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Sports Features of Thursday, 28 February 2008

Source: 90 Minutes Newspaper

TALK IS CHEAP - How true this is

FLASHPOINT by yours truly took a short break since most of the attention was given to the just ended Ghana 2008 tournament, but we are now back to address the burning issues as usual. The Africa Cup of Nations was a huge success (that's not to say there were no hiccups.) For me, the Black Stars performance was not as good as we wanted it to be since the ultimate was the trophy at stake. Egypt taught everyone a lesson by showing that it takes organised teams with good technical direction to win tournaments like these. Let's hope we can make amends at Angola 2010 as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

All the attention has however been shifted to the on-going Onetouch Premier League and our clubs participation in the CAF club competitions. First of all, let's look at our league. The past weekend was an interesting one. The man in the spotlight was Coach “Opeele” Boateng who was labelled by many Kotoko supporters as a braggart in the build-up to their league match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium last Sunday. I listened to him on a couple of occasions and I think he sold himself well. I can't imagine what he would have said if he had actually won against the league leaders. But there were a lot of statements and counter statements that he made which I believe were uncalled for. For instance, his disregard and disrespect for Coach Bashir Hayford and the Kotoko team was quite unfortunate. A coach of his stature (at least as he makes himself to be) should have known that one of the most important tenets in football is to respect your opponents no matter the circumstances.

“Opeele” is an up and coming coach and is yet to achieve anything on the local footballing scene, so it was only logical to respect the opposing coach who at least has won the Top 4 competition with a club like Heart of Lions who weren't given even a dog's chance by the pundits to fare well against the likes of Kotoko, Hearts of Oak and King Faisal. Bashir Hayford also qualified the Kpando team to play in the CAF Confederations Cup (even though they pulled out for lack of financial support from the FA and the Sports Ministry). He repeated the same feat last year by winning the Top 4 trophy with Kotoko, making him the first coach to win the trophy with two different clubs. His work with the national U-17 side is also there for all to see. It's good to have coaches who will hype matches just like Jose Mourinho as it adds some spice to the game and makes it more interesting, but personal attacks on players and fellow coaches is going a bit overboard.

Hearts of oak It is sad Hearts of oak are going through one of their worst seasons in recent memory. This season's league has been very competitive and I want to think that it's partly owed to the three new clubs who joined the Premiership from Division 1. They are ambitious and business minded clubs who are bent on staying in the top-flight. Kessben FC and Wa All Stars for me have done very well so far and Kwesi Nyantakyi and Randy Abbey need to be commended. With the current form of Kotoko, just imagine how our league would have been if Hearts of Oak were also in good shape. I believe it will be prudent if the management of Hearts tell their supporters to forget about the league title this season to at least bring the pressure down. That is the truth and even though some of them will find it hard to understand in the early stages, they will in the long run as Harry Zakkour is quite experienced to bring success back to the club. They should also try to sign young and talented players who are hungry for success in the Premiership to play for them next season. In short, Hearts need to rebuild. As they prepare to play against FC 105 from Gabon, I will entreat all the Phobian faithful to understand that this current Hearts of Oak side will find it very difficult to overturn the 3-0 deficit. If it were the 2000 Hearts of Oak “Invincibles”, you could boldly say that beating FC 105 4-0 was very much possible but the same cannot be said of this current Hearts set -up who are languishing at the bottom rungs on the Onetouch Premiership table. It's almost “an impossible mission” but remember this is football, so nothing should be ruled out.

Ashanti gold SC has the best of chances to qualify against Coach Karim Zito's Sahel SC of Niger but they shouldn't be complacent. Coach David Duncan and his boys should prepare well and I know their 4-0 drubbing of All Blacks at the Len Clay Stadium over the weekend should motivate them in this MTN/CAF Champions League encounter. 90 Minutes wishes both teams the best of luck.