Kumasi-based King Faisal have received a big boost ahead of their Confederation Cup campaign this weekend with the arrival from Saudi Arabia of their key attacker,Eric Gawu.
Faisal coach Francis Oti-Akenteng is looking up to Gawu to lead his side to victory against Senegal's ASC Ndiambour, attacking midfielder Yahuza Abubakari having been declared unfit for tomorrow match at the Kumasi Stadium.
Yahuza, one of Faisal's most influential players,recently returned home from Denmark with a stomach ailment and as a result has been unable to train with the rest of the team.
Two weeks ago it was reported that the two players had secured contracts with clubs in Denmark and Saudi Arabia, but Faisal's founder, Alhaji Karim Gruzah, explained that their trips were to facilitate trials prior to a final deal.
Thus,until the two attackers secure foreign contracts the club will count on their experience to carry them through Africa's second most prestigious club competition.
“Gawu's presence is a big boost for us as he is our most potent attacker.It's unfortunate that we are unable to use Yahuza because of a stomach problem.Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in his condition, the earliest we can have him is for the return leg encounter,” Coach Oti-Akenteng told the Graphic Sports last Wednesday.
Faisal,Ghana's lone flagbearers in the competition (Hearts of Lions have withdrawn)were eliminated at the one-eighth round of the maiden Confederation Cup last year, but this time coach Oti-Akenteng has targeted the lucrative group stage of the competition.
Faisal start this year's continental campaign without the services of influential players like Abass Inusah, Hamza Mohammed,Godwin Ablordey and Ishaq Debrah who have all left the club.
Nonetheless, Coach Oti-Akenteng is maintaining a positive attitude and hopes that his charges will have what it takes to overcome the Senegalese opposition tomorrow.
Coach Oti-Akenteng admits that the team has a“good starting 11” but does not have strength in depth since his reserves are not very experienced in such high-profile competitions. “My prayer is that we avoid injuries else we could be seriously handicapped.”
Another concern, though, has been Faisal's recent losses at home to RTU and Lions in the just-ended Coca-Cola Top 4 tourney.The two setbacks have forced the coach to re-assess his team's strength and weaknesses with a view to patching all the cracks before they meet Ndiambour.
“Normally they don't lose at home and it's troubling that they lost two home matches on a trot, even though we did well in those two games.We need to work really hard and quickly correct our mistakes in all departments of the game.”
In Gawu,Faisal have a striker whose physical presence, athleticism and instinct for goals should inspire and galvanise his team-mates to victory.As the club's top scorer with four goals in last year's competition, coach Oti-Akenteng says he would build his attacking machinery around Gawu and Ben Wilson and generally dictate the pace and seize all scoring opportunities.
“We don't know much about our opponents, but having come this far it suggests they are a good side and have to accord them the due respect.We'll go our own way and not allow ourselves to be bogged down by home pressure”, the coach gave the assurance.