March 3, 2019
Kumasi, the famed centre of the Ashanti Kingdom, noted for its historic conquests over enemy aggression over the centuries, comes into sharp focus, this afternoon.
For, its beloved Asante Kotoko, flying high the flag of Ghana during its transition from ignominy to normalcy, is thrust in a battle for survival, pressed to the ground, in their Group C CAF Confederation Cup competition.
Almost in shock, a large number of Kotoko aficionados have hardly recovered from the team’s ambushed 3-1 humiliation by Zambia’s Nkana FC, a scoreline millions of their supporters never pondered.
However, that result reinforced Kitwe as a fortress, where Nkana FC proved that their home record in CAF inter-club competitions is the real deal.
Yet, the Porcupine Warriors have another opportunity to redeem themselves, this afternoon at their famous home ground, the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, and avenge the aforementioned Nkana FC defeat.
Crucially, they would be attempting to do so without two key players, captain Amos Frimpong and workaholic midfielder, Richard Senanu.
Frimpong and Senanu have been good starters for the former Black Stars captain, Charles Kwabla Akonnor, the head coach of Ghana’s powerhouse, Asante Kotoko SC.
A contest without these two flambuoyant players might weaken the Kotoko team. Yet, that should be no excuse for his team not to glitter, this afternoon.
This game encapsulates everything a big game should be, this Sunday afternoon in one of the highly-anticipated fixtures in this second round of the CAF Confederation Cup competition.
It is simply a do or die affair. Better still, a ‘kill or be killed war’ won’t be out of context.
Over the last few years, Kotoko have struggled to make an impact in continental club competitions, in sharp contrast to their huge reputation as one of the most successful clubs on the continent.
That is a record the team, even without the benefit of playing in a competitive league, this season, us in the process of correcting, against three opponents felled from the Champions League, namely Sudan’s El Hilal, and the Zambian dual threat of Zesco and the present danger, Nkana FC.
Nkana may not have the pedigree to be a household name on the continent, unlike their Ghanaian opponents but the Porcupine Warriors must be wary of their threat because the football map on the continent has changed. There are no longer minnows in the game.
Predictably, vociferous supporters of the Fabulous team will fill the stadium to its brim. Ironically, it may not lighten the burden on the players. Likewise, coach C. K. Akonnor.
Yet, they must deliver. That’s the bottom line.
Coach Charles Kwabla Akonnor’s technical acumen will be tested as he cobfronts the task of unravelling the formidable Zambian team that downed Kotoko 3-1, last Sunday.
He’s known for his tactical astuteness but managers sometimes do commit tactical suicides that affect their teams.
Primarily, he must seal the Kotoko defence that leaked three goals to the Nkana attacking machinery.
An ebullient Akonnor knows how well to take pressure off his players typical of a coach like decorated coach, Jose Mourinho.
Unsurprisingly, in prematch interviews, he has made statements such as “No one should put pressure on the players; It will cost the team; We will win but don’t put the pressure on them, the pressure should be directed to me”.
Whatever the challenge, there are inherent opportunities for Kotoko.
Nkana have been poor travellers coupled with poor performances but C. K. Akonnor’s charges must guard against underestimating the danger posed by the Zambian side.
Kotoko have won all home matches in this campaign, a record from which they can take inspiration into battle, ready and able to conquer the Zambian opposition, just as it did the other, Zesco United, at the same venue, two weeks ago.
Incidentally, Zesco had just posted a 2-0 win over Nkana in their all-Zambian Confed Cup encounter.
That record should serve as sufficient fuel to power spirit, invoking their famous war-cry, ‘Wo Kum Apem a, Apem b3ba’ in their typical bellicose spirit, never giving up till the last whistle of the game.
Of course, a lot will depend on the output of Songnè Yacouba, the pivot whose assists have been put at the back of the net by Emmanuel Gyamfi and Maxwell Baako in Kumasi, to the delight of the home fans.
Might that happen, again? The evidence exists – given Kotoko’s average score of two goals per match at the Baba Yara Stadium – that Kotoko can do it, again, against all odds.
And, oh, by the way, did Yacouba not score a classic freekick against Nkana in Zambia, only last week?
For a striker that had not scored in the group stage up until then, that could serve as a great shot in the arm.
If he can match that performance or do better, Kotoko would kill off the Zambian opposition, to appease their fans, in readiness for another aggressor, next weekend, at the same venue.
Now, the lion’s tail has been pulled. Asante Kotoko is primed for vengeance. It’s straight-up, ‘kill or be killed’, and they cannot d-i-e!!!