Liberty Professionals are sure the rediscovery of their winning spirit and their superlative performance in the opening of the Onetouch Premier League put them in good stead to clinch their first-ever SWAG Cup at the expense of troubled Accra Hearts of Oak at the Ohene Djan Stadium tomorrow.
The Dansoman club are making their second attempt in three years, having failed in the first at the then Kumasi Stadium against Asante Kotoko. Liberty looked set to lift the prestigious trophy on that occasion until Daniel Yeboah, now back with Liberty, gave Kotoko the winner with a beautiful header.
Coach Sellas Tetteh's only prayer is that his charges maintain the same composure exhibited in last Sunday's 4-0 drubbing of King Faisal at the Carl Reindorf Park to make it double over Hearts in two weeks.
But while optimistic, the assistant Black Stars coach cautions that “Hearts are always strong when they are down,” and against the backdrop that the Phobians have never lost a cup match twice on the trot, coach Sells is relying more on the “divine” to break that record.
Just two weeks ago Liberty snatched the maiden NIIT Challenge Cup on penalties from Hearts in a dramatic finals at the EI-Wak Stadium and would want to win all silverware in the year to make up for their not-too-impressive league performance last season.
But Hearts' pedigree in SWAG matches as seven times winners in the 35 year-old history of the annual challenge cup, no doubt, makes them favourites ahead of their fairly new compatriots.
However, their recent performance, and in particular last Sunday's worrying 0-0 drawn match against city rivals, Accra Great Olympics, creates some doubts in the minds of the bookmakers.
In the absence of traditional adversaries, Kotoko (12 times winners), and defending champions, Ashantigold, whose tight schedule could not allow them to defend the cup, Hearts would be cursing their stars if the huge trophy donated by the State Insurance Company slips through their fingers.
Hearts head coach, Abdul Karim Zito, refused to pick calls for his comments, but Team Manager, Sarbahn Hammond, assured the Hearts family that tomorrow would be “redemption time.”
He said Hearts would parade their best arsenal yet, and hopes that sensational Kofi Abanga would recover from an injury he sustained during the off-season to beef up the attack.
The atmosphere of the Stadium is expected to be electrified when the rivalry between the majority and the minority on the floor of parliament is extended to the pitch in a special curtain raiser to the big match.
Hon. Abuga Pele and Hon. E. T. Mensah would lead the attack for the minority side, while Yaw Osafo Marfo and Nana Akuffo Addo would be the main attractive characters for the majority. But the majority side would be missing the services of Rashid Bawa, now ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
....Past winners of the SWAG Cup
1972 Mysterious Dwarfs (Cape Coast)
1973 Hearts of Oak (Accra)
1974 Hearts of Oak (Accra) and Tano Bafoakwa (Sunyani) [shared]
1975 Tano Bafoakwa (Sunyani)
1976 Dumas of GTP (Tema)
1977 Hearts of Oak (Accra) and Dumas of GTP (Tema) [shared]
1978 Hearts of Oak (Accra)
1979 Hearts of Oak (Accra)
1980 Eleven Wise (Sekondi)
1981 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1982 Hasaacas (Sekondi)
1983 Hasaacas (Sekondi)
1984 Hearts of Oak (Accra)
1985 Hearts of Oak (Accra)
1986 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1987 Okwahu United (Nkawkaw)
1988 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1989 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1990 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1991 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1992 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1993 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
1994/95 Goldfields (Obuasi)
1995/96 Goldfields (Obuasi)
1996/97 No competition
1997/98 All Blacks (Swedru)
1998 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi) and All Blacks (Swedru) [shared]
1999 No competition
2000 No competition [other sources: Hearts of Oak (Accra)]
2001 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
2002 No competition
2003 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
2004 No competition
2005 Asante Kotoko (Kumasi)
2006 AshantiGold (Obuasi)
Story by Daniel Kenu