Emmanuel Boateng’s story starts thousands of miles away on the dusty fields in Ghana, but where it may end is what makes his tale so fascinating.
Boateng came to the United States in 2009 as part of the Right to Dream Academy, which helps athletes in Ghana explore opportunities [both in education and sport] all around the globe.
The brilliant midfielder’s first stop in the States was Cate School, a small, private boarding school in the foothills of Santa Barbara, California.
Boateng’s high school career hit a high point during his junior year with the 2011-12 Gatorade National Boys Soccer High School Player of the Year award.
“It has been great,” Boateng told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “To be part of something that the school can look back on and be proud of is special.”
The 18-year-old is the first athlete from Cate (which has a student body of just 265) to win the Gatorade award in the school’s 102-year history.
The Ghanaian has brought other honors unto the school as well including a pair of California High School Division VII titles during his three years on campus, but his junior year will be his final in high school as he decided earlier this year to enroll at UC Santa Barbara in 2012.
“It was a tough choice,” Boateng said. “I wrestled with it a lot, but at the end of the day I thought it was the best choice for me.”
For Boateng, the choice was not simply about returning to Cate for his senior season or enrolling early at UCSB, there were other professional clubs also in the mix.
Manchester City has been closely monitoring the star for the past few years after inviting him on trial in 2010 and was poised to sign him this summer.
“I considered it,” Boateng said about joining the English Premier League Champions. “Thinking about leaving [to join City] in mid-July . . . but I think I made the right choice right now to wait and get the collegiate experience.
“It would have been a big jump to go from high school to the pros, plus I am getting my college education now as well so that is a great thing for down the road.”
When Boateng first arrived at Cate, he dazzled and amazed fans. However, he remained adamant that his true passion was off the field.
“I know I can play football, but I want to be a doctor,” Boateng told CNN in 2010.
In a sense, his priorities have slightly changed, as it seems more likely the diminutive attacker will play professional soccer before he steps into a hospital wearing a white coat and holding a stethoscope.
Boateng cited Landon Donovan for helping reassure his decision on Tuesday.
“[Donovan] kept telling me that you can never make a bad decision,” Boateng said. “There will be a lot of decisions in the future, but I have to feel like I never made a bad decision - whatever I do is what I do to follow it up. If I keep working hard, there will more chances that come.
“Right now, I feel like [joining UCSB] was a great decision, and I will do whatever I can to back it up [in the fall].”
Donovan spent an hour with Boateng on Tuesday and imparted some wisdom on the young talent.
“He is an interesting story – where he is coming and where he is going,” Donovan said. “I told him to do what you want to do. You will have agents, friends, and others telling you what to do, but you should do what you want to do.
“I think he is going to be just fine.”
Despite these accolades and praise, Boateng remains humble – perhaps due to his upbringing in a house without water or power –to the point of deflecting praise off his own shoes and onto those around him.
“People say that Ema changed the way soccer is viewed at Cate, but I think every individual played a part. Everyone around me has had a huge impact on these last few years.”
Now Boateng will be looking to make just as big of a splash in college soccer starting in August with the Gauchos.