Kasim Adams likes to laugh a lot.!
The 25-year-old is in high spirits throughout his SPIELFELD interview. However, the Ghanaian’s positive approach to life wasn’t always a given. The death of his mother in his youth came as a heavy blow, while a difficult first few months in Europe as a teenager also took their toll.
However, looking back on it now, these experiences helped him to become “a very strong person with strong character”. In a far-reaching interview, the centre-back talks about an all-important change in position, the strength he drew from the most difficult time of his life and the changes at TSG since his return from Düsseldorf.
Kasim, around seven years ago a youth game against Real Madrid changed the course of your career. Do you still think back to the day which turned you into a central defender and helped pave a way forward into professional football?
”Yes, that game changed my career like no other. It was a really intense time for me, as I had moved from Ghana to join the Spanish club Leganés and had been there for just a year. Until that game against Real Madrid, I had always played as a defensive midfielder – in my home country, in the youth national team and in Spain. Then, in the 15th minute of the game against Madrid, our central defender got a red card and I had to move back to cover for him. It just so happened that there was a scout from Mallorca there who was looking for a defender. He came to our next game, in which I also played centre-back due to my teammate’s suspension. The scout liked me, and in January 2014 I moved to Mallorca and became a professional footballer playing in defence.”
You mentioned moving from Ghana to Spain. It was the first time you’d left Africa. How were the first few months in an unfamiliar environment?
”It was a really difficult and painful time. My mother died shortly after I left for Spain. I was full of grief and I had to deal with it all alone on a foreign continent. But I was already a man and there was no-one other than my father to take care of the family. I had an unbelievable opportunity in front of me, and I didn’t want to let it go to waste. So I kept going, I left my family alone in a difficult time and I did all I could to help them through my work.”
How did you get through this difficult time?
”Although it was one of the hardest times of my life, it made me stronger in the end. If I hadn’t lost my mother, I would never have found such a strong sense of wanting to help people. So many people came to my aid after her death. That made me want to help and give something back to people in my community and homeland. There are a lot of people out there who need help. We all know that life isn’t easy in Africa. Sometimes you come across children who want nothing more than to have someone to help them. But they’re alone. I try to make sure I do all I can to give something back and help people in whatever way I can. I think this has made me a very strong person with strong character.”
Where did you summon up the strength for this development?
”I did all I could to make my family proud. At the start I felt very lonely in Spain, for long periods of time I had almost no-one to talk to. I was still a teenager back then. Even the weather posed a challenge, as I arrived in the middle of winter. The first three months were a real test of my character. I got the train for trial sessions at various different clubs. Looking back now, I’m very grateful for my agent Jose, who brought me from Ghana to Spain and took care of me once I arrived. I put all my eggs in one basket, and thankfully the risk paid off.”
Back home in Ghana, your father had your back and allowed you to focus on football…
”We were in constant contact and he always sent me good news from home and the family. That really reassured and helped me, which was really important during this time. Jose helped me in Spain and got me a place at school, while my dad supported me from Ghana. My youth coach was also very important for me. They all made sure that I focused on football and didn’t waste my time doing stupid things.”
Your former youth coach Al-Hassan Sediu has also had a big impact on you throughout your career…
”He is my biggest hero, he means everything to me. I don’t know how I can put our relationship into words. I’d say he’s more a father figure to me than a youth coach. We still talk more or less every day. He is a huge inspiration to me, my mentor. He supports me through every situation, especially when things aren’t going so well. He knows exactly how to motivate me and has helped me become a sensible adult. I think that a lot could have gone wrong in my life if I didn’t have someone like him to look out for me. We, professional footballers, earn an awful lot of money and sometimes we don’t know what to do with it all. We African players, in particular, tend to max out with the new opportunities at our disposal. That’s why you need someone to guide you and give you the right advice. He’s also helping me to prepare for the time after my career.”
For a long time, your father didn’t think much of your decision to become a professional footballer…
”He wanted me to get a good education. ‘You have to go to school, you have to go to school, you have to go to school’ – that’s what he would tell me every day. My mother always supported me in doing what I wanted to do with my life. She would often say: ‘We don’t know how far he can go. We should give him the chance to become a professional footballer.’ At some point, my father got on board. He knew that there weren’t that many opportunities to achieve something. He’s very proud of me now, but we used to argue a lot when I would come home late from football…” (laughs)
...but he’s still never seen you play live in the stadium?
”That’s right. I try to convince him to come, but I’ve had no joy as of yet. Maybe it will finally happen when I’m next in Ghana to play for the national team. But it’s not so easy to convince him. He doesn’t want to see me sitting on the bench or losing a game – or hear the spectators insult me. I always tell him: ‘That’s part of the job. You have to just sit there, stay calm and watch the game.’ So far I’ve not been able to convince him.”
If it weren’t for Covid, he would have a good chance of seeing you play in Sinsheim, as you’ve been a regular member of the starting line-up. How would you rate your season so far after coming back from Düsseldorf?
”I was named in the starting XI for the first game of the season away to Cologne. It was a great sign and a fantastic way to get started, especially after coming back from a loan. After that I worked hard to play as many games as possible for the team, unfortunately, my Coronavirus infection then meant I had to take a bit of a step back. But that was fine, because my teammates also deserved to get playing time. I have a lot of positive energy in me and I’m hoping for more appearances before the end of the season.”
It has been a season of ups and downs for TSG in general. What are your hopes for the remaining matches?
”The numerous Coronavirus cases have had a real impact on the team. We’ve missed a few players on the pitch and on the bench. But those are things beyond our control, we all know that. We’ve improved from week to week, we’ve managed to win a few games and we’ve delivered some good performances. I hope we’ll soon be able to return to the level we should be at.”
In the past you’ve often talked about the transfer fee that Hoffenheim paid for you in 2018. Does that still act as extra motivation for you?
”When someone puts a lot of trust in you, of course you want to repay them as best you can. I was playing well in Switzerland, but when a club like Hoffenheim comes calling, it’s a big deal. My transfer fee meant I was an expensive purchase for TSG at the time. That’s why it was and still is important for me to play best and pay the club back as much as possible. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well in my first year, which was hard for me personally. But I still had a strong desire to help the team. That’s just how life goes sometimes. I think I have a really positive influence on the team at the moment. If the club wants to sell me in future, then I hope I can at least get them back the transfer fee they paid for me back then.”
Looking back on it now, putting all your eggs in one basket and choosing the difficult road to Europe looks like the right decision. If things hadn’t worked out as planned – what would you be doing now?
”I didn’t have any big plans, but I do have another passion. I don’t know if it would have been enough for a professional career, but I used to sing a lot. I was pretty good actually. Maybe that would have been my other big chance.” (laughs)