Faisal, Liberty Seek Move to Next Level
In the first of a two part series, we take a look at the two "small" clubs hoping to bring continental football glory to Ghana this year.
They are small clubs even by our not too big standards but this weekend, Liberty Professionals and King Faisal will go into only their second African Cup eager to prove that small can be beautiful and effective.
Just two weeks ago, the two had no experience of what playing in pan-African club competitions meant. Now they go into their various return legs with real hopes of progress and more wisdom on how to display their stuff on the continent.
"After the first leg, we are more confident than ever that we would progress. At least we can avoid the mistakes we made in Huambo," says Liberty Professionals coach Silas Tetteh.
Liberty must overcome a 0-1 deficit from the first leg in Huambo, Angola to go through. For players many of whom are new to football at the highest level is an enormous challenge but one that does not show at least in their words.
Midfielder Michael Afedzie says for instance that it should be considered a major surprise if Liberty don't win. "We are good enough to score two unanswered goals and I think we will do just that."
Faisal go into the return leg in a much healthier position. They won the first leg by a goal and should basically stroll through the return leg into the quarterfinal stage without too much trouble.
Dynamos however insist they won't make the trip from Harare to Kumasi only to come and lye low. Dynamos coach Luke Masomere who had to be whisked away from the Harare International Stadium by the police after the 0-1 loss in Harare believes they can still salvage the tie.
"Football is very funny because we lost here but nothing can stop us from winning just like they (King Fatal) had done in their own country," said Masomere.
There are a number of players within the Faisal camp who will know that too well. Coach Herbert Addo, sacked by Hearts of Oak is the man steering affairs at Faisal now. They should be grateful for his experience of the big stage.
He was in charge when Obuasi Goldfields made the finals of the champions league in the maiden edition. In addition to him, Fatal can count on the immeasurable experience of Hamza Mohammed who together with striker Kojo Poku were on hand for Kotoko when the Porcupine Warriors collapsed in the finals of the African Cup Winners Cup.
The trio would be fully aware that football by its nature does not reward those who take it for granted. And fully aware of that, coach Herbert Addo has promised his players will play with their heads up and their guards on this Saturday.
"We consider Sunday's game as starting on a scoreless sheet, because we want to go all out to advance to the next stage of the competition."
There is little doubt that Faisal can do as Addo says but Kumasi's other club has had to endure a torrid run-up to a very important match.
First they lost to Hearts of Oak in Accra on Sunday in a friendly before they were confronted with a distraction they didn't need at this stage: claims by an ex-employee that the club owes him $20,000.
Hans Dieter Schmidt is credited with making Faisal as solid as it is today but the German departed his base in Kumasi in protest at unpaid fees. He is back in town and has told everyone who cares to listen that Faisal owes him.
Liberty Professionals have had no such problems but their task on the field is certainly more enormous than what Faisal faces. They trail from the first leg and must keep their nerves to score two unanswered goals against an Angolan side pretty solid on the ball and lightening quick going forward.
The problem for Liberty could be the lack of experience in the squad but few in the club are worried about that. It is a gradual process they insist.
The two clubs certainly have the heart for gradual progression. They have over a number of years worked hard to position themselves as the two teams everyone loves after Hearts and Kotoko.
It has taken years of hard work but as Goldfields would tell you, it is even more difficult staying there. Making the next round of the CAF Cup will be no complete proof of greatness but it will be another pointer that gradually, they are coming of age.