Otumfuo Osei Tutu’s clarion call to the management, players and supporters of Kumasi Asante Kotoko last week that he was eagerly waiting for the CAF Champions League trophy should be significant to football lovers in Ghana.
To the Life Patron of Kotoko, the dominance of the Porcupine Warriors on the local scene was unquestionable, especially having won the local league for not less than 24 times .
With 24 Premier League trophies, nine FA trophies, three Super Cups, 12 SWAG Cup trophies, among other laurels, Otumfuo believes that at the local level, the past and present generations fully acknowledge the invincibility of the Porcupine Warriors .
At the continental level, however, Kotoko have been champions only on two occasions- their first being 1971, when they defied all odds to win the trophy in Zaire, courtesy Abukari Gariba and Malik Jabair’s goals.
It was 13 years later in1983, when Papa Arko skippered the team to win the trophy at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, courtesy Samuel Opoku Nti’s header to John Bannerman’s volley from the right wing during the grand finale against Egyptian giants, Al Ahly of Egypt.
Incidentally, it was during the reign of Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, as the Asantehene, that Kotoko won those continental trophies.
Since he was enstooled as the successor to his late uncle on April 26,1999, Otumfuo Osei Tutu has been yearning to see the glittering trophy of the CAF Champions
League, but his wish is yet to be realised.
Since its establishment, Kotoko has made 16 appearances at the elite level in Africa with 7 grand finals. Their last grand final was in 1993 when they lost on penalties to their Egyptian rivals, Al Ahly.
Since then, Kotoko have been struggling to be highly competitive in Africa, their last being the 1-2 defeat to Algeria minnows, ES Setif in a Confederation Cup Competition on February 2021.
It was due to these setbacks that might have goaded the Life Patron of Kotoko, Otumfuo Osei Tutu, to challenge the management, playing body and supporters of the club to be outstanding in their upcoming continental league for them to win the hearts of their numerous fans spread across Ghana and beyond.
“ I want to commend you for winning this years’ league. It was through the hard work you displayed that made you win the league, but your focus now should be geared towards winning the continental tournament.
“ It is for this reason that I will implore the management, playing body and supporters of Kotoko to forge a united front to enable you to win the continental trophy.
“This is because, since my enstoolment, I am yet to have a look at the continental trophy . It was during the reign of my uncle that you won continental trophies. It, is, therefore, time for you to win the continental trophy again and present it to me at the palace as you did during the reign of my uncle”, the Asantehene threw a challenge to the team.
To the Asantehene, team work is of paramount importance, so far as Kotoko’s continental tournament was concerned, advising that, ‘since football is made up of 11 players, you should always unite and play as a team. It is only teamwork that will enable you to achieve good results and win trophies, hence the need for you to always play as a team ”.In acknowledging his feat of winning the GPL in his first year as the Technical Head of Kotoko, Coach Prosper Nateh Ogum made it clear that much needed to be done to build a formidable team which would be competitive in Africa.
Just like Coach Ogum, many football pundits in Ghana are also of the view that unless Kotoko beef up the team in all departments, the continental competition in which they are eager to make a mark will be a fiasco just as their 2021 season turned out to be.
To the pundits, apart from Kotoko’s Cameroonian import, Franck Mbella Etouga, who has taken the local league by storm with his clinical finishing, many of the Kotoko attackers have not been as sharp as expected.
Going into Africa, where Kotoko’s strikers will be facing stalwart defenders, Coach Ogum’s men need to be much more sharper than they did at the local level. It is only with good strikers that Kotoko can go beyond the qualifying stages and penetrate deeper into the Money Zone where the prestigious trophy would be awaiting them.
Another department which the technical team should be mindful of is the engine room which oils the team for them to adopt to various tactical play in the course of a game, especially when they face tougher opponents.
At the local front, the Kotoko midfield is sometimes found wanting, making it difficult for the team to be as formidable as they should be.
In defence, the team sometimes easily cave in, as happened when Kotoko lost 0-1 to Berekum Chelsea in Kumasi on May 22, 2022. With a few weeks to present their squad to CAF, Coach Ogum should collaborate with his management to recruit quality players who can compete at any level, especially in Africa where quality players abound.
While recruiting quality players to beef up the team to transform it into a formidable team, the management and technical team should not lose focus in keeping the core team that won the GPL.
Just before the GPL ended, there was news about foreign teams doing everything possible to pluck Etouga and other players from Kotoko. Since the Cameroonian has proved to be a force to be reckoned with, management should encourage him to stay and play in the more prestigious CAF Champions League competition where he would perfect his skills and raise his value as a quality player.
By beefing up the team with local and foreign players, and inculcating team work, tactical play, strategies, techniques and cultural values of the Porcupine Warriors into the team, and with the unflinching support from their fans, Kotoko will hit Africa not as mere participants as has been happening in recent times, but would be battling for the ultimate trophy that has eluded the club for the past 39 years.