played for Ghana's Under-17 national team several times, typically plays in an attacking midfield position, but is most likely to play on the wing for United. For now, he is elated just to be on the squad, and speaks excitedly about his experience.
"I don't know how to describe it! Big-time soccer," he says. "If (only) we Ghanaians had known that the soccer was great here. The USA is great; if you don't have faith, you can't play here. Everybody trains hard - you won't see anybody walking. You have to be strong. They should stop crying, 'Europe, Europe, Europe.' Anywhere (you go) now, everybody plays soccer."