In the space of only 16 years, Otto Addo has done everything for Ghana’s national team. First, he was part of the side that qualified for the first time in history at the FIFA World Cup in 2006. At Qatar 2022, the team’s coach, he became the first former player to lead the side from the bench at the world football flagship competition, as his legacy is now completed, despite failing to qualify the team for the knockout phase, with a 0-2 loss against Uruguay delivering the “Black Stars” a huge blow.
Born in Hamburg to a German mother and a Ghanaian father, Addo is no stranger to Africa. He spent two years of his childhood in Ghana before his mother sent him and his twin sister back to Hamburg, where they grew up.
He instantly liked football and knew he had to become a professional player, with the excellent youth setup in Germany helping him fulfil his dream. He started in a small club, Bramfelder, before moving up the ladder and being scouted by Hannover 96 in 1996.
He signed for the side, but his performances were better and better, as bigger clubs circled around him. Three years later, he finally signed for Borussia Dortmund, a powerhouse that was trying to bounce back after financial issues, where he became one of the top players of the team, winning the German Bundesliga in 2001.
But then, tragedy struck. Addo suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in 2002, with another injury following one year later, forcing him to sit out the entirety of the 2004 season. Stints at Mainz 05 and Hamburg SV left him disappointed, as he failed to find the form that he sported before the injuries.
Born and bred in Hamburg, he could not have wished for a better start in his coaching career, serving as a youth team coach and an assistant manager till 2015, while also being the head scout for Ghana’s national team in 2013.
“I jumped into scouting for about two or three months to see if I would like it, because I was sure that I wanted to do something with football – about this I was very, very sure – but I didn’t know which section to go. The scouting was okay. 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,’” said Addo in an interview for CNN.
He also worked for Dortmund, his former club, as a talent coach, having previously held a similar role at Borussia Mönchengladbach. His penchant for tactics and a great understanding of football landed him a place as an assistant coach for Edin Terzic.
“As a child or even as a player, I never really thought about becoming a coach one day. I always just wanted to be a footballer and play for either Germany or Ghana. I never thought beyond that. I’ve liked being a coach. As a player I always did my best and, as I said, I’m happy and feel honoured to be in this position.”
“I’m learning day-by-day, and at the moment, I’m happy with the role as an assistant coach, but also with the role of guiding the young players, talented players, and helping them to grow up, to step into the adult football scene and to guide them, especially in difficult situations,” added Addo.
Sooner, rather than later, the big break came. In September 2021, Ghana’s Football Federation appointed Addo as one of the two assistants of head coach Milovan Rajevac, who was fired just before the decisive doubleheader against Nigeria in the African play-off of the Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Addo stepped in and from that moment on, it was his big chance to deliver.
“I had mixed feelings because I’d already worked alongside coach Milovan Rajevac. I think he did a good job. I was happy to work with him and we got on well. It was a shame to miss out on the Africa Cup of Nations. I was sad not to be able to continue working with him, but now I’m obviously happy to be on the touchline for Ghana. It’s an honour for me and I’ll always try to do my best, just like I did when I was a player,” Addo told FIFA’s official website.
His first game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup proved to be one of the most exciting ones of the competition, despite Ghana’s 2-3 loss against Portugal. A 3-2 win against the Republic of Korea followed, with the African side having a decider against Uruguay in the last match.
With a strong and experienced side, the South American team delivered their best performance of the tournament, winning 2-0, but both Uruguay and Ghana were eliminated, as Portugal and Korea qualified.
It was Addo’s last game as Ghana’s national team coach, as he wants to pursue his future in Germany.
“I always said if we qualified for the World Cup I’d resign afterwards, even if we were world champions. My family see our future in Germany.”
“Football is beautiful, sometimes it is ugly. It is ugly for us today. We have to learn and I’m very sure we will learn from this in the future,” Addo said.