Le50 2017 – Enock Kwateng
Signing a professional football contract is the stuff that dreams are made of; something that young Franco-Ghanaian defender Enock Kwateng achieved at the end of 2015 signing on with FC Nantes having been at the club since 2012. He took his first steps in league football with a debut cameo away at Angers at the very beginning of the 2015-16 season, and while he would regularly make the bench during that season he would not return to competitive action until the its very end. Kwateng’s second appearance in yellow and green was during the last game when FC Nantes finished their season getting summarily thumped 4-0 at the Parc des Princes by a PSG side who had been crowned in March as champions of France.
Things began to improve for Kwateng the following season as FC Nantes entered a new era; club legend Michel Der Zakarian had not had his contract renewed with the club looking to reach the next level and Rene Girard was appointed. Girard had won Ligue 1 in 2012 with Montpellier and had achieved relative success with Lille in two seasons in the north. Kwateng began the season on the bench once more but began to see action in September coming on as substitute at home to Saint Etienne. The following match had Kwateng make his first start for FCN as they travelled away to Marseille. Faced with a defensive injury crisis, Kwateng was selected in central defence at the Velodrome. Nantes went down 2-1 despite Emilano Sala’s early strike but it was not a disgraceful evening for the men in yellow; and not for Kwateng, who made all his tackles and put in half a dozen interceptions.
Further minutes off the bench would follow in a win away at struggling Lorient as Nantes notched up two successive wins following the victory in the must-win home game with Bastia the previous week. This alleviated somewhat the pressure circulating around FC Nantes and their new boss given how disappointingly the season had begun. A second start of the season at home to Angers in the Coupe de la Ligue came as Kwateng helped his team seal qualification to the next round.
As the nights drew in and temperatures began to drop things turned nasty for les Canaris in autumn 2016 and Kwateng was there to bear witness to it all. Having played the second half in the 4-1 drubbing at high-flying Nice, Kwateng was on the pitch during one of FC Nantes most notorious games of the 2016/17 season. On the face of it, a 1-1 draw at home to Toulouse is not the most newsworthy result but given the huge level of crowd unrest at the club’s management, the match climaxed with sections of the fans attempting to gain access to the President’s box in order to show their level of disillusionment with how things were going. Things were such that many people in the Tribune Loire did not even see Mariusz Stepinski’s late scrappy equaliser despite it taking place directly in front of them, such were the off-pitch going-ons.
Kwateng was once again in the starting eleven for the following home game against Lille; a soporific, turgid non-event of a match giving further fuel to fire of those demanding change, but notable for the fact that it was Kwateng’s first clean sheet as a starter. With most of Lille’s pressure coming up the left, Kwateng at right-back put in a very solid performance with some key tackles to keep things under control.
Things came to a head for Nantes’ season when Lyon came to town the following Wednesday and duly smashed them 6-0, and subsequently Girard was sacked as the club sought to save their season. Phillippe Mao the reserve team coach oversaw the following game away at Guingamp with Kwateng returned to the starting line-up having mercifully remained on the bench for the Lyon massacre. However, that would be that for Kwateng’s domestic season. Sergio Conceicao joined FC Nantes at the beginning of December and began to revolutionise the club from top to bottom. Alas, in the quest for change, Conceicao left Kwateng to one side as he did not even make the bench for his club for the rest of the season.
The season was not completely over though, having played a small role in the French U19 European Championship-winning side in the summer of 2016, Kwateng was once again selected for the 2017 U20 world cup in South Korea. Having started three friendlies for U20s during the season he went on to start the group games against Vietnam and New Zealand at the tournament, playing 90 minutes each time for two clean sheets, again at right-back.
Looking forward Kwateng will have to make a decision or two vis-a-vis his future. Will he be able to impose himself in FC Nantes’ new era under Claudio Ranieri or would a loan move allow him to hone his skills with guaranteed extended game time? That potential solution could also see him work out where he sees his best position. For FC Nantes he has played in either full back position, mostly on the right, as well as in the centre, proving his polyvalence. Next season should be time to step up for the twenty-year old FC Nantes has a long history of producing young players who went on to achieve greatness. Enock Kwateng will have to work out his own path to reach his potential.