In 2008 when German-born Ghanaian international Otto Addo announced his retirement from playing football, he was sure he wanted to do something with football but just didn’t know the exact thing to do. At the time, the former Dortmund, Mainz and Hamburg midfielder had already had an amazing career in Germany, winning the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2002.
But largely thanks to knee injuries, Addo, who represented Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, hung up his boots in 2008 while at his hometown club of Hamburg. He later realized that he would like to help young footballers, so he shifted his attention to coaching and scouting. He became an assistant at Hamburg’s youth team, where he began his coaching apprenticeship, and then broadened his skills becoming an assistant to Denmark and former Mainz coach Kasper Hjulmand while he was with Nordsjaelland.
Addo subsequently became an assistant at Borussia Mönchengladbach working under Dieter Hecking, who was then the coach. Today, 46-year-old Addo works as a “talent coach” at Dortmund, making him one of the most prominent Black coaches in football.
Recently, Addo was released by Dortmund on “loan” to enable him to lead Ghana’s national team as interim coach. He was appointed as the interim boss of the Black Stars by the Ghana Football Association in February as the country was looking to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
“When the request came, I didn’t have to think twice, this is an honor for me,” Addo said to local Dortmund newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten after his appointment.
His task was to lead the Black Stars to victory over their rivals Nigeria in a two-legged World Cup playoff on March 25 and 29. On Tuesday, Addo did just that when Ghana beat Nigeria to qualify for the World Cup. He had limited time to work with the players but he delivered thanks to his wealth of experience.
“I’m really delighted, exhausted, it was a tough match and we fought our way through,” he told reporters after the game on Tuesday. Ghana failed to book a fourth consecutive place at the World Cup in 2018.
Addo is now the first man to play at the World Cup and coach the Black Stars to qualify for the global tournament.
Born in Hamburg, West Germany on June 9, 1975, to a German mother and a Ghanaian father, Addo began his football career in Hamburger SV in 1991 before turning pro at German professional football club Hannover 96 at the age of 24. He then spent six of his seasons in the Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund, earning his first of 15 caps for Ghana. Addo represented Ghana at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations before joining the team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where the team got to the round of 16.
In 2008 when he retired, he decided to jump into scouting for about two or three months to see if he would like it. “The scouting was okay,” he recalled to CNN. “You know, traveling alone and watching games alone was quite different and I’m a guy who likes to be around people.
“Then the opportunity came to join the under-19s [at Hamburg] and they asked me if I could join as an assistant and if I could help. I stepped in and I liked it. I like to work with young players and with people. It was a good experience and I said: ‘OK … I want to do this for the rest of my life.’”
Today, Addo is a Black former player who has a UEFA pro license and is guiding young footballers in Europe and beyond. He is optimistic that the sport, particularly in Germany, will soon have more Black coaches like him.
“There are a lot of Black players now playing, and so I think maybe in 10 years, five years, when they stop then we will see how it is here,” he said.