Kotoko poised for another record
To speak of the history of Asante Kotoko is to speak of a nation whenever or wherever soccer is mentioned in Ghana. This is a statement of fact because the exploits of Asante Kotoko are inextricably linked with the fate of the national soccer scene. For years the dominant influence of Asante Kotoko has consciously or unconsciously directed the pace and indeed the development of soccer in the country.
Little wonder therefore that since Asante Kotoko began to falter in the domestic scene the senior national team, Black Stars, have fallen into pieces. The once proud Black Stars of Africa, then affectionately dubbed the 'Brazil of Africa' are now everybody's whipping boys. The African Cup of Nations, which had seen the Black Stars as the dominant figure, can now go ahead successfully without the absence of the Black Stars being felt.
The accolade of 'unprecedented four times champions' is now being shared with Egypt. Since Kotoko's heydays in the early eighties when they won the Africa Clubs Cup for the second time, a year after inspiring the Black Stars to a fourth Cup of Nations triumph, both the Porcupine Warriors and the Black Stars have been found wanting.
This must be said for the Black Stars though. In 1992 they fought an astonishing penalty shoot-out with Cote d'Ivoire in Senegal'92 final but from there to Tunis 94, South Africa 96, Burkina 98, Ghana / Nigeria 2000, and Mali 2002 it has been disaster after disaster. And football connoisseurs will tell you that this is all because the Black Stars have not got the right chemistry of Kotoko players to grease the national team to success.
This assertion will definitely be disputed by certain club fanatics but they would find it difficult to prove me wrong. Truly Asante Kotoko is a great club that has produced great names to accomplish great endeavours. Call them the pacesetters and you are damn right.
In his book 'FABULOUS KOTOKO' the author, H. K. Acheampong, recorded that 'little did the pioneers think in 1935 that one day the club would become the first national knock-out champions to receive the coveted title of champion of champions, the first to play in boots, the first to supply as many as seven players for the national team, the first to employ a full time soccer coach and the last but not the least, the first to play 22 matches in a row in a league competition without defeat. At the time Kotoko won the cup the club had made ten continental appearances and six-cup final outings. What a feat.
All these encomiums is to say that Asante Kotoko once again stand the chance to score another first-the first to win the Africa Cup Winners Cup. Kotoko are in the finals of this year's competition and this means they have beaten the targets achieved by Hearts and Hassacas who reached the semi finals in the eighties. But with their impressive continental credentials the fabulous porcupines are tipped to become the first Ghanaian club to win the Cup Winners Cup.
Even though one may be tempted to say that Kotoko are plagued with board room wrangling they have successfully managed to weather the storm and this shows the greatness of the club. When it comes to continental soccer everything else takes backstage.
The Coach Potterfield episode is now in the law courts and it is hoped justice will take its natural course. On the pitch of play Kotoko are as solid as a rock. Gradually the new breed Kotoko players are carving a niche for themselves as true continental performers. Unlike some top stars who shine only in the domestic league, Kotoko players have no complex when playing outside their home base.
In the preliminaries Kotoko stormed the former war - ravaged Angola and forced 2-2 draw. The 2-0 home win in the return encounter put the Porcupines in the last 16 where they faced Santos of South Africa. Once again Kotoko displayed amazing bravery and earned a pulsating 3-3 draw.
Back in Kumasi Santos played above themselves and it needed the undying fighting spirit of the Porcupines to earn a deserving 1-1 draw and the passport into the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal pairing was against Mahala of Egypt. The first leg took place in Kumasi and Kotoko rose to the occasion thrashing the Egyptians 3-0. Any thoughts of Kotoko having a smooth ride into the semi-finals nearly evaporated on the Egyptian deserts in the second leg when Mahala wiped off the 3-0 lead in 46 astonishing minutes but true to tradition Kotoko scored twice to sail beautifully into the semi-finals.
It was in the semi finals that Kotoko really showed class. Against A.S.Police of Congo Brazzaville the Porcupine Warriors thrashed the visitors 4-0 at the fast track Kumasi Stadium. By half time Kotoko had already sealed the game with three astonishing goals and the fourth goal in the second half came as a matter of course.
Come the secong leg in Brazzaville and A.S.Police tried all tricks at their disposal to unsettle Kotoko but the best they could do was to score an early goal which was easily rebuffed by the Porcupines. Indeed so devastating was Kotoko that with three minutes to go they were comfortably in the lead by three goals to one. It was one minute of lack of concentration on the part of the Kotoko defence that the homesters managed to earn a face saving narrow defeat.
The final will be against old rivals Wyad of Morocco. The first leg is in Casablanca on Nov 15
With the final proper scheduled for Kumasi on Dec 8.It is going to be a great battle
Asante Kotoko we all know have travelled this difficult road before. But, please, hold it, this is not the Kotoko which won the old editions of the African Premier clubs cup competitions in 1970 and 1983.
Generations go and generations come and not all two days are ever the same, Kotoko have indeed gone through many ups and downs. This has affected their might and power. Today, we have a Kotoko which may not have the magic of the past but followers of the once great club are lucky; their club may have lost their shine; but it still retains its proverbial indomitable fighting spirit 'wo kum apem a apem beba'.
This is in fact the spirit which still carries Kotoko along in any football competition and as far as Kotoko are concerned it is still a great spirit. Which is why the nation would, at this crucial stage of the history of the peoples club expect the celebrated Porcupine Warriors to fight and conquer.
And why would Kotoko need to win in another Africa club soccer title this round? The answer is that they need to do it this time than anytime because for nearly 19 years, Kotoko have been without any major continental clubs title. What is even probably so much worrying for Kotoko in this 19 long interval is also the sad fact 10 out of those total 19 years have also been total waste.