Inside Great Olympics’ relegation survival

By Princeton Kwabena Wiredu II Contributor
League Report Inside Great Olympics relegation survival
JUN 25, 2023 LISTEN

Before the 2022/23 season, Accra Great Olympics won the GHALCA G6 tournament, a preseason competition for the top six teams in Ghana’s top-flight football.

That achievement gave them confidence and motivation for more laurels going into the next season.

“We will keep working hard. Last season we came 5th in the league, and we would like to do better. So we won’t let this go into our heads," Yaw Preko, the then coach, stated after the 2-0 win in the final against Bechem United in August 2022.

The acquisition of former Black Stars midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu was the clearest indication of the club's ambition. It gave Oly the look of a sporting project looking to blend experience and youth rather than Agyemang Badu's last paycheck.

But at the end of the season, Great Olympics survived relegation on the final day, beating Nsoatreman 2-1 on the day. The win meant they would finish two places outside (14th) the bottom three on goal difference.

Olympics finished the league as the second lowest-scoring team (29) only behind Samartex(28). They conceded 35 goals in 34 games, that’s an average of 1.02 goals per game. So where did it all go wrong?

Wrong player recruitment.
The signing of Emmanuel Agyemang Badu simply didn't work out. The experienced midfielder quit the club in February, following a fallout with the club. Badu’s last game was the 2-1 defeat at Nsoatreman. The club accused him of picking and choosing games.

Forward Maxwell Abbey Quaye 25, who scored 20 goals in the previous season, moved to Serbia for a trial at second tier side FK Loznica after his 8 year contract expired.

Upon his return, Oly wanted a reunion. At the time of the registration of players, Abbey was out of the country on an assignment with the national team in Algeria. The club was anticipating he would return and renew his expired contract due to his relationship with the club’s Board Chairman H.E Major Rt Amarkai Amarteifio his grandfather. But the player was not interested in staying in Ghana, he wanted to play elsewhere.

Midfielder James Akaminko made a move to Azam FC in Tanzania in July, 2022 after just 5 months at the club.

Japanese striker Jindo Morishita joined from Ebusua Dwarfs has barely been in action with just 6 appearances without scoring, and so too has Francis Dadzie with 7 games.

Defender Christopher Nettey, 24 who signed from Asante Kotoko has done OK with 19 appearances and 2 goals that’s 3 less than the club’s top scorer of the season Razak Yussif(5).

The club also failed to replace key players like Gladson Awako who moved to local rivals Hearts of Oak and Michel Otou to Legon Cities.

“Our problem mainly had to do with the midfield, we didn't get better replacements when Awako and co left. Some of the players didn't help at all, in terms of maturity," Saint Osei the club’s spokesperson told Asaase Sports.

While that can seem a misfortune, the clubs’ signings as replacements were a reflection of questionable squad building.

Poor results under Yaw Preko
After the first half of the season, The ‘Dade' boys were 10th on the league table with 23 points in 17 games. They had just a win from their last four matches including a 2-1 defeat at Nsoatreman which triggered the sacking of Yaw Preko on 15 February,2023 after five months in charge.

“We had a Yaw Preko as the coach and at a point we thought he was not performing, were coming down.” In Europe, there are a lot of coaches that are fired, not because they are not good..It's just like the diminishing, returns. So you don't maintain the coach, you bring in a fresher," Saint Osei noted.

Kobi Mensah to the rescue
Former Karela United boss Bismark Kobi Mensah, 39 was appointed the coach with a huge task of guiding the team out of relegation. His appointment was met by doubts over his capability but the club needed an ambitious coach who had to prove something and Kobi was the guy. He pointed out the weakness of the team which was the midfield when he started the job and was backed to solve the problem.

Kobi Mensah’s first assignment was a thumping 3-0 defeat at Bechem United. The 39 year old at the time of writing was contention for the coach of the month of May/June in the Betpawa Premier League after winning three games, one draw, and one defeat in five games scoring 6 and conceding only three. He signed the contract until June so whether this mandate will be renewed is in the hands of the Board.

With eight games to go, Great Olympics were closer to relegation at 17th on the table coupled with financial difficulties they decided to move their camp from Accra to Sogakope in the Volta Region. It meant they would play their home games at the West Africa Football Academy park, that decision had a lot of justifications including spirituality.

“We realized that we were not winning at the Accra Sports Stadium. “Football is made up of a whole lot of things, take it or leave it.

“You can never take spirituality out of football. Spirituality in football is real. The amount we were paying at Sogakope was far, far lower. It was just like zero.

“We trained on astroturf so it was very prudent for us to play there," Saint Osei added.

Life in Sogakope began with a one-all draw against Tamale City followed by wins against Asante Kotoko, Bibiani Gold Stars, and relegated Kotoku Royals.

Out of the five games played at the WAFA park, the Olympics were unbeaten, 13 points out of 15.

“It was the right decision for our management to take the team there. It helped us a lot," Bismark Kobi Mensah said in an interview.

The relegation battle was not complete without the fans. They followed the team to every match and gave their support. It’s a big relief for the club and everyone around it who played a part in avoiding the 2016 drop to the second tier.