Jeremie Frimpong has played his way into the focus and hearts of the fans this season with his speed dribbling down the right flank and he has become a regular first choice for the Bayer 04 coach Gerardo Seoane. The 21-year-old has great ambition: He wants to win titles and play for the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup. Werkself Magazin met up with the full-back, who came through the ranks at Manchester City and Celtic, at the Motorworld in Cologne and looked out for a comparably fast machine – and found a surprising favourite. The Amsterdam-born player is much more interested in two other things at home: Anime series and the FIFA game. The digital world has an influence on the private life and the career of the right back, as the son of Ghanaian parents explains.
Jeremie Agyekum Frimpong has only really been frightened once in his life. Not when he played his first professional game for Celtic and also not when he moved to the Scottish capital and later to Germany on his own. It happened in his parents house in Manchester where the then teenager grew up. Frimpong was playing on PlayStation. A potential source of risk as hardly anything else in life can "provoke him as much as FIFA," he said with an apologetic grin on his face. He scared himself with his own emotional reaction. "I was behind and there wasn't long to play. My mother called me. But I was annoyed. When she called me again, I just shouted: 'Mum, what?' Then I winced. I'd never shouted at her like that before and I knew: There'll be trouble." Frimpong paused, imitated the alarm he felt back then when he imitated his mother's steps. "Bang, bang, bang. I could hear her anger in the stamping. I froze and I knew: It'll be bad."
Now he's amused about being short-tempered on his console. He likes to laugh – also about himself – and is a prototype of a golden boy: "I'm never angry for long. I like being happy and I don't want to waste my time with negative energy." But he changes on his console. Not necessarily for the better. "Mobile phones, doors, controllers – I've broken lots of things," he said and laughs with wide-open eyes. "Oh my God," he continues. And the desperation from back then is clear to read in his face: "When I'm behind and the opponent is just playing around at the back then I lose it. If he then writes after the game: That was unlucky for you – arghhh. Then I have to switch off the console and let my head drop. That helps me."
Jeremie Frimpong is a football player, he has lived in his place of birth Amsterdam, Manchester and Glasgow and then moved to Cologne at the age of 20 in January 2021. He’s worn the shirts of Manchester City and Celtic, is a Netherlands youth international and plays for Bayer 04 in the Bundesliga as well as the Europa League. However, Frimpong is primarily a young lad who has clearly maintained his childlike side and neither growing up nor the glamorous life of a football player particularly appeal to him. He has three brothers and three sisters, describes himself as a "family man" – and his second big passion away from the pitch is anime series. That all began with Dragon Ball Z, the Japanese cult series fascinated him and has captivated him up to now. He likes to wear anime shirts, has fitted out his room with posters and fan merchandise, buys wallpaper – and has named his dog after an animal from the amine cosmos: Akamaru – the loyal companion and best friend of the anime character Kiba Inuzuka.
The just 21-year-old player with a marked play instinct, who thrills fans and makes his opponents dizzy on his right flank, embodies the much-vaunted abandon. He succeeds in transferring the ease with which he goes through life onto the pitch. His motto on the pitch: "No fear!." He has only been really nervous once in his career. September 2019, his professional debut, Scottish Cup, Celtic against Partick Thistle. Again, Frimpong uses all facial expressions, does anime mimes and involves both arms to describe the scene back then. It's evident why acting was an earlier desired career – and there was no lack of talent there either. "I was shocked when the coach said I was playing. In the warm-up, I looked at the stadium and saw all the fans. I was nervous, I had goose bumps and it was a bit frightening at that moment. But I switched off when the match began. I just threw myself into it. And that was that, it all started from there."
And how. The game ended with a 5-0 scoreline and Frimpong was in his first final just ten weeks later. It's the Scottish Cup again but with more famous opposition. Rangers, the legendary Old Firm at a sold-out Hampden Park. "The atmosphere was exceptional. It was usually great to play for Celtic. I'll always be grateful to the fans," said Frimpong. On that cold December evening, the relationship between Celtic supporters and the pacy talent threatened to take a severe turn for the worse. Frimpong was picked and he played – up until 63 minutes with the score at 1-0 when he brought down Alfredo Morelos in the box. Penalty.
The start of tortuous and seemingly unending minutes. "I can see that all again in front of me. Chris Chelios played a misplaced pass, I fouled. Clearly a red. I just thought: 'Oh man. What have you done?' It was my first sending off – and then in a game like that. I didn't look at anybody as I went off the pitch; I thought they'd tear me apart in the stands. But the worst thing was watching the game from the sidelines. Then, Ben Foster saved the penalty and we won. I just kept saying to him 'thank you, thank you', I was so grateful to him."
Another momentous decision on the pitch also shaped him. Again a derby, this time in the winter of 2021. Leverkusen lead 2-0 at FC Köln and are on the counter-attack. Frimpong has the ball at his feet and shoots – against the bar. Instead of 3-0, it ends all square at 2-2. The Dutchman is full of feelings of guilt. "If I'd have passed it then we would have won. At 0-0 I squared the ball and this time I wanted to do it myself. It hurt and I've learned my lesson."
However, it is no surprise he was tempted to shoot at goal. Frimpong started playing football "to score goals like every other child." First on the recreation grounds in Amsterdam. "One day my parents said to me we are moving to England tomorrow." And so, life continued in Manchester – and Jeremie Frimpong was at his first football club at the age of nine. At one of the most famous in the world: Manchester City. Not a bad start even though Frimpong did not set much store by it. "I'd also trained with the Liverpool and Bolton but City was only ten minutes away from home. I just wanted to play football and I didn't feel any pressure because of a big name. I never thought about things like that."
Over the years, where he moved from being a striker to a winger and finally became a right-back, he increasingly appreciated the exquisite environment he was in. Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Erich Garcia – Jeremie Frimpong was playing with some of the best youth players on the planet. "The level was high. There were lots of lads who you knew would achieve something exceptional." Frimpong is also following that dream: "I want to win the World Cup, win the Champions League – just pick up all the titles just like every child wants."
Other wishful thinking of many children growing up is now playing on PlayStation with your own avatar. The Bayer 04 player has long had that honour – although he doesn't necessarily see it like that. The ability of the virtual Frimpong is, well, in need of improvement as the Dutchman explains. "Oh dear. I'm only quick on FIFA. Dribbling is bad and shooting" – he twitches briefly and begins to laugh – "well, shooting is also bad but that's okay. Sometimes I can't believe how I score with him. I really need to work on it." He doesn't try to hide the fact that the assessment of the FIFA Frimpong is additional motivation: "I've become a much better player since I've been at Leverkusen. I also want a golden card with FIFA so I'll have to play even better in real life to earn it." Frimpong enjoys alternating between the digital and real world. Anime series, FIFA – he switches off in front of the screen. From the physical demands of a professional footballer but also from the influences around him – and growing up.
He very much values the fact that Bayer 04 have a lot of players who are in a similar situation. "Many of the lads are my age, they also have children or wives and we spend a lot of time with each other. We've got a very good vibe in the team."
Anime series remain an established part of Jeremie Frimpong's life for the time being. Important compensation, alongside a treasured hobby – and, at certain moments, a pointer. He pauses for a moment, the permanent smile disappears from his face. It's important to him that his predilection is not just seen as insignificant nonsense. With a rarely quiet voice, he says: "Every anime character has a big target they're fighting for. They start with nothing and achieve their goals – despite all the obstacles put in their way. Sometimes I think about it and see it as a model as I also started with nothing and I want to realise my dreams."
This profile is taken from Werkself Magazine number 34, which appeared in January 2022. Click HERE for the free online version.