Asante Kotoko are on their marks again, set to go on one more race toward securing the sort of greatness that now appears so distant.
That’s the problem, though, isn’t it?
In Kumasi, they think — they almost always think — that race, more like a marathon, is actually a sprint. Even worse, they’re running backwards, in pursuit of past glories, rather than reach out for future feats.
We’ve seen all of this before: Kotoko self-destructing, Manhyia — the seat of Ashanti royal power from which the club draws its pride and identity — flicking on the reset switch and, for a while, positive vibes saturating the air. Almost inevitably, however, the cogs begin to click out of gear, the lubricant of good spirits dry up, and Kotoko gets stuck in the same old rut which has seen them make little progress this century. That, it seems, is just how this club, one of Ghana’s two biggest (the other is just as awful, but theirs is a whole different mess), is configured to operate.
The last few days have felt like another fresh, yet ultimately false, dawn for Kotoko – only, this time, the gloomy clouds have gathered a bit too soon. The Porcupine Warriors have endured a torrid time in recent months, especially off-the pitch, stumbling from one pit to another. Consequences of bad transfer dealings and contractual disputes with former coaches have been borne, all of which forced Manhyia to make another intervention.
A new Board of Directors, headed by — surprise, surprise — Dr. Kwame Kyei, the man who has steered the club’s hit-and-miss business since late 2016. The great wonder isn’t really in the fact that Dr. Kyei — increasingly unpopular among the club’s rank and file — wasn’t axed; the real brow-raising bit is the reason that informed his retention.
Dr. Kyei, according to a press release from Manhyia on Thursday, “is retained as Chairman of the Board in recognition of the fact that he has single-handedly financed the Club’s operations over the past three years.”
That those who recommended and endorsed Dr. Kyei’s continued stay see no wrong with his status as, effectively, a traditional club’s bankroller — think about that, for a moment, and let it sink in — is worrying enough; that they’re actually citing it as justification for extending his mandate, given how pointless much of that spending has been, feels even more upsetting.
The hope, it seems, is that Kyei would continue to splash the cash — his cash — only now “in a corporate setting with a Board carefully chosen to blend continuity with a combination of corporate dynamism and integrity, financial prudence and professional expertise.”
Nice English yet, again, we’ve seen all this before, haven’t we?
See, Kotoko have never lacked human resources, particularly at administrative level, such is the club’s reach. This time, for instance, they’ve been able to call on two high-ranking banking executives, a corporate lawyer, accomplished businessmen, and a couple of sports experts. However, even in that sparkling line-up — even before their first meeting, I believe — a crack appears.
“Football is about quality players and we will look around the country and beyond and get the best players for Kotoko,” Kwadwo Boateng Genfi, Board Chairman of the Ghana EXIM Bank, said in an interview with Kessben FM.
That, right there, is another ominous sign.
In an era when even Real Madrid only infrequently makes marquee signings, and most clubs are realizing that stars are better brought up than brought in, it’s disturbing to see that Kotoko are prepared to take the same wasteful route that has already yielded so little under Dr. Kyei. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing undesirable about getting the best players – a club like Kotoko certainly deserves, and can afford, that luxury (even if, ahem, with Dr. Kyei’s money) – but is a star-studded side all there is to a modern football club’s success?
Genfi appears to hold such a view, but it is very much at odds with the objective stated in the aforementioned Manhyia statement — “to set up the Asante Kotoko SC academy and . . . to provide opportunities for the development of the youth” — and suggests that there is going to be a disappointing business-as-usual approach to reviving an 84-year-old club that doesn’t even have a functional website (try asantekotokosc.com; thank me later).
Now, we knew things would eventually go pear-shaped at some point — as they always do at Kotoko — but these early developments suggest they probably already have, and unless the focus quickly switches to erecting those structures that would set Kotoko up for long-term gains, the latest attempt at a restart is dead — and buried, maybe — on arrival.
NY Frimpong — Daily Mail GH