Genoa forward Caleb Ekuban talked about his redemption with the club and the importance of coach Alberto Gilardino to the team. The Ghanaian international gave an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport, highlighting his season to date, the teams promotion journey and his experiences of racism on the pitch in Italy:
In the Sunday where Italy celebrated one of the greatest symbols of our football, Ekuban invented that fairy-tale goal against Lecce.
“It all seems almost connected, true. When I was a child, I hadn’t experienced Riva’s myth much, but I had some memories of his incredible goals. After the goal, it wasn’t my first thought, but people around me made me realize it. I had scored a similar goal in Turkey against Sparta Prague in the Europa League preliminaries, August 2019. But that time, it was played without an audience. Repeating it with the roar of the 34 thousand at the Ferraris was something else.”
The Wind Has Changed. What did this goal and the previous decisive goal against Sassuolo mean for you?
“Redemption. The desire to show that especially in football, when you reach mental and physical tranquility, you can give more. That’s exactly what’s happening to me.”
Last season, Genoa secured promotion, but it was a complicated year for you physically. How did you overcome it?
“Thanks to those around me, the medical and coaching staff. They tried to reassure me, explaining that there was no need to force too much in training because everything has its time. And that’s what I did. Now I’m reaping the results.”
You are mentally solid.
“We are aware of being an important group, and this pushes us to always do something extra. When everyone rows in the same direction, trying to give that one percent more asked by the coach, you deliver truly beautiful performances. For those watching, for the fans, it seems like a symphony. There is more self-esteem.”
Your overhead kick has also become a meme on fans’ phones. What was the most beautiful compliment you received?
“I was talking about it with Strootman. ‘Who knows how many people have written to you,’ he said. The truth? I received messages from many people I hadn’t heard from in years but who accompanied me in my career. It means that wherever I have been, I have left a mark for my way of being. This makes me happy.”
When you talk about redemption, are you referring to the negative comments for the criticism received for some missed goals?
“Not at all. If they criticize me or give me nicknames, I don’t do anything because it’s people I don’t know. I always try to be my better self. So far, at Genoa, I haven’t presented myself optimally. Now I want to finish the season without regrets, contributing to salvation.”
The Maignan incident: has anything like this ever happened to you in your career?
“Once, in Südtirol. I was insulted by an opponent, but the referee intervened. In general, in the world of football and especially in today’s world, you go from maximum mockery to racist acts in a very short time, both to be condemned in the same way. Then there is the personal sphere that influences reactions: in my case, I have always managed to handle or overlook such attitudes. But it is right to condemn these behaviors as much as supporting Maignan’s reaction.”
Now the bar is raised for you?
“Yes, but as Gilardino said, now there is another game. You can’t stop looking back. Of course, now we are surrounded by people who understand us and try to put us in the right place at the right time. Everything is set up; it’s up to us.”
The importance of Gilardino?
“His figure could be overwhelming, but his real quality is to be humble, leading us to be like him. So on the field, you win more duels because you are more predisposed to win them. And then, being coached by a former striker like him is very useful for his attention to details.”