Ghanaian hockey clubs missed a big opportunity to be part of history in the maiden World Inter-club Championship in Madrid, Spain, next year. It is a competition reserved for only the best clubs in each continent of the world.
Egyptian giants, Sharkia, established their superiority on the continent by defending their trophy with ease at the expense of compatriots, Police, beating them 5-1 in last Sunday's final.
Nigeria's hard-hitting ladies, Heartland, were crowned winners for the third consecutive time after silencing former women champions, Telkom, 5-2 in the female final.
Four of Ghana's best clubs, Exchequers, Golden Sticks (men) and Reformers and CEPS Ladies (women), shot themselves in the foot at the just-ended African Hockey Clubs Championships in Abuja, Nigeria, leaving only Golden Sticks and CEPS Ladies with consolation bronze medals.
The perennial headache of inability to convert penalty corners and loss of focus recurred in all four clubs.
It was heart-breaking for two potential finalists, Reformers and CEPS, to battle each other for bronze when all that CEPS, for instance, needed in the last group match against Heartland was a draw to pick a final ticket.
But they succumbed 0-2 and missed out on what would have been a historic final in their first appearance.
But even more worrying was the performance by the nation's flagship team, Exchequers of the Bank of Ghana, who although showed promise with their youthful team, crumbled before the more experienced opponents and could only settle for the fifth position — obviously their worst in Africa.
But management took consolation from commendations which poured in from the organisers who tagged the team as “Africa's hope for the future.”
Their only win after two draws and one loss was against Nigerian's star-studded opponents, Delta Force, for the fifth and sixth positions. Shadrack Baah and one of the four experienced players in the team, Alfred Armah, scored a goal each to give them a face-saving 2-1 win.
Golden Sticks of the Ghana Commercial Bank benefited from their four-year consistency in Africa to clinch bronze, the same feat they chalked last year in Cairo, Egypt.
Parading almost the same side that mesmerised Egypt fans in Cairo, Golden Sticks re-echoed the need to have experienced players.
Elikem Akaba, Joseph Appiah, Daniel Lamptey, Richard Doe, goalkeeper Francis Ogbame, Isaac Ofori and Benjamin Baiden, among others, were all present at the championship hit by poor organisation and power outage.
Monica Grant's lone goal against 'stressful' Reformers was all that CEPS needed to deny their compatriots the bronze in the women's division. Plagued with dearth of finances which resulted in their travelling by road for more than 35 hours from Accra to Abuja, the Prison ladies would have forgotten about their “wahala” journey if they had returned home with a consolation bronze medal, at least.
But Reformers, dominated by about 90 per cent oldies, could hardly complain knowing too well that they could not cheat nature.
However, if there was something Ghana really benefited from this high-level competition, it was the exposure it gave to promising stars like Alfred Ntiamoah, Prince Morrison, Patrick Oman, Deborah Nimako-Gyasi, Cynthia Clement, Gloria Barning, Samantha Abdulai, Abigail Adaletey and Joycelin Takyiwaa.
Review by Daniel Kenu