As part of his goodwill message to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II on his 70th birthday last week, former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufour humbly made a request to the overlord of the Ashanti Kingdom.
Interestingly, the request, as many will expect of a former president to a well-respected chief like the Otumfuo, deviated from governance or nation-building but to that of affairs of arguably Ghana’s biggest football club, Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
President Kufour, in his subtle plea, said: “The struggle for leadership at Kotoko is real due to how lucrative the club looks, so I will plead with Otumfou to appoint people who understand the game and will lead the club with the truth. The leaders should also be protected because other people will attempt to bring them down through gossips”.
This succinct request summarizes what has become of Ghana’s glamourous club over the years: shambolic performances on the field due to ineffective and clueless management teams.
Despite the suspension of football in Ghana and across the world due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Kumasi Asante Kotoko has been in the news over the past few weeks due to some of the bad decisions by its management in the last couple of years.
On April 22, the Asantehene (owner of the club) set up a 3-member committee to investigate the club’s transaction with the Tunisian side, Esperance, which has resulted in a fine by FIFA.
The fine is as a result of the illegal signing of Esperance striker, Emmanuel Clottey, in 2015. The club has until May 17, 2020, to settle the debtor will be banned from registering new players.
Management of the club over the years
Kotoko regained some management stability when Herbert Mensah was appointed by Otumfuo in 1999. He immediately set a five-year plan, which included sponsorships, the introduction of professional training facilities, and a transparent financial approach to the books.
Herbert’s vision and charisma saw a transformation of Kotoko both at home and on the continent. This led to the eventual lifting of the Ghana Premier League in 2003 after a near-decade dominance by their arch-rivals Accra Hearts of Oak.
Sylvester Asare Owusu, who took over from Herbert also enjoyed some success by leading the club to the 2004 Confederations Cup Final.
It, has, however, been downhill from there. Though Kotoko has won the Ghana Premier League on a couple of occasions since 2003, its performances on the pitch isn’t nothing to write home about in Africa for such a big club.
And the last 4 years under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Kyei encapsulates all the rot that has been happening over the years.
Appointed in 2016, Dr. Kyei brought some financial stability to the club and this resulted in its 2018 Confederations Cup campaign and the ill-fated 2019 CAF Champions League campaign.
Despite Kotoko returning to the top stage of African football after a long hiatus, shambolic player and coaches recruitment blighted the club.
For instance, current Black Stars coach C.K Akunnor was carelessly sacked 9 months into his 3-year contract though guiding the team to the money zone of the Confederations Cup.
His replacement, Kjetil Zachariassen who failed at rival Premier League club AshantiGold couldn’t guide Kotoko to the group stages of the CAF Champions League after taking a 2-0 aggregate lead against Etoile Sportive Du Sahel in Kumasi.
Ridiculously, Dr. Kyei’s tenure also saw the incessant signing of players despite their quality and experience.
He signed over 60 players in just 4 years with much of the transfer strategy is a scattergun approach transfer without much planning and long term thinking going into player purchases.
The blop of this ill-fated administration is the alleged complicity of Dr. Kyei in the fine by FIFA on the transfer of Emmanuel Clottey.
According to ex-Kotoko management member, Edmund Ackah, Dr. Kyei refused to pay just a balance of $30,000 to Esperance because he didn’t incur the cost.
Ackah asserts that Kwame Kyei ignored a proposed plan by some management members on how to settle the debt owed Esperance last year.
He narrates that arrangement was made with Esperance for them to use the money from the Kwame Bonsu deal to settle part of the arrears after which Kotoko will add the rest.
He claims the proposal was near completion until Kwame Kyei pulled the plug with the reason that it is not his administration that incurred the debt.
“If Dr. Kwame Kyei had listened to management members on the Clottey issues, Kotoko wouldn’t be paying this huge amount,” He told Kumasi-based Oyerepa FM.
Progress of Kotoko’s peers in Africa
At the time Kumasi Asante Kotoko won its second CAF Champions Trophy in 1983, Congolese giants TP Mazembe had also won two. Egyptian glamourous club Al Ahly also had two titles.
With Kotoko stalling and not tasting continental glory since 1983, Al Ahly has added 6 more CAF Champions trophy to their collection to make them the most successful with 8 titles.
TP Mazembe has added 3 more Champions League titles and 2 Confederations Cup in that span.
Under the proper planning and vision of Moise Katumbi, Mazembe has risen to become a force to reckon with on the African continent.
The team has won the CAF Champions League title five times, including 2009, 2010, and 2015, and became the first African team to play in the FIFA Club World Cup finals in 2010.
Katumbi has invested heavily in the team and been credited by the media and public as one of the reasons for the club’s success.
Under his tenure, the team has recruited players from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, and Zambia, and retained local players by paying the highest wages for players in Africa.
He also invested $35 million in building the team a stadium which was completed in 2011.
The successes of Al Ahly and Mazembe are largely attributed to the vision and competence of its managers, a phenomenon that has lacked at Kotoko for a very long time.
Despite Dr. Kwame Keyi’s tentative stay as the Chief Executive Officer of the club till the committee charged to probe his administration is done, it is common knowledge that he will not stay as post the committee’s work.
It, will, therefore, bring the club to another familiar territory — another search for CEO and a management team. An activity that has happened so many times in the last 20 years.
However, anyhow the search process goes, we hope that the owners get it right this time. The core duty should be to look someone with experience in football management and not a philanthropist as it has been with the past appointments.
It is indeed high time Kotoko reclaims its glory days both in the local league and on the African continent.