Veteran Sports Journalist Ken Bediako - The Writer

By Ken Bediako

Right from the time coach Prosper Ogum dramatically quit the club to that insensitive withdrawal from the GHALCA special tournament and the abortive training tour of Turkey, I sensed a bad omen for the fabulous club of Africa, Kumasi Asante Kotoko.

My worst fears were confirmed when Kotoko were totally humiliated in their hurriedly arranged tour of Sudan.

The last minute winning goal against Kadiogo of Burkina Faso on neutral grounds in Benin in the champions league prelims a fortnight ago might have given Kotoko the false sense of belief that, despite unwisely selling their top stars that made them tick last season, they were still a force to reckon with.

But the reality check at the Baba Yara Stadium last Sunday really exposed their mediocrity. You can still call them Africa’s Club of the century, but currently they are an ordinary side in this millennium. And please shed no tears for the Porcupine Warriors. It’s their own fault. Poor management is their downfall.

You don’t suddenly throw away the brilliant technical brain that steered the few equally brilliant key players to win the league handsomely and expect any miraculous results after such a reckless gamble.

Of course nobody expects Kotoko to win all their matches but such a low performance against such opposition should be avoided. Kadiogo did not put up any remarkable performance at the Baba Yara Stadium last Sunday to merit victory. Kotoko simply played below par. It was such a poor output that really sinks the reputation of the Porcupines as a great club on the continent. Let’s forget about the so called Kadiogo jinx. It’s a fact the same club ditched Kotoko in 1979 at the same venue but I thought chairman Yaw Bawuah and Co overcame such so called Kotoko jinxes decades ago a la El Ahly and I expect the trend to have stopped. In1982, the Egyptians whipped Kotoko 3-0 in the first leg final in Cairo and won the cup final in Kumasi.

A year later, Kotoko turned the scales by holding the Egyptians in the first leg in Cairo and won the cup 1-0 at Baba Yara Stadium in the Cup final. It was this kind of performance that contributed to Kotoko earning the appellation of “African club of the century”. Sadly, instead of living up to this enviable title, the Porcupines have been rather sinking slowly maybe unnoticed by successive club administrations.

Whereas their former classmates like El Ahly, Raja Casablanca, Englebert and Co are progressing rapidly, Kotoko nowadays hitting the international headlines for the wrong reasons.

For the fifth time or so running, Kotoko have been bundled out of Africa ignominiously too early much to the consternation of their teeming supporters who are ever ready to pack the stadium any time.

The records reveal that after a rather average output in the 90s the rot surfaced in 2013 with a string of early exits from Africa.

Tunisian Club Bejara edged out Kotoko at Baba Yara Stadium with a 1-1 draw after a goalless draw in Tunis.

In 2014, BYC of Liberia eliminated Kotoko in the first round with a 2-1 home win after losing 1-0 in Kumasi.

USM Algiers booted out Kotoko 2-1 in Kumasi after a goalless draw at home.

In 2015, CARA Brazzaville, knocked out Kotoko in round one on 7-6 penalties after a 1-1 home and away tie.

So the 2022 Kadiogo story is the fifth in the string of losses and it is time the fabulous club sat up.

The club with arguably the biggest support

base in the country, cannot set the pace so admirably in the just ended season only to sink so rapidly in the new season.

Reaction by the milling fans after the Kadiogo debacle was spontaneous. Both the technical and playing staff lacked finesse and accusing fingers pointed at the boardroom, precisely the Chief Executive. Nana Yaw Amponsah is being accused of selling the birds that lay the golden eggs. In simple language, he is exchanging money for quality players who will make the team tick.

I guess this is a catch 22 situation which needs a careful balancing act. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul”, a fan remarked in a radio interview.

The contention is that you need quality players to produce the goods and not heavy cash stacked in bank accounts.

Luckily, the season has just started and Kotoko management may have a chance to fix the rot.

As if ordained, the traditional super clash against traditional rivals Hearts of Oak comes off this weekend at the

same Baba Yara Stadium. It is a testing time for the proverbial “kum apem” boys to either ride the storms or sink one more time at home.

It is said that matches between these two age-old rivals always have their unique attraction and this one should be no exception. I anticipate the usual huge patronage and I plead with supporters of both sides and the players alike to put up a disciplined behaviour during and after the match. We should all ensure that sports stadiums continue to be a place for entertainment and not for rioting.

Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.

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