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04.03.2005 Football News

Hearts, Kotoko, Faisal Poised For Bright Start

By Chronicle
Hearts, Kotoko, Faisal Poised For Bright Start

Coaches of Ghana's three representatives in the African Clubs Competitions, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, Malik Jabir, and Francis Oti-Akenteng will be hoping to see their respective clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, and Kumasi King Faisal, starting the competition on a good note, as they begin to search for continental glory this weekend.

Kpando-based Heart of Lions may have joined the fray, but opted out of the Cup Winners competition, citing financial constraint as their reason.

King Faisal will open the floodgates tomorrow (Saturday) when they welcome Senegal's ASC Ndiambour to the Kumasi Sports Stadium in the second edition of the CAF Confederation Cup.

Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak play on Sunday in the African Champions' League. Asante Kotoko takes on Royal Armed Forces (FAR) of Morocco at their favourite Kumasi Sports Stadium, while Hearts of Oak trek to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, to face two-time Nigerian Premier League champions, Dolphin Football Club.

Hearts, Kotoko and King Faisal did not contest in the preliminary round matches. While Hearts of Oak drew a bye, Kotoko and King Faisal had their respective Gambia and Sierra Leonean opponents pulling out of the competition.

The year 2004 was a good one for the Ghanaian teams, as far as the Continental Competitions were concerned.

Ghana provided the two finalists in the first ever Confederations Cup.

Hearts of Oak defeated their arch-rivals Asante Kotoko in the historic grand finale. The three clubs however would aspire to maintain that momentum this year. Kotoko's game with FAR brings to mind their clash in the 1989 edition of the then African Clubs Championship, when the Ghanaian side triumphed 4 -3 on aggregate in the quarterfinal stage. The first leg in Rabat ended 3 -3, before Kotoko beat the Moroccans by a lone goal in Kumasi.

The Moroccans would therefore look upon the Sunday's game as a perfect opportunity to exact some measure of revenge over the Porcupines who have had all manner of troubles after that painful loss to Hearts in the finals of the Confederation Cup. Perhaps, Kotoko had to pull out of the "Coca-Cola Top 4" tournament to save off some of the criticisms that might have befallen them if they failed to win the pre-season tournament.

After that episode, Kotoko undertook a training tour to Burkina Faso, but had to cut short that trip, following complaints by the playing-body over poor living conditions and training facilities. The Moroccans would therefore have cause to believe that, all is not well in the camp of the Porcupines and hope to take advantage of the situation with a shocking result. FAR is a very strong side and it would be a great mistake for the Ghanaian club, if they play down their chances.

The Moroccan side is expected to be included with the partnership of striker Badel Ajeddou, who has eight goals to his credit in the Moroccan league, and the experienced Laghressi Mohammed, who is one of the best players on the local front.

FAR currently occupies the second spot in the tough Moroccan league and have made over their intentions of making it big on the continent this season.

Kotoko would be in for a very difficult assignment and must brace themselves up for it. They will enter the game without the services of some key players who made valuable contributions during last year's continental assignments. The players are Charles Taylor, Frank Osei, Shilla Alhassan and George Owu, among others.

One would therefore be anxious to see how the new boys blend with the old ones, and it would be crucial in determining whether they would go far in this year's African Champions League Competition. The Kumasi stadium has been an unfavourable battlefield for the North Africans, as Kotoko would count on that to post a good result before taking into the second leg in two weeks time in Rabat, Morocco.

After annexing the Confederation trophy, things seemed not to be moving well for the Phobians, as lack of resources and low player and supporting morale have combined to wipe away some of the glory they chalked last year.

Like Kotoko, Hearts have a very daunting task if they are to advance to the next stage of the competition.

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