Freshman striker Stephen Annor Gyamfi has burst onto the ACC men’s soccer scene this season as an explosive goal-scoring threat for Virginia. Gyamfi has tallied an impressive eight goals and four game-winning goals in the Cavaliers’ (7-3-3, 3-2-1 ACC) opening 13 games. He seems to be enjoying it, too.
“Yeah, I have fun playing,” Gyamfi said. “After I cross the white line, I don’t have any fears, I don’t think of anything else. I love playing soccer.”
It has certainly been a fun season for Gyamfi this year as he filled up opponents’ nets for Virginia, racking up accolades and hype after each stellar performance. Behind all the glamor, goals and even an ACC Offensive Player of the Week honor, Gyamfi’s journey to come play in Charlottesville has not been without challenges.
He left his hometown of Accra, Ghana to play at Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla when he was just 16 years old. Montverde has a reputation as a high school soccer powerhouse, giving Gyamfi competition on a roster that boasted eight other Division I commits. It was an adjustment that he describes as the toughest moment in his career.
“My first year in Florida I didn’t play really [well]”, Gyamfi said. “It's a different environment.”
Chasing his dream of playing professionally has brought Gyamfi away from the people he loves — he has not seen his family since he left Ghana for Florida.
“I talk to my mom every single day”, Gyamfi said. “I miss Ghana, It's a sacrifice. I came here to play and have fun, but it's a sacrifice.”
The difficult move to Monteverde eventually paid dividends as Gyamfi blossomed into a top collegiate recruiting target. He had offers from virtually every part of the country, so choosing Virginia was a hotly contested decision. Fortunately, Gyamfi settled on the Cavaliers, and it was an instant match.
“I felt like in my heart,” Gyamfi said when describing how he felt about Virginia during the recruitment process. “My body felt it.”
The decision has been a success for both parties, as Gyamfi’s goal-scoring is opening up space for his teammates and putting Virginia ahead in close games. One staple of Gyamfi’s play is his aerial ability. He is the frequent target of crosses into dangerous areas in the box, which he credits to Polish native and Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona striker, Robert Lewandowski — one of Gyamfi’s inspirations.
“I love jumping, I love scoring with my head”, said Gyamfi, “Seeing Lewandowski scoring a header goal, it looked cool — so I practiced my headers in Ghana so I could be good in the air.”
Gyamfi’s breakout freshman season is full of highlight-reel moments, including an outstanding brace in a 3-1 victory over NC State. After gently slipping a ball past the approaching Wolfpack keeper for his first goal, he later crashed the box for an acrobatic header to put an exclamation point on the victory. Fans at Klöckner stadium erupted as he broke out into his patented goal celebration — a cartwheel and subsequent backflip.
Gabonese striker Pierre Emerick Aubumayeng is also famous for flipping after he scores — albeit a front flip in comparison to Gyamfi’s backflips. However, Gyamfi insists that he started doing the flips by himself.
“I learned it when I was a kid at the beach,” Gyamfi said. “I scored my first goal in Ghana and I did it. I used to do backflips when I scored a wonderful goal. That's what I did — backflips. Now I gotta do it every time I score.”
With his penchant for scoring, Gyamfi evokes the memory of former Cavalier striker Daryl Dike, who left after the 2019 season. Dike went on to play professionally in the MLS, English EFL Championship and even represented his country on the United States national team. However, when watching both these talented strikers play, their playstyles are unique. Gyamfi chooses to make inventive runs into the box while Dike relies more upon his strength to win one versus one duels.
Gyamfi will most likely be following Dike to play professionally, though we can only imagine where Gyamfi’s goal-scoring prowess will take him. It may be unclear exactly what the future holds for the Cavalier’s talented striker, but it is abundantly clear that while he has fun celebrating on the pitch, succeeding at Virginia and playing professionally are his current goals.
“I want to be the top goalscorer of Virginia,” Gyamfi said. “I came here to break every record…then the goal, my dream is to play professionally.”
As the Cavaliers enter the gauntlet of ACC play, and the ACC tournament, Gyamfi will be key to their success. Spectators and fans will be flippin’ glad that Virginia’s striker is bagging goals at a high volume on the big stage.
“I don't do extra,” Gyamfi said. “I just do me. That’s all I can say.”