Andy Boffour could have been playing professional soccer against Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho, but he would rather be washing dishes.
Working as a steward at the Blackwell restaurant on Ohio State’s campus, Boffour was, at one point, an up-and-coming prospect for AC Parma. Now known as FC Parma, it is an Italian soccer team in the country’s most competitive league.
“I was playing professionally for their juniors team while I was in Italy, and had I not moved to America, I would have been playing for their A-team against the best teams in the league … like AC Milan,” Boffour said.
Boffour, 22, a third-year in pharmaceutical science at Columbus State Community College, wasn’t always living the life of a potential Italian soccer star. He lived in Ghana until he was six years old.
“When I was in Ghana, I lived in Kumasi with my uncle mostly while my parents were in Italy. My dad left when I was three years old, and my mom left when I was about 4,” Boffour said.
His parents needed to earn enough money and buy an apartment before he and his brother could join them in Italy.
Boffour has a kind, but shy demeanor. He stands at an athletic 6-feet, 2-inches with a vice-grip handshake, and has excelled at soccer since he first started playing.
“I remember playing soccer a lot when I was a kid in Ghana,” Boffour said. “I used to play with the older kids and the adults. I guess that’s what made me better, ‘cause I got started playing with people that were a lot older than me.”
When he finally moved to Italy, it didn’t take long for AC Parma to realize Boffour’s potential at left wing.
“They offered to pay for my education and everything, so long as I would agree to go play for their juniors team,” Boffour said.
Juniors is where younger players compete against other team’s juniors to develop their skills before they are old enough to play for the A-team.
As Boffour continued to play and develop his skills, he was quickly becoming one of the better junior players in Serie A, which is the NFL of professional soccer in Italy.
“We play together a lot, but he is way better,” said Stephen Adu-Yeboah, a 26-year-old pre-med student at Ohio State and Boffour’s cousin. “Of all the professional teams that he used to play on in Italy, he was always one of the best. If he had stayed, and if he was still dedicated to soccer, he would have been playing for the professional AC Parma team.”
Despite AC Parma’s best efforts to convince him to stay in Italy, Boffour came with his parents, brother and cousins to Columbus when he was 15.
“My dad knew the importance of coming to America and getting an education with all the opportunities over here,” Boffour said sternly, emphasizing that family always comes first. “He was worried that I might get hurt playing soccer and then have nothing, or that the lifestyle would have me lose sight of my faith.”
A devout Seventh-day Adventist, Boffour’s faith is very important to him. Enough to trade a very promising career in Italy to remain in Columbus washing dishes for minimum wage.
“I’m telling you personally that very few people that play soccer like he did would choose to give up the fortune and fame that he could have had,” Adu-Yeboah said. “If he followed that path of a soccer player, he would have been very successful, he just didn’t want to possibly forget about Christ and forget about God.”
Boffour, however, doesn’t mind washing dishes at all.
“I like working at the Blackwell,” Boffour said with a smile. “The people are nice, it’s not too hard … It’s only a problem when I have a test the next day in class or something.”
Iris Baker, manager of the stewards at the Blackwell, and Boffour’s co-workers agree that his benevolence and infectious personality have them glad he’s scrubbing pots with them, as opposed to scoring hat-tricks in Milan.
“Andy is always optimistic and tries to see the good in everyone,” said Michael McKee, a third-year in integrated social studies and Boffour’s co-worker. “He’s a joy to be around, especially when you catch him moon-walking in a puddle of water before he mops it up.”