Mixed feeling as Kotoko venture into Africa

BY: George Ernest Asare
Nana Yaw Amponsah - Asante Kotoko CEO
Nana Yaw Amponsah - Asante Kotoko CEO

Thursday, June 2, 2022 marked another chapter in the history of Kumasi Asante Kotoko as they won their 25th league title after holding Obuasi based Ashgold to a pulsating 1-1 draw at the Len Clay Stadium at Obuasi.

With 60 points from 31 matches, and three more matches to go, Kotoko were declared the 2021/22 Ghana Premier League Champions .

This was because mathematically, their closest challenger, Bechem United, second on the league log with 50 points from 31 matches, would be a point shorter of Kotoko, even if the Porcupine warriors lost the rest of their matches.

There was, therefore, spontaneous jubilation among the vociferous supporters of Kotoko, following their feat of winning this season’s GPL.

This was because last year, Kotoko came very close to winning the league, but their arch rival, Accra Hearts of Oak, beat them to the title at the finishing line.

The feat by Kotoko this year,was, therefore, a welcome news to almost all the Kotoko faithful, but for the Chief Executive of the club, Nana Yaw Amponsah, there was mixed feeling for winning the trophy in his second attempt.

To the CEO, winning the league comes with a huge responsibility of generating huge financial resources to be in the position not only to participate in the CAF Champions League, but also to prove to be a worthy participant.

At the early part of the year 2000, Ghana had two representatives both in the elite CAF Champions League and the Confederations Cup.

At that time, Ghanaian clubs were not average participants but champions in the elite competition in Africa at certain times.

The two most successful clubs in Ghana, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak had on some occasions invaded Africa and conquered many territories and returned home with the prestigious trophy, to the admiration of their fans.

With time, retrogression set into Ghana football, denying football fans the opportunity to watch quality football due to the frequent migration of talented young footballers who pulled the fans to the various football arena.

With little or no sponsorship from the organisers of the GPL- Ghana Football Association(GFA)- even monthly salaries from the participating clubs to cushion their players in the GPL to make ends meet became a challenge.

It is this scenario of failing to keep their skillful players in the league that has been undermining the quality of the local league, making it difficult for champions produced from the league to be competitive in Africa.

This might have been the key challenge to the Kotoko CEO, moments after winning the 2021/22 GPL

In an interview with a Kumasi based Oyerepa FM, Nana Yaw Amponsah noted,”If the government of the day is able to vote over $6 million for the Black Stars for their Afcon tournament, then it should be able to help Kotoko to participate in the CAF Champions league with a support of $1 million” The Kotoko CEO observed.

According to the CEO, ‘‘winning the local league only gives the winner $30,000.00” which cannot play one home game in the Champions league, so the prize money is not exciting”

Adding, “with no sponsorship for the league, it is difficult to come out with a budget that will enable us to perform very creditably in Africa”
Comparing the financial predicament for Ghanaian clubs participating in Africa to Al Ahly in Egypt, he noted that ‘‘the likes of Al Ahly runs a budget of $90 million a year, but we at Kotoko this season at my time, runs about $2 million, so if we want to go and do well in Africa, we should have the same support of the entire nation”

He, therefore, pleaded with President Akufo-Addo to provide adequate financial support to Kotoko to propel them to excel in their upcoming CAF Champions League.
“ When Kotoko go to Africa, we are not only there for the interest of the club, but for the interest of the entire nation”, he reiterated.

Considering the lamentation of the Kotoko CEO, it looks as if he, together with his management team and the Board, is ill-prepared for the continental assignment they have strived to earn participation.

Prior to the starting of the league, he was aware that should Kotoko win the league, participating in the CAF Champions League was automatic.

This explains why he should have collaborated with the other participating clubs to push the GFA to the wall for the organising body to go all out to look for attractive sponsorship packages that would have enabled the winner of the league to have a foot to stand on as they venture into Africa.

With adequate sponsorship by the GFA, Premier League clubs will be in the position to offer attractive salaries to their players to prevent them from leaving the local league half-baked.

It will also enable them to pluck quality players from neighbouring countries to transform the local league into an attractive and highly competitive one.

Once Kotoko have won the league, their fans would be looking forward to management to do everything possible to maintain many of their key players, as well as beefing the team to make them more formidable before venturing into Africa.

In the striking department, it was noted that apart from Franck Mbella Etouga of Cameroon who was a little sharper in turning half chances into goals, many of the their strikers lacked the finishing prowess to tame defenders of their opponents and convert chances.

Management should, therefore, fish for finishers who can be paired with Etouga in attack to bang in the goals in rapid succession, and in both the defence and midfield,it is important for management to go to the market as early as possible to get quality materials who can fit into the team in terms of tactics, strategies and techniques.

Kotoko have huge followers both at home and abroad, hence the need for the Nana Amponsah management team to stop lamenting and rather explore avenues to devise means of drawing a proposal of soliciting financial support from their fans.

This will enable management to poach players who can transform the club from being mere participants in the qualifying stages of the Champions League into a winsome side at the money zone.

For getting into the money zone will not only lure the Kotoko supporters to fill the Baba Yara Stadium to capacity to watch their home games, but will also bring huge financial rewards and prestige to the team for featuring at that level.