Ghana Premier League: 2011/2012 Team of the Season
The season started with an indication of the way things were to be: Bechem promptly lost 3-2 at home, which was their largest deficit in a home game this season; Kotoko beat Tema Youth and ended the same way 29 games later; Mighty Jets succumbed to a late Berekum Chelsea goal in Accra, just like they did on the day they were relegated.
It's been a great season in the Ghana Premier League and many players have stood out. The subplots have been many.
Here's the SuperSport.com GPL Awards 2011/2012, consisting of the team of the season, an alternative selection and a sprinkling of other guff.
Team of the Season
Ghana PL XI (4-4-2): Soulama Abdoulaye; Godfred Saka, Baba Adbul Rahman, Rashid Sumaila, Awal Mohammed; Yakubu Mumuni; Hans Kwofie, Daniel Nii Adjei, Asiedu Atobra; Emmanuel Baffour, Richard Addai
Goalkeeper - Soulama Abdoulaye (Asante Kotoko)
As imposing this season as he is physically tall, the Burkinabe goalkeeper was a fortress at the start of the season when his defense, especially Awal Mohammed, was prone to so many errors. His youthful defenders have listened to his voice of experience which has been garnered over several seasons. He's been there and done that – don't forget he was 'keeper of the season in 2008.
Right back - Godfred Saka (Aduana Stars)
This is the Dani Alves of the Ghana Premier League. His competitors in the league do not come close because of his added advantage of goalscoring. With seven strikes to his name, it's exciting to see Ghana producing a right back as good at set pieces as any midfielder or forward available.
Left back - Baba Abdul Rahman (Asante Kotoko)
Still a teenager, his increasing height could mistake him for someone slightly older, until you look at his obviously youthful face. Quickly becoming a sensation in preseason when he was a lower league player, Rahman has since become a target for English Premier League giants Arsenal. Running as quickly forward as he is solid in his role, the player has shot into the national under 20 team and could easily make a spot in the country's Olympic team as well.
Centre-back - Awal Mohammed (Asante Kotoko)
Size is not everything, but Awal makes his count. He defends with a smile but scythes opponents in one fell swoop. In the beginning of the season, he suffered a severe lack of confidence but his team stood by him and his calm has been infectious in Kotoko's back four. The reds ended the season with the second best defense in the league (conceded 18 to Aduana's 17 goals).
Centre back - Rashid Sumaila (Dwarfs)
It's possible that he could retain his crown as Defender of the Year which he won last season. The Dwarfs backliner is now a staple in the under-23 national team, has an All African Games medal to his name, and is a regular callup in Black Stars provisional teams these days. Having helped Dwarfs to a 9 game unbeaten streak at the start of the season, only Kotoko were able to breach his defenses. The troubles started when Dwarfs fans stupidly kept on physically beating their opponents and ref. But Dwarfs were able to get 17 points from a possible 27 in their first 9 games. Strong, powerful and with on-point distribution that has resulted in many goals throughout the season, he's surprising quiet off the field and his demeanor makes him a favorite for Dwarfs captain if (the current occupant) Bismarck Asiedu makes good his repeated threats to leave.
Abubakar Mumuni (New Edubiase United)
You like Jack Wilshere of Arsenal? Then you'd like this guy. His role is to play in front of the Edubiase defense, but his eye is also firmly on making things happen via Asiedu Atobrah and, ultimately, Emmanuel Baffour. His through balls are very good, as is his anticipation. He was named Player of the Year by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) last season.
Right midfield - Asiedu Atobra (New Edubiase United)
Whenever Emmanuel Baffour thanks the heavens for his 21 goals, the next in line will be Asiedu Atobra. His area has been the right of midfield, but his diminutive frame can be seen whizzing past opponents in the centre of the field and even further upfront. On occasion, he tracks back to help in defensive duties as well as the usual linkup he does with his teammates. As the season wore on, his major task was clearly to find ways to feed the hungry Baffour. Atobra's playing style has meant opponents foul him often, leading to several advantageous fifty-fifty balls for his side. A creative and pushy character in a team is always needed. Atobra is that, and not afraid to dive into a tackle too.
Central midfield - Daniel Nii Adjei (Asante Kotoko)Player of the Season should go to this man. For five years, the player acquired for GH¢2000 ($2000 at the time, in 2007; $1000 at today's rates), Nii Adjei has grown into the chief playmaker of the reds. That they have won the title so well in the season he has been excellent is no coincidence. In time, he has added to his range of qualities he's now not just a killer pass giver, but a tackler and, crucially, a goal scorer. He has also played in three roles this season – central midfield, right of midfield and once in the FA Cup, at right back.
Left –midfield - Hans Kwofie (Medeama SC)
The stereotype for Hans Kwofie is what was reserved for Ekow Benson a few seasons ago. They both can cross the ball very well. Kwofie's advantage is that he does not do the stepovers and frills which are largely unnecessary. Efficient on the right of Medeama, Hans has contributed to an outstanding percentage of their goals. In all my travels of watching the local league, only Kotoko's Gideon Baah can lay claim to crossing the ball so well with both feet. Medeama have the second-best scoring record this season (42 goals to Kotoko's 43) and the bulk of them have come from Kwofie's side – either as assists or by himself.
Striker - Richard Addai (Bechem United)
It's a strange choice, but there's a reason for it. His team was relegated on the last day of the season, but Addai has been little of short of great for his – disorganized – team. His team's Chief Executive said Bechem did not realize they “were in the premier league until well into the season. Bechem changed coaches to find their scoring patterns, but it did not help, with Addai being the only bright spot, in addition to, perhaps, Peter Essien on the right wing. Addai weighed in with 44 percent of the team's goal haul. Being able to do that for a relegated team earns him a place in this team ahead of Emmanuel Clottey (7) and Yakubu Mohammed (12 goals)
Striker - Emmanuel Baffour (New Edubiase United)
Baffour is more of a striker than a forward, feeling more confident in lurking in the penalty boxes of opponents. That is perhaps his biggest criticism; that he cannot look for chances by himself and score. That aside, he's done well for himself with the 21 goals he got. Considering he did not play 4 games for various reasons, it means he got his goals in 26 games. However, care should be taken not to overhype the young man. At least another season of replicating this form should convince many more watchers that he is answer to Ghana's striking problems – a permanent one, not a fad.
Subs (Alternative Team)
GKs: Robert Dabuo (Wa All Stars), Stephen Adams (Aduana)
Defenders: Kofi Agyare (Hearts), Richard Kissi Boateng (Chelsea), Ahmed Adams (Chelsea), Yaw Frimpong (Kotoko)
Midfielders: Moro Abubakar (Hearts), Richard Mpong (Medeama), Michael Akuffo (Kotoko), Yakubu Issah (Liberty)
Strikers: Yakubu Mohammed (AshGold), Emmanuel Clottey (Chelsea)
The Other Awards
Player of the Season: Daniel Nii Adjei
Most Improved Player: Moro Abubakar (Hearts)
Defender of the Season: Awal Mohammed (Kotoko)
Midfielder of the Season: Daniel Nii Adjei
Discoveries of the Year: Baba Abdul Rahman (Kotoko), Ashitey Ollenu (Hearts)
Striker of the Season: Emmanuel Baffour
Coach of the Season: Maxwell Konadu, Runner-up: Professor Mintah
Flops of the Season: Nurudeen Ali (Chelsea), Stephen Ahorlu (Wassaman) , Ken Augustt (coach, Heart of Lions)
Dan Owusu Award (Best Attack): Kotoko (43 goals; also had most wins - 18)
Ofun Award (Worst Attack): Wa All Stars (20 goals)
Best Defense: Aduana Stars (conceded 17 goals)
Leaky Cauldron Award (Worst defense): Wassaman United (conceded 43 goals; also had most losses – 15)
Gary Al-Smith is the editor of SuperSport Ghana and a regular contributor to ESPN Soccernet, The Football Ramble and the BBC. Twitter: @garyalsmith