Kumasi Asante Kotoko supporters have become used to success over the years almost as much as they have become used to firing managers who fail to provide that success.
With that in mind it was unsurprising to hear grumblings among the fan base as early as the first game of the season. A feeble performance against Eleven Wonders started a run which saw the Porcupine Warriors pick up just 5 points out of a possible 12 and that only increased the frustrations of the Kotoko faithful. A disappointing 1-0 loss to Accra Great Olympics signaled the end of the road for Maxwell Konadu and the beginning of another period of uncertainty for Kotoko.
Within that very uninspiring run of domestic form Kotoko also played away at Mauritanian side FC Nouadhibou in the first qualifying round for the CAF Champions League. A competent performance saw them come away with a draw ahead of of the second leg. That second leg was never played though as the Mauritanians proved unwilling to comply with the prevailing COVID-19 protocols. As a result Kotoko was given passage into the next and final qualifying round were they were to come up against Al Hilal of Sudan, a very accomplished team on the continental stage.
The importance of that tie is not lost on Kotoko as Ghana has not had a representative in the group stage of that competition for longer than should be acceptable and aside from that the financial benefits are substantial and would be very welcome especially in the current economic climate. This was the case before Maxwell Konadu was relieved of his position which was swifly followed by the resignation of Communications Manager Moses Antwi-Benefo. Rumors of disunity at board level were floated around in some sections of the media and the atmosphere around the club was at risk of becoming toxic.
These rumors have not been proven in any way but the effect of the events and the manner in which they unfolded brought a lot of attention towards what was happening off the field and Kotoko would not want that. There is already uncertainty about how long now interim manager Johnson Smith will be in the job for and who the permanent coach will be if he is not going to be handed control on a permanent basis. With all this going on behind the scenes it will be in the absolute best interest of Kotoko to direct focus back onto the field and get some positivity back around the club and this game will be the perfect way to do that. A victory Wednesday ensures that all the articles and news items Thursday will be centered around the performance the Porcupine Warriors put up in order to get the win. A loss however would lead to the highlighting of Kotoko’s various off the field issues as a possible factor in the defeat, leading to further scrutiny in the direction of the club hierarchy and needless to say this is less than ideal for anyone at Kotoko.
“I put in pressure,” he replied when asked what he put into the game after the match. “Only pressure, I pressurized them to put in pressure and win and any goal counts. Whether we win 1-0 or 2-0,” he added. A very simple strategy employed to good effect by Johnson Smith as he led Kotoko to a much needed victory against three points against Dreams FC in his first game in charge. He may not be coach of the Porcupine Warriors for much longer now but if he can put the requisite pressure on his players to come up with another victory against Al Hilal Wednesday, his contribution to the club will always be fondly remembered.
By Wepea Buntugu
The writer is interested in both the local and international game and provides new insights on issues on and off the field.