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1989-90: Hearts pip Kotoko again

The 1989-90 season, which started on October 10, 1989 was another marathon session that ended on July 1, 1990.

Quite similar to the 1985 season, the battle for the league title was a neck and neck race between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko. And, like the 1985 confrontation, the decider was staged in Kumasi with Hearts winning to collect three points.

The only difference between the June 10, 1990 match and that of June 12, 1985 was that the latter was the very last fixture of the season whilst the former had two more laps to go. But the remaining two matches provided very little opposition to the two title contenders and Hearts maintained their three points lead to win the cup.

For the first time in the history of the league the penalty shoot out was invoked for a bonus point after a drawn game. Victory in the regulation time of 90 minutes fetched three points. Little wonder that free-scoring Hearts, the champions earned 78 points their highest since they collected 60 points to win the 1971 championship.

Apart from Hearts, three other news making clubs were Asante Kotoko, Great Olympics and Venomous Vipers. Kotoko drew such massive support that several playing fields could hardly contain their overflowing army of followers.

For example in Kotokos third week fixture against Soccer Missionaries at Fosu on Oct. 22 1989, the park was so choked that a temporary VIP stand collapsed under the weight of spectators. A similar incident occurred two weeks later at Obuasi during the Kotoko-Goldfields match. A wall collapsed under the weight of spectators. In both instances there were no casualties.

But on Dec. 10 1989, four people were killed and 30 injured at the Kumasi Stadium during the KotokoHasaacas 10th week league match when a portion of the railings at the stadium collapsed during a stampede. Eye witness accounts said a policeman fired teargas when a group of people, believed to be thugs, attempted to snatch two bags containing gate proceeds at Gate D near the electronic scoreboard.

The severe irritation caused by the teargas, according to the reports caused the spectators to struggle to scale the railings, which collapsed under their weight. A four-member committee was set up under Mr Saint Gyimah-Kessie, Registrar of the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, to probe the cause of the incident, with a mandate to make recommendations to avoid a reoccurrence.

For Great Olympics, it was their boardroom wranglings that kept them in the news. A grim struggle to gain administrative control of the club led to the emergence of factions. At a certain stage, the club had four management committees within four weeks.

The management crisis hit a climax on Feb. 4, 1990 when Olympics tried to present two teams for a league match against Obuasi Goldfields at Nkawkaw. The club became so divided that the GFA eventually had to step in and set up a seven-man caretaker committee to manage it for the rest of the season.

Olympics never found it smooth sailing and they had to win their very last match against Fosu Soccer Missionaries to avoid relegation.

As for Venomous Vipers, they showed little venom after being given ministerial pardon to play first division soccer. They remained at the bottom of the table from start to finish.

One interesting episode in the season was the dramatic replacement of Mr Sam Okyere as the GFA boss with Mr Edward Awuah-Nyamekye, a private management consultant on the last day of the year 1989.

The other remarkable feature was the institution of stern disciplinary measures by the GFA with their attendant heavy fines. Clubs were sanctioned for offences such as reporting late for matches, failure to ensure adequate security, rowdy behaviour of supporters and ungentlemanly conduct of players. By the end of the first round all participating clubs, except VORADEP and Missionaries, had been found guilty of one offence or the other and fined a total of nearly one million cedis.

In the first round Voradep at Ho and Missionaries at Fosu came in for honourable mention for decent crowd behaviour. But they faltered towards the end of the competition and were banned indefinitely from playing at home.

Another epoch making ruling by the GFA was the eight-match ban on Asante Kotokos top striker, Sarfo Gyamfi, for breaking protocol. Sarfo was alleged to have failed to shake hands with the Head of State during inspection of teams in the HeartsKotoko league match at Accra Stadium which coincided with the anniversary celebrations of the 31st December revolution.

Despite all these black spots, the numerous suspensions which the league suffered, plus the unprecedented, last minute reshuffle of fixtures, the competition saw quite an exciting finale, especially for relegation threatened clubs.

As at the last fixtures on July 1, 1990 there were as many as seven clubs whose fate hung in the balance, apart from Hasaacas and Vipers who were firmly rooted at the bottom. Olympics 40, Missionaries 40, Kumapim 40, Bofoakwa 40, Dwarfs 39, and Goldfields 38 occupied the 8th to the 14th positions in that order and each of them was a potential relegation candidate. Interestingly the last fixtures saw these clubs playing among themselves.

The pairings were Olympics v Missionaries; Kumapim v Wise; Bofoakwa v Dwarfs; and Goldfields v Hassacas. Olympics, Bofoakwa and Goldfields collected three points apiece Kumapim won on penalties against Wise who collected a valuable one point. With the defeat of Dwarfs at Sunyani, the Oguaa boys were doomed to second division once again to join Hasaacas and Vipers.

Perhaps the most exciting player in the league was Hearts midfielder Shamo Quaye who showed consistent form throughout and became runner up in the goal king race, which was won by Mohammed Tijani of Cornerstone with 15 goals. Shame Quaye had 13.

The national middle league for promotion to the first division was staged in Accra from July 14-August 3 1990. It was a hectic race involving the ten regional champions. So keen was the competition that three qualifiers, Upper West Heroes, Dawu Youngsters, (Eastern), and Afienya United (Greater Accra) tied with 20 points a piece separated only by goal difference.

The other contestants were (in order of merit) Advanced Stars, (Central), Agbozume Weavers (Volta) Neoplan Stars (Ashanti) Complex Stars (Western), Holy Stars (BA), Mighty Rocks (Upper East) and Savannah Stars (Northern).

SOURCE: Kotoko Express