Norwich City’s Alex Tettey spreads the smiles ahead of crunch clashes with Norway
- Credit: DAGBLADET
Norwich City midfielder Alex Tettey has taken time out to talk about his difficult rise from the dusty streets of Ghana to the top level of football, as he prepares for two of the biggest matches of his career.
The Canaries battler is away with Norway and looking to complete a remarkable comeback to seal qualification for next summer's European Championships in France.
Tettey, along with team-mate Markus Henriksen, visited Norwegian third-tier side Holmen IF, in the Asker region, near Oslo, to give some coaching and sign autographs for excited local youngsters.
'The facilities these children use are spot-on. When I was a child I played on a sand pitch without football shoes,' the City midfielder said, speaking to newspaper Dagbladet.
'If you look at all the children here, they've all got football shoes. And most of them have the newest types. They are lucky.'
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The visit was ahead of Norway's final two matches in Group H of Euro 2016 qualifying, against minnows Malta in Oslo this evening and then unbeaten group leaders Italy in Rome on Tuesday.
Those games have become important after fading qualification hopes were reignited with a 1-0 win in Bulgaria and a 2-0 home win over Croatia last month.
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Tettey played all of both games, winning his 26th cap, and was praised for helping keep Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric quiet against Croatia.
That has guaranteed at least a play-off place but two wins would guarantee qualification, and top spot, for a first tournament since Euro 2000.
However, the 29-year-old was born and raised in the capital of Ghana, Accra, but moved to the town of Bodø in northern Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, at the age of 13.
It was once in Norway that the hard-working midfielder's football career began to come together.
'We had a local team, but there was never a league or anything like that,' Tettey continued of his African upbringing. 'We found other teams to play against every now and then, but there would be long periods between each time.
'It wasn't until I began playing with Bodø Glimt's (Norwegian top-flight team) academy that I played organised football. So these children are lucky, they have a pitch, a football, and coaches who spend a lot of time with them.'
Eventually Tettey joined Rosenborg and made his debut as a 17-year-old, going on to play for his adopted nation at youth levels before making his senior debut in 2007.
He moved to Rennes in France in 2009, where he played in the Champions League, before joining the Canaries for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2012.
Tettey has since gone on to make 98 appearances in all competitions for City, scoring four goals.
His standing in Norway was emphasised by the excited reception from the youngsters at Holmen IF, where the coach whose team Tettey took a coaching session with, Andreas Qvenild, was very pleased.
'It's funny but the children are very different,' Qvenild said.
'Now I'm just walking round tidying – usually there's a lot more to do.
'This is a huge event. It gives us an extra boost during our normal daily lives.'
If he can now help Norway to seal qualification, Tettey will be able to give all of his adopted nation that same boost.