Another Kotoko, Hearts cliffhanger
After it had been put off for obvious reasons, the green light has finally be given and on Sunday, Ghana’s titanic clash in football between the two biggest clubs, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak, is set for the Kumasi Baba Yara Stadium.
This clash, the umpteenth between the clubs, was set as a Match Day 23 fixture of the Ghana Premier League (GPL) but it was put off following Kotoko’s involvement in a fatal accident that claimed a life.
After three weeks of recuperating, team doctor Michael Leat has cleared the Kotoko players, while coach Stephen Polack believes his players are psyched up and ready for the titanic clash against Hearts, thus allaying the fears of some of their supporters who have strongly objected to the match being played due to the fitness of their players.
After that fateful July 12 accident at Nkawkaw in the Eastern Region which led to the death of the teams equipment officer, Thomas Kofi Asare, and injuries to a number of players, including midfielders Michael Akuffo and Ashietey Ollennu who are still nursing their injuries, Kotoko were excused by the Professional League Board (PLB) to enable the injured undergo medical treatment and to overcome the trauma.
Following the medical treatment and psychological counselling, Kotoko’s captain, Amos Frimpong, is confident of their chances and insists Hearts cannot be an obstruction in their quest to become the GPL champions this season.
Lying fifth on the league table with 35 points and with two outstanding league matches, the Porcupine Warriors are keen to improve their standings by beating Hearts to claim the needed points, aside the bragging rights.
It took a while before they could break the ‘winless’ jinx at the Baba Yara Stadium and now that it has been overcome, Kotoko would also want to build an aura of invincibility around their favourite home ground.
Matches involving Kotoko and Hearts usually do not conform to form guide or record in a season, but it is generally believed that Hearts do well in Kumasi, while Kotoko also are comfortable in Accra, though this season they suffered 0-1 at the hands of the Phobians in their first leg clash handled by Samuel Sukah.
The penalty awarded Hearts was deemed to be controversial by the Kotoko fans, but the Referees Committee ruled that Referee Sukah was right in awarding that spot kick.
That painful loss, which also triggered a string of unimpressive results from Kotoko, was not taken kindly by fans and they sure will turn up in their numbers on Sunday to cheer their side on to earn revenge.
Coach Polack has also given them assurance that despite his possible absence from the dugout on Sunday, he would not be missed as the game plan has all been mapped out and Kotoko will be counting on the agility of goalkeeper Felix Annan and the experiences of Eric Donkor, Ahmed Adams, Awal Mohammed, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Saddick Adams and Yakubu Mohammed to win against Hearts to appease their fans and to honour the departed during the accident.
While they plot how to silence their rivals, Hearts who are closely on the heels of second placed WAFA with 39 points, are themselves keen on claiming the bragging right once again and have sounded the warning that they are not going to show Kotoko any ‘mercy.’
They are relying on their current form which has seen them overpower Tema Youth, Berekum Chelsea and Danbot FC, who they beat in the MTN FA Cup quarter finals last weekend to propel them to victory.
Coach Frank Nuttal, who seems to be enjoying the fruits of his labour so far this season, is well aware of the threat Kotoko poses even in their present situation.
He would, therefore, be looking up to Ben Mensah, Robin Gnagne, Vincent Atinga, Richard Akrofi, Fatau Mohammed, Lawrence Tawiah, Thomas Abbey, Patrick Razak and Sam Yeboah to prove beyond doubt that their win over Kotoko at the Accra Stadium in the first leg was no fluke.
With both sides keen to upstage the other, no doubt another cliffhanger is expected at the Baba Yara Stadium.