In 2019, talking about sport or wanting to work in sport can be a normal thing for everyone -whether you are a man or a woman. But being an African girl growing up back in the early '70s, this wasn't normal, especially in a Ghanaian household. Mercy Tagoe Quarcoe set the path for others to follow back then and continues to do it now.
“When I entered into football seriously I was hiding it from my family because my brother loves me so much and I also love him but he didn’t want me to play football. Because he thought I was too tomboy and he wanted me to go to the Kitchen and cook. My father wouldn’t even allow me to go for training with boys. So I had to lie to be able to go for training."
And that is the story of Mercy Tagoe Quarcoe, a young Ghanaian woman who stood against all odds to create a household name for herself in the football cycle in Ghana. As an athlete, Mercy Tagoe diverted into football in the early 80s, this was a time where women football was not regarded at all in Ghana. But here came a young lady who breached her strict parent's rules, gave up on her education to go after a sport which was unpopular and profitless at the time.
"The environment in which I lived played a major role in making that decision to change my life. You see, I was the only girl among my siblings so the only sport that was common around me was football. I use to play with my siblings."
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Born on February 5th 1978 in Takoradi, the Western part of Ghana, Mercy Started her professional football at the age of 23 with supreme ladies club (one of the most successfully female football club in Ghana then) where she was an integral member of the team due to her talented defensive skills and the confidence she exhibited both on and off the pitch. Mercy was later selected into the Women National team, Black Queens becoming a member of the first Black Queens team that qualified to the world cup in 1999 in the USA. She narrates to me how she got her first national team call-up.
“The very day they were having the first national team-call-up for the Black queens, we were sent to Kumasi to play round-robin. We were 5 teams and they were using that small tournament to select players to form the National team. Fortunately or unfortunately, the day we went to Kumasi, I had to lie to my family in order for me to attend. My father even helped me pack my things and brought me to the office and left me. Quickly, I changed myself and went to where we were camping and during the selection. During the selection, there was one man who continuously bugged me throughout and he prevented me from been selected into the national team, so I just left. I then came back from another selection and this time I made the team”.
Even though Mercy's family were not in support of her decision to play football, they were extremely excited when they learnt of her selection through the Ghanaian media that their daughter had been selected as a member of the Black queen's team heading to the World Cup.
Mercy Tagoe, unfortunately, had to hang her boots at an early stage of her career due to injury but that didn’t deter her from doing the sport that she loves. She went into refereeing and didn’t only officiate Women games but men games as well. That tells you how confident and determined Mercy Tagoe is. She left the refereeing scene as a Fifa License A holder having officiated the U-20 Women’s World Cup in China in 2014. After leaving refereeing, she pursued a coaching course and became the first female Ghanaian coach to manage a league club.
Mercy was appointed as the Head Coach of a division one Club, Amidaus professionals after serving as an assistant coach of the club for four years. Setting the pace in the male-dominated industry has always been her hallmark. The 41-year was later appointed as the Assistant Coach of the Senior Women National team of Ghana, Black Queens, making it the first time in history for a woman to serve on the national team.
Mercy went ahead to make more history by winning the Women WAFU tournament with the Black Queens in Cote d'Ivoire in 2018. Stun by her exploits in the football fraternity, I asked her how she is able to easily break into the male-dominated industry and she said,
“I wouldn’t want to be intimidated, I don’t like to be looked down upon. I love challenges, you know Women, we are naturally very soft, we can bark but we can’t bite. I challenged myself, I am a woman - I do things that some men can’t even do. You know it’s a delight to watch a woman do something that is basically for men”
Mercy Tagoe is always seen as a very strict, a character she insists adopted from her father. Principled, fearful and confident when she is on the field but off the field, she is a loving mother and wife.