After several months of waiting necessitated in part by the legal tussle between Dreams FC and Tema Youth FC that dates back to the 2014/15 GN Bank Division One Zone 3 league season that the two sides participated in, the start of the 2016/17 Ghana Premier League season is finally upon us after the former accepted their fault and took a demotion to the Division One scene where they rightfully belong. Thus, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Ghana Premier League will roar back to life this weekend, February 11th, 2017.
I am glad the nation’s topflight league is finally ready for take-off again, albeit, to another late start.
Teams have used the off season to their advantage, almost every team has brought in new acquisitions and shed off some talent. Hopefully, fans are served with the best by the major stakeholders involved.
From players expected to play good football to fans turning up in their numbers to watch games, everyone who has a role to play must not disappoint as we seek to make our league great or perhaps ‘bigly’ again.
The change Ghanaians voted massively for on December 7, must also reflect on our various soccer leagues. The major one being the - "super fantastic Ghana Premier League" - as the famous sports presenter - Countryman Songo - likes to call it.
Talent shift in the Ghana Premier League
For the fourth consecutive season, the star player in the last season’s league has been sold abroad. Latif Blessing has left the shores of the country to seek greener pastures in the United States of America. He bagged an impressive 17 goals and he will be sorely missed by his teammates.
He is off to greener pastures, but another star will definitely arise. Yes, another star would emerge, trust me, Have you ever watched a football competition that no player exceled? Absolutely not!
Excellent players to watch
Ahmed Toure - He's back, not to Kumasi or Accra, but to Bechem United. The MTN FA cup holders poached the talented striker to help them in what is very likely to be a tough grueling season as they will be involved in three competitions including the CAF Confederation cup. Toure has seen it all - winning the goal king and league title with kotoko, a couple of seasons ago. He will be the fear factor the ‘Hunters’ need following the departure of Abednego Tetteh. I am confident he will challenge for the top scorers award.
Patrick Razak - Razak is a joy to watch on any given day, the young attacker has a very good game. Give him the ball and trust him to wreak havoc on any defense. I trust he will lead the way for the Phobians.
Hafiz Adams - Captain fantastic. Impeccable in the heart of defense for the reigning PL Champions - Wa All Stars - who defied the odds for their historic and PL title. He can be a great leader again this season.
I believe in his qualities, hopefully he won’t disappoint.
Malik Akowuah - The midfield dynamo has promised Hearts fans a lot since signing for the club. He is a quality midfielder. Not much has been seen of him in pre-season but I believe he will turn up when the season starts.
Amos Frimpong - Best right back in the league last season. He's certainly one man a lot will be expected of as kotoko seeks to lift the title this time around. His versatility will come in handy for kotoko.
2016/17 Ghana Premier League title contenders
Wa All Stars
I followed the preseason campaign closely and was impressed with a couple of clubs including defending Champions WA All Stars.
The WA based club look ready and determined to have another shot at the title. Their pre-season was very good as they engaged in high profile friendlies at home and abroad and produced some great displays. Their performance against Al Hilal in Sudan, although they lost, proved they would be difficult to upstage.
It would be recalled that they traveled to Saudi Arabia for the preseason last year and they came back rejuvenated to win the trophy. They have managed to retain most of the good players they won the title with, hence my decision to consider them favorites.
Aduana Stars came so close last season, only to lose to WA All Stars. Their pre-season has been rather quiet, but from what I saw in the GHALCA 6 tournament, the Dormaa based club definitely have the title as a topmost priority and it's feasible as the core of the team that lost painfully to All Stars is available.
Their star players- Zakaria Mumuni, Nathaniel Asamoah, Emmanuel Akuoku, Godfred Saka, Daniel Darkwah and the likes - must just turn up in style.
Asante Kotoko has brought in new management led by Dr. Kwame Kyei, new coach - Drako Lugarusic - and some excellent new players. All these point to the fact that owner and life patron - Otumfuor Osei Tutu II – is not pleased with last season’s output and is bent on restoring his team’s glorious past with the 2016/17 GPL title.
Their dealings within the transfer window has been very impressive – signing top talents like Kwame Boahene, Baba Mahama, Ollenu Ashittey and welcoming the return of former skipper Michael Akuffo, thus contributing to an inspiring form ahead of the new season’s start. They have won their last five games convincingly.
With these players and premier league experience of new boss - Zdravko Lugarusic - having handled King Faisal and AshGold in the past, the Porcupine Warriors are definitely worthy title contenders.
Poor officiating - Our referees have had enough time to revise their notes as a result of the delay and hopefully fans don’t get treated to poor officiating that can lead to hooliganism.
Club administrators have to reflect on their actions that mar the beauty of the game and promise not to repeat them this season. Paying of bribes to referees must not occur, it must be a thing of the past. Guilty ones must be dealt with.
Fans must conduct themselves appropriately and desist from violent acts, a situation that has prevailed to some extent in past seasons. Fans must learn to accept every decision good or bad in good faith and let their team’s management take up any complaints etc. through the right channels.
Expectations for newly promoted clubs
The most accomplished of this season’s class of newly promoted teams is Accra Gt. Olympics, they have tasted PL soccer before and gunning for more than survival must be their goal. Bolga All Stars and Elmina Sharks will have to work hard and punch above their weight to survive their very first year of PL soccer.
Teams that must tread cautiously
Liberty Professionals and Inter Allies, Ebusua Dwarfs all battled for survival during the previous season and somehow managed to survive. Their poor form can be attributed to their poor start to the season. They must ensure it doesn't happen again this season.
Doubts for Hearts of Oak
The nation’s premier club - Accra Hearts of Oak – have had a fairly good start to the season but they remain bedeviled by unpaid player emoluments and the absence of a head coach as opening day approaches. Unless something drastic happens on the field, they will likely extend their title drought to eight years.
(Additional editing by Abena Alice)
© 2017 Enoch F. Forson/myghanalinks. All Rights Reserved
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