03 August 2017

FEATURE: The clash of the titans: To be or not to be?

Hearts of Oak versus Asante Kotoko

Soothsayers in our environment who look into the future and tell us stories must be the most worried lot when their attention is drawn to our football and the way we are conducting it from the bottom to the highest level.

Our 2016/17 Premier League season is so close to its end, and as usual, all sort of elementary uncertainties and unpredictable drama are raring their ugly heads.

Indeed, there is confusion all over and I must say it is one of the reasons the league is suffering from sponsorship.

Two weeks ago, after honouring a mid-week Premier League assignment against Inter-Allies in Accra, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and their teeming followers had their worst and uneasy nightmare when their team bus with all their best players and technical team had a fatal accident that claimed the life of their assistant equipment officer, Kofi Asare.

Almost every occupant on the bus had his bit of injury to show the world and, to be honest, it was not easy for the entire Kotoko family and the football fraternity. The Porcupine Warriors will never forget this unfortunate accident!

Many reasons could be adduced for such an incident on the Accra-Kumasi highway, but the belief is that the final arbiter must be the law enforcement agency (the police) who would have a lot to write in their log books. We are yet to get to the bottom of who was guilty for such a calamity that sent the whole nation mourning. Was it due to the carelessness on the part of the driver of the stationary vehicle who even failed to place a warning sign at that vantage point? Or it was due to the recklessness on the part of the approaching Kotoko driver who failed to see (in the night) the danger ahead of him to apply his senses to avoid the clash? He must have our sympathy though.

As there seem to be no end of the debate over the incident, it is a matter of course that the whole nation has suffered a serious fatality, and that is the problem of settling the deadly encounter that awaited the very next Sunday between Kumasi Asante Kotoko and their arch-rivals Accra Hearts of Oak at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi. That was the fulfilment of the second round of the nation’s El-Clasico.

The first round was won by Hearts and as a matter of interest, that might have gingered their opponents and their coach to get to the bottom of their training for that assignment, especially after losing the mid-week match, the failure of which could lead to many technical problems.

I know many fans from either side might have spent sleepless nights meditating for positive results.

Was it going to be a repeat or revenge? It would have been a great day by all standards with the results resonating all over, even though that would not determine the winners of the year’s competition, the possibility of which rests presently at the hands of Aduana Stars and West Africa Football Academy (WAFA).

But then, all of us are craving for a fully-fit Kotoko playing to their ultimate and Hearts replying with their missiles to prove that Kumasi is their favourite ground. This means the failure to have it happen was a serious missing link. While the debate lasts, the unbelievable decision to get the match played this Sunday and the plan to get the league suspended for four weeks left much to be desired.

Was it really due to the upcoming WAFU competition slated to take place in this country between September 9 and 24? All the same, the much-discussed, much-fancied clash of the titans is supposed to come off this Sunday. Then at once it opens the floodgate for loud-mouthed fans from one side who believe that it would have been ideal to give Kotoko a trial match with say, the MTN FA Cup competition against their quarter-final challengers, Nea Salamina FC before the Hearts match.

Kotoko were made to skip that match last Sunday due to their injury and trauma they went through in the accident, even though the team doctor had declared them fit and given them the green light to fulfil their obligations. Meanwhile, some of their regular players have been invited to train with the Black Stars Team B in preparation towards the upcoming WAFU tournament slated for the Esipon and Cape Coast Stadia.

The expectation of Sunday’s clash of the titans must be great by all standards, and it is the prayer of all that the two sides will be fully fit to deliver. My belief is that a serious check has been conducted on the Kotoko players and the doctor has satisfied himself that all is well. Of course, the nation cannot be held to ransom by certain supporters whose views are contrary to the fitness tests of the team doctor.

In that respect, the show can go on without fear or favour. It is an annual ritual and it will be very sad if the PLB is forced to change direction. I don’t believe Kotoko are in such a bad shape, and the hope is that they will win.

This must be one of the tests of the PLB as the new directions of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as the new reforms will kick off soon. I am not sure serious business can go on like this, with calendars changing at the least protest.

Elsewhere in the world, football is thriving and football pools are a serious business testing the brains of football fans with coupons printed far in advance of their time. The fixtures don’t fail no matter what happens.

This is advancement and it is interesting that CAF is trying to make sure their new reforms conform with serious regularities to cover the whole continent.

Please, we must be prepared for it and the period is now no matter the excuses and idiosyncrasies. We cannot be the odd one out and for sure we will come to ensure that all the details of the new calendar will be adhered to from year to year.

It is in this system that we can even revive our football pools as is done in Europe, Asia, America and Australia. Our haphazard ways must give way to serious business. God bless!

Credit: Graphic Online


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