What next for Kotoko?
With just two games to end the first half of the Ghana Premier League, Kumasi Asante Kotoko uncharacteristically are experiencing somewhat of a crisis, if for nothing at all, for the fact that they lost to arch-rivals Accra Hearts twice already -- in the league and the GH@60 Anniversary Cup.
For most clubs, fifth place in the Premier League is an achievement. For Kotoko, it is a crisis. Five wins and a similar number ending in defeats, and three draws has made the most successful club in the country the topic of discussion.
Are the club’s problems self-inflicted?
The current plight of the club is similar to last season’s. The Porcupine Warriors dropped to the 16th position on the league with five points after six games last season, and Coach David Duncan was shown the exit. Croatian coach, Zdravko Logarusic was also sacked at the beginning of last month, after just four months in charge.
It is the third season in a row that Kotoko has sacked its coach before the end of the first round of the league. It began with Didi Dramani two seasons ago, and his successor David Duncan, followed the same route last season.
Whilst Duncan’s sacking was justifiable, that of Logarusic appears to have worsen the club’s plight. Logarusic was sacked after 11 games, when the Kumasi-based side occupying second position on the league table. But since Logarusic’s dismissal, Kotoko have not won a game in open play in all competitions.
Kotoko have drawn one game and lost one in their last two Premier League games. The only win they recorded since sacking their coach, and entrusting the team to former player, Frimpong Manso, came in the MTN FA Cup round 64, when the team defeated Bekwai Youth Academy on penalties after a 1-1 score line. The icing on the cake in their abysmal run came last Monday in the form of a 3-1 thrashing by Hearts in the GH@50 Anniversary Cup.
If there is one thing these statistics show; it is the fact that Kotoko’s problems this season, far transcends the technical handlers.
In the wake of the club’s troubles, many soccer pundits have apportioned blame on the owner and life-time patron of the club, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, whilst others have also questioned Kotoko’s technical direction.
Karl Tuffour, a veteran sports journalist, speaking on Football 360, a TV programme on Kwese Sports blamed the owner, the fans and management all together for the club’s woes.
"I am sparing any one,” he said, “From the owner, the Asantehene, the chief executives, and the fans. The fans because they were the ones who got up screaming and ranting when ‘Opana’ [Zdravko Logarusic] was drawing, and what has happened since then! They have become worse.”
“How much has the owner put in the club? It is his club, so he should put his money in the club and make sure that the club thrives. Then the executives who are now running the club on his behalf, if the man is not bringing in money, quit! Don't come and complain to us the media, and tell us you are not getting funding.
Don't spend your own money on Kotoko. How come you tell me I am the CEO and expect me to use my money to finance the club?" he added.
For many, the all-time record league champions simply lack quality in depth. In the current league season, Kotoko have been very poor in front of goal, scoring only nine goals in 13 league games, and conceding seven in the process: an unfamiliar run to the free flowing and beautiful football that fans have grown accustomed to.
To muddy the waters, there is a section of supporters who believe that the decline of Kotoko had been coming; and that recent the sacking of coaches is just a cover up for the many deficiencies within club, including the manner in which it is been run.
Among other things, Kotoko is without a substantive coach, as Frimpong Manso was only tasked to take charge for the rest of the first round of matches. There is also a precarious issue of striker crisis, which the club must address in order to turn around its fortunes.
Today, not even the most loyal fans enjoy watching the team at their once-dreaded home ground at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi. Back in the 80’s and early 2000’s, football fans travelled miles to catch glimpses of their favourite stars play at the same venue, so what has changed?
Has the fans become lazy? Certainly not, but something is not certainly right. Losing twice to Hearts in less than two months after nearly a decade of dominance over their arch-rivals, shows how many steps backwards Kotoko has taken.
The last time Hearts beat Kotoko 3:1 was in January 2007—10 years ago. Living in their rival's shadows is something that the fans simply abhor.