Photo Credit – Ryan Temu FTF

Meet Isaac Tetteh, the Ghanaian goalkeeping coach helping to improve the standard of goalkeeping in New Zealand and Oceania. Based at Auckland United, Tetteh is currently working with the New Zealand team competing at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Tahiti.

The 29-year-old feels at the top of his game, enjoying his second Tahiti visit with an OFC Member Association national team. This follows helping the Fiji U-19 Men’s team qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina 2023.

“I am confident in what I am delivering, you look at the amount of top players I have worked with in New Zealand. Like I have only been in the country seven years and have done a pretty good job,” Tetteh told OFC Media.

(OFC goalkeeping consultant James Bannatyne with Isaac Tetteh )

His backstory to where he is now is inspiring. The 29-year-old moved to New Zealand in 2016 having played professionally in Ghana. It was in 2013 that Tetteh first came across James Bannatyne, the former All Whites ‘keeper who was working at the Red Bull Soccer Academy.

Bannatyne moved to Ghana as a goalkeeper coach for the Red Bull football projects Africa base, and it was there where the two first met.  It was the start of a friendship that would develop and ultimately lead to first Tetteh and then three years later, his family moving to New Zealand.

(Isaac Tetteh playing for the Red Bull Academy team in Ghana)

The young Tetteh was coached by Bannatyne at the Academy in Ghana in 2013 and saw football as a means to provide for his family and eventually leave Ghana in search of a better life.

“To be honest Mum tried her best for us. We didn’t go hungry We had an okay life and upbringing as well. We didn’t go any day without eating. So yeah, I was pretty, fortunate. I’m always grateful and thankful for everyone who has supported me through my journey,” Tetteh said.

“When James (Bannatyne) came in he was a good role model for me. I’ve always been very humble, very respectful. And you know, been always very human and treated everyone equal and gave respect to everyone I met on my way.

“James had a few injuries and every time he went to see the doctor, I sort of looked after the Academy. At the time I was the first team goalkeeper, and as the senior goalkeeper I looked after the younger guys and James saw my coaching skills and got to know me.”

(Issac, son Joseph and Rose in Ghana)

But in 2013 the Academy was dissolved.

“The players all went on a demonstration/strike which, we thought it was fair for us as players to be looked after properly. We stood for what was right at the time. But unfortunately for us, the owner closed it down, so we had to go home and that’s when the thought of me trying to find greener pastures came in.”

“I had that as a goal to move out of the country, you know, so I sent an email to James, I’m like, Look, mate. Yeah, I’m keen to look at my future and try different things and go play somewhere else, rather than Ghana, because I’ve always played in Ghana, and I’ve played always in the Division one level which is like next to a premier level yet financially isn’t sustainable. So I think that’s part of my decision to move out and find greener pastures here.”

It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Bannatyne, who is OFC’s goalkeeping consultant.

“James has been the backbone of my life in this country anytime I say that I cry pretty much, and I try hard myself not to cry because he’s made a huge change to my life and without his support I don’t know where I would have been now, I could  be playing football somewhere else I could be struggling in life anything is possible without opportunity,” Tetteh said.

“So I came to Ngaruawahia in 2016 and James was like, see how you go, see how you enjoy it. I got there and thought football was not too different than where I came from,” Tetteh explained.

(Isaac with sons Joseph and O’Brian)

He was at the Waikato club for six months before an opportunity came up at the Ole Football Academy in Wellington where he was Head of Goalkeeping for two years.

While the young Tetteh at the age of 22 had achieved his dream of playing and coaching overseas, it was an incredibly difficult decision to leave behind his wife Rose and son Joseph, who was just six weeks old when he boarded the plane for New Zealand.

“I moved six weeks after my son was born when I got my visa. Literally I said it’s a good opportunity for myself to make a good life for him. Obviously we just had a kid and yeah, it’s hard for everyone. But I was thinking about the possibility to create a bright future for my family.”

WhatsApp messaging and calls became his main form of communication with his family, he made two trips back to Ghana between 2016 and 2019 before Rose and Joseph were finally able to join Isaac in New Zealand in 2019.

“ She (Rose) struggled a bit at the start with no friends and having to leave her friends at home, and her business, so it was quite tough for her as well. But now she’s settled in and we are on the same page of making the best life for our kids (they also have a two-year old O’Brian).

It was shortly before his family moved to New Zealand that Tetteh was offered a role in Auckland at Western Springs AFC.

(Issac playing for Western Springs AFC)

“I was happy working at the Ole Football Academy, just like amazing staff, amazing people they’ve helped me grow so much and I can’t say anything but thank them for the support, especially Declan Edge, Ben Sippola and Blake Jones. There were great people down there at Western Suburbs.

“They’ve been very supportive of me as well. So I always appreciate the journey and support people have gave me through my journey.”

Tetteh moved to Auckland in 2020 and played for Western Springs but he injured his ACL and soon transferred to Auckland United where he currently works as the goalkeeping coach. Tetteh works with both the men’s and women’s side and the youth programmes.

He holds an OFC and New Zealand Football Goalkeeping C license and his reputation and work ethic has seen him work extensively with NZ Football, recently working with the Fiji goalkeepers for their FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign.

His friendship with Bannatyne has extended to their families. Jame’s daughter Alexa and Isaac’s eldest son Joseph are best friends. Joseph’s middle name is Bannatyne.

(Joseph Tetteh and Alexa Bannatyne)

Tetteh has overcome plenty of barriers on his footballing journey, but he has an extremely positive outlook on life.

(The Tetteh family in NZ, Isaac, O’Brian, Rose and Joseph)

“Success comes in different forms and different ways. From where we come from, as well, we don’t put too much stress on ourselves, to be honest. We just enjoy the flow of whatever the world throws at us, and we embrace it and enjoy single moment. That’s the beauty of our culture as well, don’t stress out. If you’re doing the right things and you’re being humble you’re being respectful, the process will look after you as well.

“So it’s very important that you stay truthful to the people who have helped you on your way, you stay honest, you stay humble, and I think through those values, I’ve been able to be like successful in what I have achieved in my life.”