Gordon Boateng will be joining our ‘Business of sport’ panel on Saturday 29th June at Birkbeck, University of London.
Gordon is a man way ahead of schedule. Having cut short his playing days to concentrate on management in his early 20s, the north Londoner has recently become English football’s youngest chief executive after stepping up to board room level at Blue Square Bet North side Histon.
“Age is just a number,” said the 30-year-old, founder of The Empire, a specialised consultancy service giving advice and direction to football players. “I have proved my credentials in other capacities at non-league level before, and I’m ready to do it as a chief executive. This is a massive challenge and something that I’m relishing.”
Timing has been crucial in Boateng’s career to date. Following spells as a player at a number of clubs including Bristol City, Leyton Orient and Norwegian side Kvinesdal IL, the promising striker decided to take a different path. Taking up his inaugural first-team coaching position at then Ryman League Division Two team Clapton, Boateng assumed further managerial roles in non-league with Bishop’s Stortford, Dagenham & Redbridge, Brimsdown Rovers, Harlow Town, Cheshunt, and Leyton thereafter.
“I moved around around the non league circuit,” admitted Boateng, the winner of numerous league titles and trophies during his period as a manager. “I needed to do this, in order to gain experience, which is everything in the football world. It may appear that I haven’t really settled anywhere, but if I hadn’t have done that, I wouldn’t be where I am now. The position I am in at Histon is the right one for me at this stage in my career. I’m here for the long-term, there’s no rush to go anywhere.
“The most important thing is to see the club run properly and professionally, with the correct football infrastructure, from top to bottom. We have implemented an academy and scholarship programme, and there is a real focus on the grassroots element in everything we do at the club. Everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet, and the foundations are being put in place to eventually turn us into a Football League side in due course.”
Sharp focus has been drawn upon the shortage of black faces in the board room in recent years, something which makes Boateng’s emergence all the more impressive. It comes as no surprise to the man himself though. Having battled against the odds throughout his life, he has never let anything deter him from reaching his goals.
“I’ve had a lot of knockbacks to deal with and that’s what has really driven me on and made who I am today. I had an interview for various managerial roles before and was told ‘your face doesn’t fit’. A lesser person would have given up there and then, but I wouldn’t ever allow barriers to prevent me from getting to where I want to be or believe I deserve to be. My skills and ability define me, not the colour of my skin. At some point I will get to the very top that is a fact – I’ll make it to the Premier League.”
Having to juggle business interests with duties at Histon means Boateng rarely has a minute to spare. Yet, he always finds time to incorporate his faith into everything he does. “Christianity has always guided me,” revealed Boateng, who points to God as the reason for his survival in a near fateful car crash in 2009. “It was said in the All Souls Penticostal Church in Angel Islington by the Deaconess Aunty Janet Asare that I will make it in the world of football, become a household name and make a difference.”
Boateng hasn’t relied upon faith alone in helping him to get to where he is today. Despite previously working under well-renowned managers such as Tony Pulis, Tommy Taylor and John Still, it’s three lesser-known figures that have been most influential in his development, including Kick It Out’s very own Troy Townsend. “Troy, Rudy Geohagen and Errol McKellar have all been key in my football career. They’ve always given me words of encouragement, helped me to maintain my focus and most importantly, believed in me as a leader. The support I’ve had from my mum and brother, my close friends and the rest of my family has also helped me to strive to do better.”
Boateng is now keen to make a difference himself. Having gained heaps of experience throughout his own footballing journey, he feels as though he is in a position to aid the next generation of youngsters looking to make their way in the industry. “I want to give people the confidence and belief that they can be whatever they want to be,” commented Boateng, a nominated mentor for Kick It Out’s ‘Leading the Way’ conference later this month.
“We all have places we want to be, and places we aspire to get to, and you need to box clever and back yourself in order to make that happen. There are always hurdles to overcome, but you have to take the initiative. It’s not about waiting around for a miracle – you have to get out there, make things happen, meet people and sell yourself. Believe in yourself, keep networking and keep moving forward. Everybody has their own niche, it’s crucial that we put this on display.”
Boateng’s story would make an inspirational book some day. You can guarantee there’s still a fair few chapters to be written yet though….
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