Today In Sports History: Asante Kotoko crowned GHALCA Top four champions

On this day 23 March 2003 (Exactly 17 years ago today) KUMASI Asante Kotoko were crowned champions of the LG GHALCA Top Four tournament after holding Accra Hearts of Oak to a scoreless draw in their return fixture at the Accra stadium.

The match was for academic purposes as Kotoko ended the month-long contest four clear points ahead of Hearts.

Ahead of the game, Hearts had vowed to avenge the 0-2 loss they suffered in Kumasi, but they looked goal-shy as their strikers blew away some glorious chances that could have changed the complexion of the game. The biggest culprit was Emmanuel Osei Kuffour who missed an open chance in the Kotoko penalty box in the 69th minute.

With very little at stake, the match did not witness the anticipated sell-out crowd. However, it had all other ingredients of a typical Hearts-Kotoko affair. Prior to the match the atmosphere had been filled with rumours of Kotoko kidnapping Hearts’ star Charles Taylor, and this further deepened the tension in the match.

There were pockets of trouble in sections of the stands as rival fans pelted each other with missiles and on the field, the game sometimes looked more of a martial arts contest than the ‘beautiful game’ being expressed by the nation’s top clubs.

The physical nature of the game reached its sour point when Hearts’ midfielder Charles Allotey was given the marching off order for a second bookable offence, when he fouled Kotoko’s Stephen Oduro on the stroke of half time.

Perhaps Allotey had a premonition that he would see red as he played in a pair of red boots.He contributed much to the roughness of the game. His tackles were reckless and was lucky to have stayed for 45 minutes.

If the first half looked more of a rough-house game, the second half was unexciting except for some deft touches by Oduro and Kuffour, and some goalmouth action at both ends of the field that brought life into the contest.

It was only after Allotey’s dismissal that some level of sanity was restored in the game. Unlike the Kumasi encounter, Hearts had the lion’s share of clear-cut chances . Strikers Wisdom Abbey and Bernard Dong-Bortey, spotting a clean-shaved head, were unimpressive and less threatening. Kuffour enjoyed a lot of possession but lost his scoring touch.

In defence, goalkeeper Sammy Adjei and centre-back Emmanuel Osei were in total control of the game and did not allow Kotoko’s strikers Isaac Boakye and Shilla Alhassan room to operate effectively. Osei was rock-solid and put up a man-of the-match performance.

Adjei was very alert in posts to prevent Boakye and team-mates from capitalising on some early chances and as the match wore on, the tide turned in Hearts’ favour. Kuffour missed a 32nd minute chance and three minutes later Emmanuel Osei nearly rifled home a 22-metre free kick.

Hearts still looked dangerous and nearly hit the back of the net in the 37th minute from a three-man move between Dong -Bortey, Kuffour and Lawrence Adjah-Tetteh.

The second half was virtually uneventful until the latter minutes of the game when both sides began pressing hard for a goal.

The best chance fell to Kuffour but with only goalkeeper Louis Quainoo to beat, the striker surprisingly shot wide. Kotoko then turned the heat on their opponents late into the game but their desperate shots could not find the right angle to beat Adjei.

Boakye who scored a spectacular goal against Hearts in the first leg in Kumasi, nearly connected home a Yusif Chibsah pass after the Hearts goalie left his mark late, but the striker’s 88th minute shot narrowly missed target.

However at the end of the day it was the Kotoko players, officials and supporters who sang the championship mantra when captain Joseph Hendricks was handed the glittering LG trophy for a wonderful month-long performance.

Hearts: Sammy Adjei, Dan Quaye, Amankwa Mireku, Dan Oppong Emmanuel Osei, Adjah Tetteh, Charles Allotey , Joe Ansah, Wisdom Abbey, Emmanuel Kuffour, Don Bortey/Turkson

Kotoko: Louis Quainoo, Aziz Ansah, Godfred Yeboah, Dan Acquah, Joe Hendricks, Michael Asante, Stephen Oduro, Yussif Chipsah, Edmond Owusu Ansah/Anars Mohammed, Isaac Boakye, Shilla Alhassan/Frank Osei

Elsewhere;

On this day 23 March 2012 (Exactly 8 years ago today) Ghana’s Black Maidens booked their place at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup at Azerbaijan after walloping their South Africa counterparts 5-1 in the second leg qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium.

A hat-trick from Alberta Ahialey and a brace from captain Priscilla Okyere ensured the twinkle twinkle Ghanaian Ladies advanced 5-1 on aggregate after managing a barren draw in the first leg held a fortnight ago in South Africa.

The feat ensued that the Black Maidens have qualified for every edition of the biennial championship since its inception in 2008.

The Bantwana were no match for their hosts, who dominated the final leg encounter from the onset. Interestingly it was the South Africans who took the lead as early as the fourth minute through Mosili Makhoali, who connected from close range.

The lead lasted for barely 60 seconds before Ahialey restored parity by tapping in from a cross from Sumaila Sherifatu.

From then on the Maidens took absolute control of the game as they pinned the South Africans to their own half with winger Sherifatu leading the raids upfront. Despite the constant supply of balls, Ahialey and Beatrice Sesu fluffed at many of the initial opportunities that came their way.

The South Africans deplored a defensive strategy by leaving only two players upfront, apparently content with the scoreline, which was in their favour.

Two minutes from the end of the first half, Ahialey shot the Maidens into the lead by connecting home a cross from Sherifatu, who outwitted her marker on the counter.

On the stroke of half time, Ahialey sealed her hat-trick after completing a move with support from Linda Addai and Sesu.

The South Africans appeared exhaustive in the second half as the Ghanaian girls played all the ball in their half.

Both teams made some changes to their squad but it was the hosts who benefited the most from the introduction of fresh limbs.

Eight minutes into the half, Okyere scored the fourth goal with a grounder that beat South African goalie Katlego Moletsane.

In added-on time, the skipper completed the rout with a long range effort that caught the South African goalie off guard to send the home fans into wild jubilation.

Ghana Line-up – Victoria Agyei, Priscilla Okyere (captain), Naomi Anima, Ellen Coleman/Fatima Alhassan, Regina Antwi, Amina Fuseini, Linda Addai, Sumaila Sherifatu, Jane Ayieyam, Alberta Ahialey, Beatrice Sesu/Abdul Rahman Rasheda

South Africa Line-up – Katlego Moletsane, Nomvula Kgoale (captain), Meagan Newman, Tshepo Sekgala, Thonako Pulutsoane, Chamele Wiltshire, Amanda November, Katleho Moleke, Kelso Peskin/Thembi Kgatlana, Mosili Makhoali/Amogelang Motau, Shenell Jacobs/Koketso Mamabolo **

What Next ?

The final tournament was held in Azerbaijan from 22 September to 13 October, 2012. Ghana became the first and so far only African team to reach the semi – finals (and third place).

On this day 23 March 2012 (Exactly 8 years ago today) The Ministry of Youth and Sports signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Chinese Government towards the construction of a stadium in Cape Coast, the Central Regional capital.

The 16,000 seating-capacity stadium is being funded by the Chinese Government as their contribution towards the development of sporting infrastructure in the country.

The signing of the MOU was heralded by series of meetings between the two parties after a team of Chinese designers visited the proposed site.

Clement Kofi Humado, then Minister of Youth and Sports said the stadium which would serve educational institutions and football clubs in the Central Region is in fulfillment of Government’s promise to construct a stadium in the former national capital.

He said the signing of the MoU signifies the intent of the two parties to collaborate effectively towards the construction of the stadium.

The Minister expressed Government’s gratitude to their Chinese counterparts for the stadium ‘gift’ to Ghanaians.

Gao Wenzhi, Economic & Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Ghana said the MOU was as a result of 20-days of works by designers and architects at the project site and with collaboration other stakeholders.

He announced that construction will commence in October that year after final study of the project details.

Wenzhi reiterated that the partnership between the two countries dates back to the 1950’s in all sectors of the economy.

The Chinese delegation also presented an artist impression of the stadium to the Minister, who later signed the MOU on behalf of Government.

Former President John Dramani Mahama commissioned the ultra-modern 16,000 capacity Cape Coast stadium in May 2016.
The stadium, which sits 16,000 people, was constructed by Chinese firm Jiang Xi International Corporation and was fully financed by the Chinese government.

President Mahama opened the ground with Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Sun Baohong.

The stadium has a tennis court, a gymnasium, an eight-lane running track, two basketball courts, handball courts, halls for table tennis and accommodation for athletes.

On this day 23 March 2006 ( Exactly 14 years ago today) Former Black Stars stalwart defender, Anthony Baffoe was appointed as Ghana’s International Consultant ahead of the Black Stars’ maiden FIFA World Cup tournament in Germany.

By George ‘Alan Green’ Mahamah