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A CARA player (19) closes in on his opponent in the first of leg their CONFED Cup match played at the Baba Yara Stadium on 11th February, 2018. Kotoko won by a lone goal.

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Kotoko in recent times are outmuscled by clubs in transfer dealings. Some of these clubs in the past served as feeder clubs for Kotoko. Players now prefer to play for such clubs just because they are offered better opportunities by such clubs than Kotoko. When was the last time a Kotoko player had a call up to play for the Black Stars?
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Having been an ardent follower of Kumasi Asante Kotoko for close to two decades, I must say I have witnessed some good football served by this great club. I was not surprised the club was once voted the club of the century. Many clubs on the continent always dreaded locking horns with Kotoko at its fortress, the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, formerly known as the Kumasi Sports Stadium.

The Porcupine Warriors as they are famously known, never disappointed in dispatching their opponents with panache anytime they were called to duty back then. This was complimented by their ever faithful supporters who thronged to the stadium in droves to support their pet club anytime they were called upon. 

Related:

Related: Asante Kotoko pip CARA Brazzaville in Confederation Cup opener

Related: Confederations Cup: CARA bounce back at home, knocks out Kotoko on penalties

Recent developments have waned the love and support the club used to enjoy not too long ago. Kotoko has really struggled to make an impact on the continent due to the abysmal performances they churn out every year. Qualification to play in CAF organized tournaments has now become a tall order for Kotoko, even when they are able to qualify, they are sent packing before they even dream of playing in the money zone.

Once again, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, the pride of The Ashanti Kingdom has been kicked out of this year's Confederations Cup by a team I will tag as a minnow in African football, Club Athletique Rennaissance Aiglon (CARA) of Congo, though there are no more minnows in modern football.

To be honest, if someone had told me that the match between Kotoko and CARA was going to be a hard nut for Kotoko to crack, I would have labeled the conveyor of the message a false prophet. However, weaknesses in the team, together with some bad decisions on the part of the handlers of the team opened my eyes to the real issues on the ground.

To begin with, playing in Africa is no joke. You need to go with your best arsenal if you want other teams to pant for breath when they play against you. Were the pitfalls in the team identified? If they were identified, did the managers of the team take steps to solve these problems?

Recruitment is one thing that should not be toyed with. You get it right and the dividends will be immeasurable, you get it wrong and you are doomed forever. Looking at the attack of Kotoko, one does not need a coaching license to know that the likes of Saddick Adams, Obed Owusu et al would not be able to bang in the goals when it becomes necessary.

Did Kotoko recruit tried and tested players to solve the numerous problems they found? Under no circumstances should Kotoko have allowed Eric Bekoe, a proven goal poacher slip through their hands. Some may argue that he has passed his prime, but I believe that, with his pedigree and experience on the continent, he was the best choice to solve the striking puzzle of Kotoko. This brings to the fore the sort of recruitment policy the managers pursue.

Elsewhere, coaches identify players needed to achieve results even before the season ends and make recommendations for such players to be poached. In our part of the world, players are brought in or recommended by management members who lack the technical eye to identify players who will fit into the coach's plans. They are just brought in to add up to the numbers or gate proceeds without a critical analysis of how they can strengthen the team.

Again, a player who could have added steel and grit to the defensive setup of the team, Samuel Sarfo who plied his trade for Liberty Professionals before leaving the shores of Ghana, also did not sign for Kotoko after rumours of him joining the team hit a crescendo. This tells one the true state of the club.

In the past, it was an impossible task to compete with Kumasi Asante Kotoko for the signature of a player due their financial clout and countless opportunities offered to players who signed for the club. Can same be said about the club in recent times? The answer is an emphatic NO!

Kotoko in recent times are outmuscled by clubs in transfer dealings. Some of these clubs in the past served as feeder clubs for Kotoko. Players now prefer to play for such clubs just because they are offered better opportunities by such clubs than Kotoko. When was the last time a Kotoko player had a call up to play for the Black Stars? The likes of Isaac Boakye, Aziz Ansah and Godfred Yeboah in their heydays in the local league gave foreign based players a good run for their money. The absence of Kotoko players in the national team gives credence to the fact that the team is no more a formidable side to compete for trophies.

Scouting is one problem many clubs in Ghana face, and Kotoko is no exception. What sort of scouting was done in preparation for the CARA fixture? I doubt proper scouting was done to ascertain the weaknesses and strengths of the opponents. I believe the match was approached casually with the intention of walking over CARA, only for CARA to prove to be a different kettle of fish.

If proper scouting had been done, it would have been discovered that the goalkeeper for CARA was good at penalties and the team they would have found an antidote. As usual, they stepped onto the field without any backup plan to tweak the tactics when they are found wanting. When the initial plan failed, they could not dig deep into their reserves to overcome their opponent, and they paid dearly for that.

As they say, coming events cast their shadows. In the GHALCA G8 tournament, Kotoko's performance was below par, and that culminated in the loss to Accra Hearts of Oak in the semi-final. They lost 4-2 on penalties to Hearts of Accra. I doubt they took any serious lessons from that match by working on the art of penalty kicks. They went to bed and as usual, thought things will fall in place by themselves.

The Ghana Football Association cannot be blameless in this situation. They also contributed to the exit of Kotoko. We are in a country where our league is yet to start, but some clubs are participating in CAF competitions. Without regular and competitive matches, players will get rusty. This will in turn affect performance in the competition.

Some will argue that Aduana Stars are still in the CAF Champions League, though they are also not playing any competitive match. I believe that, as the tournament wears on, they will be exposed, but I pray by then, the league would have started to keep the team in shape.

This is the time for the FA to overhaul their operations to avoid putting clubs in awkward positions. Cases that come before them must be expediently dealt with to avoid last minute court injunctions.

The league is already suffering from a lack of sponsors to help cushion clubs against financial losses. Frequent court injunctions etc. against the GFA, coupled with a consistently late start to the season makes it hard to attract sponsors, as they may likely not get much from their investment.

This is the right time for Kotoko to put their house in order, especially if they really want to win at the local, as well as the continental level.

The continental tournaments are not meant for ill prepared teams. The current management should come out with plans of annexing any of the trophies in the next five years and work towards it with all seriousness.

I believe that if such plans are rolled out and supporters are made to understand that the current team is a work in progress, and that they should look at the brighter side of the project, trust me, the supporters will embrace it.

All stakeholders must be united to carry this dream to its destination. Along the line, they may be disagreements, but the ultimate goal should be the motivating factor to settle all squabbles, as a divided front cannot and will never win in battle.

 

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