Best Eleven Hearts And Kotoko Players In The Last Two Decades
Matches between the two traditional clubs usually come with a lot of buzzes. The crowd that turns up at such matches is a sight to behold, with fans of both clubs draped in the paraphernalia of their respective clubs, ready to 'die' for their pet clubs.
It is believed that matches between the two clubs are not won by the club who is playing brilliantly and amassing points in the league, but Hearts of Oak defied that assertion by battering Asante Kotoko in style in the early 2000s.
There is a bumper harvest for food vendors and all manner of business folks when these two clubs are in town to strut their stuff on the pitch.
The adrenaline level reaches its peak when the referee blows his whistle for hostilities to begin.
The hard tackles, controversial decisions, missed goal-scoring opportunities, ooohs and ahhhhs are orgasmic to say the least.
The myth surrounding the fufu that goes bad after a loss for Kotoko and the kenkey that lacks buyers when Accra Hearts of Oak loses a match because losing fans lack the appetite for their favourite meal is worth mentioning.
There are some good players who have brought joy to the hearts and homes of fans of both clubs in the last two decades, and it was an arduous task putting the list together since there are other equally good players who on any day are fit to be on the list. You have every right to disagree with me on my choice, and would be glad to have a look at your list.
The following are my top eleven players after a painstaking analysis of their performances when they were at their peak in the Ghana Premier League:
1. Sammy Adjei
He is obviously the safest pair of hands the league has produced in the last two decades. The shot-stopper is one of the reasons Accra Hearts of Oak excelled in the CAF Champions League in the year 2000 and crowned it by winning the Champions League. He stood between Accra Hearts of Oak and defeats with his stupendous saves. He did not only put up sterling performances for his club side week after week, but he also replicated the same performances anytime he manned the post for the Black Stars.
His only Achilles heel was a certain Stephen Oduro of Kotoko who made nonsense of his agility in post by scoring beautiful goals against him. Sammy Adjei sweated profusely anytime he saw Stephen Oduro behind any freekick.
Sammy Adjei has earned the right to be touted as the best goalkeeper to have played in Ghana Premier League in the past two decades after having won the Champions League, numerous league titles, excellent performances in AFCON tournaments and making it to the FIFA World Cup.
2. Aziz Ansah
This pick was an uphill task because I was in two minds as to who is the best between him and former Accra Hearts of Oak's defender, Dan Quaye. Both players have virtually the same style of play, but Aziz added goals to his performance. It is the reason I sacrificed Dan Quaye for him.
Aziz was a member of the 1997 Ghana U-17 World Cup squad that lost to Brazil in the final in Egypt. He was a force to reckon with during his days at Accra Great Olympics.
The enterprising right back, famously called 'Honourable' made the Kotoko team tick when he joined them in the early 2000s. He played a key role in Kotoko winning the 2003 league trophy after losing out on the league for close to a decade.
He combined his surging runs on the right side of attack with his defensive duties with dexterity. His incisive crosses assisted in many goals. He was a delight to watch anytime he made some incursions into the opponent's goal area.
His goal-scoring instincts were also sharp and as a defender, he was gunning for the goalking accolade with established strikers in the 2003 Premier League. He further displayed good performances that caught the eyes of the handlers of the Black Stars. He had his fair share of matches for the Black Stars, but was unlucky not to have made the final squad for the World Cup.
3. Godfred Yeboah
The lanky left back, fondly known as 'TV3' for his timely and clean tackles was a household name in the Ghana Premier League before exiting.
He won the Premier League with Asante Kotoko not too long after joining the team from BA United. He was very impressive in every match he featured.
The unassuming defender was a thorn in the flesh of attackers. He virtually never had a bad day. He made sure he silenced attackers by keeping them at bay before they could cause havoc. He made the left back position his bonafide property.
He made some cameo appearances for the Black Stars and it is still a mystery to me as to why he was not allowed to play regularly for the Black Stars when it was obvious that the team was lacking a natural left back. For all you know, it was not meant to be. That notwithstanding, Godfred Yeboah discharged his duties in the Premier League with panache.
4. Daniel Coleman
The gritty defender, better known as 'Kofi Gari' was the nightmare of many strikers after joining Accra Hearts of Oak from Power FC. He always put the fear of God in his opponents anytime he was called to duty.
Former Kotoko Striker, Eric Bekoe who was a deadly goal poacher in 2008 tasted Dan Coleman's bruteness when he policed the striker throughout the duration of the game
He was strong in the air and won more aerial balls to the admiration of all and sundry during his time in the Premier League. He guarded his goal area with jealousy.
He also made a few appearances for the Black Stars, but could not hold down a starting berth due to the presence of equally good players.
5. Joseph Hendricks
Undoubtedly, he was one of the pillars in the defence of Asante Kotoko having signed for them from Sekondi Hasaacas.
Joseph Hendricks, fondly known as 'Oreeba' came in as a raw defender but ended up refined after a season or two at the heart of the defence of the Porcupine Warriors. Hendricks contributed his quota in annexing the 2003 Ghana Premier League after almost a decade in the wilderness, but unfortunately, he could not lead his charges to win the Confederations Cup in 2004 as the club's nemesis, Accra Hearts of Oak did them in by snatching the trophy from them on their own home turf.
His robustness and the no-nonsense style of play endeared him to the supporters of the club and the country as a whole. He came, he saw and he did his bit and bowed when the applause was high.
6. Lawrence Adjah Tetteh
The CAF Champions League winners was one of the mainstays in the midfield of Accra Hearts of Oak in the early 2000s. He bossed the midfield of Accra Hearts of Oak with gusto by eclipsing his opponents with his combativeness.
Adjah always attacked ferociously anytime he smelled blood. He always made sure his opponents were in his pocket by keeping a tight lid on them.
He covered every blade of grass on the pitch and made his presence count by shielding his defence from incessant attacks. These attributes resulted in bookings, but that did not derail him from achieving his assigned role.
A great talent gifted to the nation who needs to be celebrated for his hard work.
7. Emmanuel Osei Kuffour
Referred to as the 'General', he really loved up to his title. He is one of the players who was fortunate to have played for the two traditional clubs.
He was a utility player who morphed from a defender to a deadly striker. Emmanuel Osei Kuffour scored goals without breaking a sweat.
His partnership with Ishmael Addo in the early 2000s was a symbiotic partnership that resulted in an avalanche of goals. He together with Ishmael Addo tormented defenders both at home and on the continent.
The CAF Champions League winner is an epitome of excellence who never flattered to deceive.
8. Stephen Oduro
The diminutive midfielder known as 'Tico Tico', always had his opponents chasing his shadows. He always wove through a forest legs with his intelligence.
Though petite, he made up for that with abundance deft touches. The creative midfielder was lethal in dead ball situations that had opponents sitting on tenterhooks.
His freekicks almost always found the back of the net. One of Ghana's safest pair of hands, Sammy Adjei was always at his mercy.
He was part of the winning 2003 Asante Kotoko league squad, after he was transferred from Real Tamale United.
He further won other league titles. Like his compatriots, he could not win the CAF Confederations Cup and Champions League to add to his trophy cabinet.
9. Ishmael Addo
The baby-faced assassin was Ghana Premier League's top scorer for three seasons. His predatory instincts in the 18-yard box was unparalleled.
He formed a viable striking partnership with Emmanuel Osei Kuffour who terrorised defenders both domestically and on the continent. He banged in the goals to win Accra Hearts of Oak the CAF Champions League and league titles.
Ishmael Addo later left the shores of Ghana to seek greener pastures in Europe, but his name will forever be etched in the history of the Ghana Premier League for his goal-scoring prowess.
10. Charles Taylor
He was nicknamed the 'Terror' for terrorising his opponents. Charles Taylor's humble beginnings in football from his days at Accra Great Olympics where he used to polish shoes and had a bet with the then chairman of the team, Ade Coker that he could outplay the players on the pitch. He was offered the opportunity and did not disappoint.
Charles Taylor later through his stunning performances got signed on by Accra Hearts of Oak. He helped the team to win the CAF Champions League and numerous league titles with his excellent dribbling skills.
He wowed fans anytime he had the ball at his feet and could draw about three players to himself which he found a way to skillfully outwit.
His protracted transfer from Accra Hearts of Oak to Kotoko did not weigh him down. He helped Kotoko to exorcise the ghost that prevented them from winning the league close to a decade by winning the league in his first session. He put up spirited performances and scored breathtaking goals in the run up to winning the league in 2003.
As faith would have it, he could not aid Kotoko to win the Confederations Cup as he was strangely substituted by the then Kotoko coach, Hans Dieter Schmidt in the final match when it was obvious that he was wrecking hovoc to the Accra Hearts of Oak defense.
Charles Taylor was a pearl in the Ghana Premier League who lighted the stadia with his performances anytime he played. He needs to share his experiences with the rookies in the current league.
11. Bernard Dong Bortey
Nicknamed 'The Serial Killer', he lived up to the name by constantly scoring against Asante Kotoko. He has had his fair share of controversies in the Ghana Premier League, but that did not deter him from becoming one of the best players to have ever played in the league.
A dead ball expert, dribbler and a goal machine he was. He was always in contention for the goal king accolade.
Dong Bortey never froze on the big stage. This he displayed in 2004 when he masterminded the defeat of Asante Kotoko in the CAF Confederations Cup final in Kumasi.
His obsession with playing in Europe got him globetrotting in search of a foreign club, but to no avail. This shifted his focus, but he still remains the 'Serial Killer'.
Though the list covers only eleven players, there are other unsung players who aided both clubs in winning countless trophies within the two decades and it would be sacrilegious not to appreciate their contributions to the game. The following are some of my favourite players who could not make the list:
1. Yusif Alhassan Chibsah
2. Charles Allotey
3. Issah Ahmed
4. Dan Quaye
5. Amankwah Mireku
6. Michael Asante
7. Michael Ember Power Osei
8. James Nanor
9. Eric Bekoe
10. Edmund Copson
11. Agyemang Duah
These great men laid a solid foundation for the current players. It is time for the current players to take it a notch higher by learning from the positives and the shortcomings of their predecessors to better their lives.
All stakeholders must come aboard to develop the game in Ghana when the league resumes. This is because if the league is in good shape, it would serve as a conveyor belt for the various national teams to flourish and make the nation proud in tournaments.
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