Anytime I think of Kumasi Asante Kotoko, the ‘Parable of The Sower’ comes to mind. When a team sweeps all available cups in a season, they deserve their praise. When the 2007/2008 season came drew to an end, Kumasi Asante Kotoko showed the rest of the sixteen teams in the Onetouch Premier League how football is organized and played. They so accurately delivered to the rest of the clubs in Ghana, lessons on how to win cups and achieve the best.
I have tried to break down some of the factors which led to the wonderful performance of the Porcupine Warriors this season. I could not find one outstanding reason. A montage of factors underline Kotoko’s performance.
There is no gain saying that a city built on a weak foundation will collapse. Kumasi Asante Kotoko prepared well and there is no doubt about it. Coach Bashir Hayford did a yeoman’s job with Kotoko and he needs commendation – winning GHALCA’s ‘coach of the year’ award should suffice. From among the stock of old and potential players of Kotoko, Hayfod selected up to three players per planned role. He then organized over forty pre-season games; touring Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Germany. Of the over 40 games played, Hayford won a whopping 37.
While clearly blazing the trail, other clubs were giving them nicknames like Refugees, Off-Season Champions, Burgers etc, but they knew what they were about. During this off season period, players were trained in the club’s code of conduct and given morale-boosting packages.
Two words – Total Football. The lads played with verve and gusto. So high were their spirits that by the middle of the first half of the season, the pundits had declared them de facto champions. In every department of the game, Kotoko played beautifully. The mixture of experience and youthfulness is probably the linchpin explanation for the club’s success this season.
When Youth Meets Experience
Harrison Afful, Eric Bekoe, Samuel Inkoom, Jordan Opoku, Nii Adjei are some of the young boys who won regular places . They exerted youthful exuberance throughout the season. Their ambition knew no bounds, pushing the club to greater heights. Where these super- kids lacked in experience, Bashir Hayford ensured there was evergreen Emmanuel Osei Kuffuor, super intelligent Stephen Oduro, speedster Kwadwo Poku and Richard Manu to add balance to the team.
Rear Guard Action
While the outfield players played well, balancing experience with youthfulness and skill, the goalkeepers of Kotoko were also doing fantastic. I am convinced the goalkeepers won Kotoko the league cup. Bashir Hayford kept on his bench two of the best Ghanaian goalkeepers – Isaac Amoako and Eric Nii Baah, while Burkinabe import, Soulama Abdoulai was regular throughout the season. This level of competition must have spurred Abdoulai to the kind of performance he displayed – Absolutely topnotch. Of course he slipped a few times, but overall, he had no competitors this season.
Why will the technical team and playing body fare so well? The answer is not far fetched. This season, Kotoko had quality leadership. A team’s character takes after its leaders in the long run. Not long ago, Kotoko was run by a certain gentleman whose fame for violence always made me raise questions about the hype he got from the press. Throughout his reign at Kotoko, there was always one case of crowd violence or the other involving Kotoko.
Placing Kotoko in the hands of the ‘5-wise men’ may go down as the best decision club owner and spiritual head Otumfuor Osei Tutu ever took for Kotoko. Sylvester Asare Owusu and his team of ‘5 wise men’ did great. There were moments when they were almost swept by the wind of confusion which was blowing over other clubs but thanks to the wisdom of Otumfuor, they were called to order and since then have not looked back.
Africa Awaits its true Champions
I am confident that Kotoko are the true Champions Africa has waited for all this while. This is the year of Kotoko. This is the year Africa gets to meet its true champ.
The last time I predicted the future of Heart of lions, I was rudely disappointed. They sold 9 of their regular players and create so much imbalance in their team.
With the exception of Harrison Afful, Kotoko has managed to keep most all of its players and even added more. Hopefully, they boys will do Ghana proud by lifting the confederations cup. So far, they have don e their best; picking 3 points in 2 games.
As for some of the Fans!
You would have thought that fans will be appreciative of the efforts of the bench and playing body, but they whined throughout the season and sometimes calling for the head of Bashi Hayford.
To date, I still cannot fathom what phantom regularly ate the brains of the fans off. A club is not losing games, it is scoring all the goals it can and piling the points home and away. Kotoko club has turned it’s home grounds into a fortified city. A club is unbeatable for almost an entire season, yet the fans continually bashed Bashir.
They wanted their definition of beautiful football which is often unproductive involving players dribbling unnecessarily and dancing over the ball (What they heartily term wine-no-ooo, chim-no-ooo). They were looking for a chance to sing ‘wind no ooo; chim no ooo’ all season and when it was not coming, they threw appreciation to the dogs. It is good Bashir Hayford ignored their bashing and made hay while the glory of Otumfuor shone over the club.
To other clubs in Ghana. I simply say, sow and you will reap!