Toronto FC announced today that their USL affiliate, TFC II, has signed Ghanaian midfielder Gideon Waja from the West African Football Academy.
#wafasc have agreed to transfer midfielder Gideon Waja (@wajaro15) permanently to @MLS side @torontofc.— WAFA SC (@WAFAcademySC) February 16, 2018
We wish him all the best in his career as he readies for a new adventure. pic.twitter.com/qghfvJmgcd
Waja is a 21-year-old midfielder from Ghana. Playing in the Ghana Premier League for the West African Football Academy (WAFA), he captained his squad to a second place finish last season. Appearing in 26 games, the native of Accra scored one goal and recorded eight assists. He also played for Ghana’s senior national team, and Ghana’s B-team, winning the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations.
Waja is a rising talent in his native country, so much so that his WAFA coach was certain that he would be playing his 2018 club football outside of Africa. Reportedly, he has been on Toronto’s radar since November of last year. According to numerous local posts, several other teams also had their eyes on the young prospect, including New York City FC, Qadsia SC in the Kuwait league, and a handful of lower-tier European clubs, including Red Star Belgrade.
As evidenced by his YouTube highlight package, the 5’6” Waja is a defensive midfielder, with a slightly offensive flair, specializing in transitioning the ball up field.
Although he’s on a TFC II contract, he could eventually contend with Liam Fraser to backup Michael Bradley, giving coach Greg Vanney what he wants: competition at as many positions as possible. Waja’s defensive versatility has also led to stints on the back line, perhaps gifting Vanney with another weapon to deploy in multiple situations.
Initially, I thought that his acquisition was to restore a bit of depth to a fairly sparse TFC II outfit (Ed.: this is still my opinion. - C.O.C.). But, it’s hard to believe that Waja rejected other opportunities in favour of playing on Toronto’s USL squad permanently.
Naturally, integrating him into the lineup will be a gradual process. Getting used to a new team, a new league, a new climate, and a new city will take time. Given his experience, his age, and his role, I definitely do not expect him to be “plug-and-play”.
Note: The source report referenced at the top of this article states that Waja is 24 years old, whereas several internet sources list his date of birth as December 15th, 1996 (21 years ago).