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Sports Features Thu, 14 Aug 2008

Ghana football's money men

ROMAN Abramovich, Thaksin Shinawatra, Malcolm Glazer, Tom Hicks and George Gillett are businessmen and / or political figures who have now gotten themselves involved in the business of football in the prestigious English Premiership. Abramovich has transformed Chelsea FC into a world class side with his money. Gone are the days when all what clubs had to do was to buy television sets for players to woo them from one club to the other. An old player told me sometime ago that, he was given a video recorder (deck) and a television set as his enticement fee way back in the early 90's. It's however a different story today thanks to the “Football Money Men”. It's not just about spending money but the truth is that when you invest in your club, it definitely brings results.

Roman Abramovich brought in quality players for Chelsea and employed a very good coach and after his first season, he brought success to the London based club. The club moreover embarked on an ambitious programme of commercial development with the aim of making Chelsea a worldwide brand. They finished 2nd in the Premiership after Abramovich's takeover from 4th position in the previous season and went on to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. He then brought in Jose Mourinho (Chelsea's most successful coach) into the fray and Chelsea were crowned champions of the Premiership the following year. This is what investing in a football club brings SUCCESS.

Currently in our local game, we have also seen the Abromovichs and the Glazers and I believe they should be very much encouraged. A typical example is Victor Ahiakpor of Kpando Heart of Lions. Heart of Lions came into existence in 2002 and gained promotion into the 2003 edition of the Premier League. Even though they placed a respectable 10th, they announced their presence with a giant killing feat of beating Kumasi Asante Kotoko (the eventual champions) in a league game at Kpando. In 2004, Lions became much stronger than the previous season and placed an impressive 4th position but sadly withdrew from the CAF Confederation Cup competition due to inadequate finances which was quite surprising to many. Victor Ahiakpor even though has not been able to steer his side to a premiership title but what he has done cannot be overlooked. Heart of Lions from nowhere has now become a strong force in our local league and credit must go to bankroller Victor Ahiakpor for his willingness to spend on the club to make it a strong force. In 2005, the “Giant Killers” as they are affectionately known by their followers, won the Top 4 trophy in a grand style when the competition featured Hearts of Oak, King Faisal and Asante Kotoko, who later pulled out for R.T.U after the “Yen mbo biom” drama.

Ahiakpor before last season invested so much in his team, clearly outlining his intention to finish in the top 2, thus qualifying to play in the CAF Champions League. He reinforced his side with some quality players, notably Edmund Owusu-Ansah (one of the few consistent midfielders in our league) whose creativity in the Lions midfield coupled with his ability to defend well and also join the attack made him one of the outstanding players of the past season. No wonder he was given the national responsibility of leading the local Black Stars side which he did brilliantly. Apart from Edmund, Dominic Adiyiah was also outstanding. Joining from relegated Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord, Adiyiah scored 13 premiership goals and his partnership with Osei Banahene was excellent in the lions attack. Victor also took on board former Asante Kotoko stars, George Yamoah, William Thompson and Kweku Duah whilst John Boye their impregnable defender who won the revelation of the season in “My 90 Minutes Awards” was outstanding. Heart of Lions for me, is the team to watch in the upcoming Top 4 competition by virtue of their outing last season; thanks to Victor Ahiakpor.

Another man who needs serious commendation is Kessben FC owner, Mr. Kwabena Kesse, popularly known as Kessben. The Kumasi based club in their first season has set standards with their own 20,000 capacity Anane Boateng Stadium at Abrankese, about 20 minutes drive from Kumasi. Even Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak cannot boast of a decent training pitch of their own but Kessben has raised the bar high with their own stadium, even though it's yet to be fully completed. Now they have in their fold experienced performers like Michael Ofosu Appiah, Douglas Nkrumah and Mohammed Alhassan from Kotoko. They also have on their roster, Sampson Cudjoe, Iddrissu Yahaya and Edmund Owusu Peprah from King Faisal. This clearly showcases the seriousness of Mr. Kesse to make his team succeed. A case in point is roping in the FA Spokesperson, Randy Abbey to be his Executive Chairman. Watch out for Kessben FC next season because I believe they will be a force for most of the top clubs to be reckoned with and I tip them for a top 5 finish. Have you ever wondered how our local league would have become if we had more Ahiakpors, Kessbens, Kyeremehs and Ansongs?

Source: 90 Minutes Newspaper