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Sports Features of Tuesday, 12 September 2017


How Asante Kotoko have continued to produce quality left backs silently

In my recent write-up, I looked at some individual players who have excelled at the Kotoko right full back over the years. I recalled the likes of Ben Kusi, Dan Oppong, Ibrahim Yusif, Ernest Appau, Frank Amankwaa, Aziz Ansah, Samuel Inkoom, Yaw Frimpong and Co.

The aftermath of the article was interesting. Some people called me on phone to name their overall best players among those I listed and explained why. Others also called to add the names of certain players whom I may be too young to know. They were funny comments indeed. It makes me believe that players who serve Kotoko wholeheartedly and leave a good legacy for themselves can never be forgotten by their supporters.

Returning from work three days after the article was published, I met my close pal Adam Adjei (a.k.a Tony Adams) – a Sports Presenter of Kasapa 102.3 FM based at Adabraka, a suburb of Accra. We had a great moment together because it had been a long time since we met. I used to do sports programmes with him during his days with Asempa FM.

Adjei in the course of discussion told me that my story on Kotoko right backs was not complete. And he explained “Yes I think it was not complete. In football we have lateral defence comprising the right and left back. So once you talk about the right back you have to balance the story because I believe this position has equally produced some great players”.

I felt challenged to consider his suggestion and take a look at some players who have distinguished themselves superbly at the Kotoko left back also. Admittedly, it was not easy recalling most of them particularly those who played in the 60s and 70s. It was my boss Ken Bediako who came to my rescue and off his head provided me with the names of Oliver Acquah, Abdul Karim Zito and Kwasi Appiah.

Unlike Karim Zito and Kwasi Appiah whom I had the chance to watch in action on some few occasions when growing up, I never saw Oliver Acquah. However, the reports that I have read about him clearly confirms that he was a great left back by all standards. Zito and Kwasi Appiah were also in a class of their own. Zito was a natural left footed player but Kwasi Appiah was not.

Notwithstanding this, my name sake Kwasi was solid like the “Rock of Gibraltar” in the Kotoko and Black Stars defence. I remember how he dazzled in Kotoko’s triumph in the 1983 African Cup against Egyptian giants Al Ahly where he marshaled the defence together with Ernest Appau, Addae Kyenkyehene and Seth Ampadu.

Before helping Kotoko to achieve this famous feat, Kwasi assisted the Black Stars to win the 1982 Africa Nations Cup in Libya – the Black Stars last success on the continent.He got the nickname “Mayele” because of how he dealt with Congolese deadly striker called Mayele during an epic match on the continent.

Another sensational left back who demands recognition is Godfred Yeboah who featured for Kotoko between 2001 and 2006. He was popularly called “TV3” because people believed his performance was clear like the TV3 network (a free advert for the TV station). Godfred was well built and used his height to his advantage sliding and jumping high to save tricky situations in Kotoko vital area.

He and Aziz Ansah used to handle the lateral defence with Daniel Acquah and Joe Hendrich in the central defence. They formed an iron clad defence to make the Baba Yara Stadium a no go area. He helped Kotoko to win many laurels but notable among them were the 2002, 2005 and 2007/08 national league. He played in the final of CAF Inter Club competitions twice but unluckily lost both trophies to Wydad Athletic Casablanca (WAC) of Morocco and Hearts.

After “TV3” Kotoko had Harrison Afful – the diminutive and fearless defender. The former Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord player was one of Kotoko’s recruits for the 2007/08 league by Coach Bashir Hayford. His combination with Samuel Inkoom at the lateral defence has been described as one of the best pairs in recent years. Though a right footed player, he handled the left back position without any fear.

He offered his best in his first season to help Kotoko win every trophy they competed for. It comprised SWAG Cup, Baba Yara@50 Cup, President’s Cup and Onetouch Premiership where they finished on top with an amazing 69 points – 16 clear points ahead of second team Heart of Lions. Since Harrison left Kotoko he has never looked back and consistently given excellent account of himself for Esperance of Tunisia and the Black Stars.

Abdul Baba Rahman took over the mantle after Harrison. Many fans doubted his competence when Coach Maxwell Konadu brought him from Madina based division one side Dreams FC in 2011/12. With time and strenuous training however, he showed what he was made of.

He announced his presence with a first class show against Hearts in a Super Two contest and went ahead to help Kotoko win the league, Rahman has continued to rise in his football career.

He has worked extremely hard to carve a niche for himself in the Black Stars first team and has given the technical handlers much hope. He is one of the hot cakes in Europe now exhibiting his awesome performance for Greuther Furth and Augsburg in the German Bundesliga.

Currently Eric Donkor is performing well at the left back for Kotoko but there is still room for improvement. To attain the height of his predecessors – Oliver Acquah, Karim Zito, Kwasi Appiah, Godfred Yeboah, Harrison Afful and Baba Rahman, he needs to double his efforts.