In a first-ever Red Bull Hub exclusive, I chatted with Liefering left-back, Gideon Mensah, about his move from West African Football Academy to Red Bull Salzburg back in 2016, how he was able to adapt to his new life in Europe after leaving his homeland of Ghana, his development, and, most importantly, that history-creating UEFA Youth League triumph.
In 2016, you left West African Football Academy to move to Red Bull Salzburg. How tough of a decision was it to leave your homeland for Europe?
“Yeah. I mean, it’s always hard a bit in the beginning when you have to learn and adapt what goes on in Europe here. But, for me, I will say I didn’t have much difficulties.”
Can you remember where you were when you first heard about Salzburg’s interest and what was running through your mind?
“I was in Ghana then. I returned from Portugal to Ghana and then I heard the news that I have to go to Salzburg… The only thought that came in mind was “it’s a new opportunity for me so lemme go and make a good use of it’’. And it was [a] successful day for me.”
What made you want to join the club?
“I joined the club not just only because it’s a big and a successful club, but also for my development and for a great future.”
What was it like adapting to a new club, new surroundings and a new language. Was there someone who made the adaptation process a lot smoother?
“Yes. I must say, I was expecting it to be more harder for me, but luckily I had also teammates from Ghana around me, so I think they made it smoother for me at the beginning. They gave me [all] the support they could give and then I made it easier for myself too by being a fast learner.”
You made seven appearances in Salzburg’s UEFA Youth League winning run back in 2016/17. How was the entire experience for you and what was your favourite moment of it?
“It was a great experience for me to be part of that great history. Every single moment during the youth was a favourite moment for me because it was all about the win from the start to the end. And also, I score my first professional goal in the Youth League.”
Last season Red Bull Salzburg reached the Europa League semi-finals. What was it like watching the likes of Marco Rose, René Marić, Amadou Haidara, Hannes Wolf, and Xaver Schlager – people you won the Youth League with – achieve this?
“I was happy for them that they made the step from youth league together to Europa league together.”
Does an achievement like this motivate you even more to make that push for a place in the first team?
“Yes, for sure. Knowing that they were once like me and making it up there. I always have the feeling that I’m gonna be there too soon.”
Going back to the Youth League win, who would you say was the toughest opponent you faced in the tournament?
“I will say the final game against Benfica.”
During your time in Salzburg, who would you say has had the biggest influence on your development?
“The biggest influence on my development would be my teammates who now play for the first team and also some other top clubs.”
In a recent interview for the club’s website, Patson Daka described Red Bull Salzburg as the best club for taking your first step as a professional. To what extent do you agree with this?
“Yes, I agree with him.”
Before the international break, you made your first two cameo appearances of the campaign in the defeats to Blau-Weiß Linz and Lafnitz. Building on this, what do you hope to achieve this season.
“It was rather unfortunate that we lost those games but the goal is to be the best in the league at the end of the season and we [are] working towards it.”
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to the next wave of players making the step from Africa to Europe, what would it be?
“They should continue doing the positive things they are doing and it will surely take them where they wanna be in the next years to come.”