Quality of play, pitches and coaches
The quality of play this season can’t be compared to last season. It has been better this season than last season just that last season started on a more flamboyant manner, pulling the fans along to every center.
From the observation made in the first round, many of the pitches this season are better than last season’s. The state of the Nana Fosu Gyeabour Park in Bechem has seen tremendous improvement.
Dwarfs are not using the Robert Mensah Stadium anymore with the new Cape Coast Stadium providing even grounds for all clubs. Elmina Sharks joined the league with another better pitch as compared to the Nana Gyamfi Park in Bekwai that was hosting New Edubiase. The Wa Park has also seen some improvement with emphasis on the pitch.
This has ensured that WAFA, a side that plays possessive football have thrived well at most of these centers. They won 4-0 at Wa, 1-0 at Bechem and 2-1 at Elmina. This is one reason why WAFA picked all three points at these centers. More improvement is however required.
The level of coaching in the league this season has also improved. We have more teacher-coaches now than instructive-coaches. Klaus Rasmussen has established a teacher-student relationship with his players and so has, Yusif Abubakar of Aduana Stars, Frank Nuttal of Hearts, Steven Pollack then of Chelsea as well as Ricardo Da Rocha of Dwarfs. Interestingly, most of these coaches are expatriates.
I think the technical department of the FA must have a conscious plan of integrating the know-how of the expatriate coaches into our local game. Coaches must be made to submit reports at the end of each season, a workshop involving all coaches must be organized where all the coaches will meet and share the programs and ideologies used to improve the technical and tactical aspect of the game.
Officiating and TV coverage
Officiating has not been the best as has been the case every season. Many referees have been suspended due to wrong decisions during matches. The Referees Review Committee must therefore be commended for the swift way they respond to complaints from clubs. A special report on officiating will be written at the end of the season.
However, from hindsight and through observational survey, the level of officiating this round has been better than last season. The ‘big’ clubs have complained bitterly of officiating than the ‘smaller’ clubs.
Referee Samuel Suker’s controversial penalty call against Asante Kotoko can be recalled. Similarly, Referee Nuhu Liman and Yaw Ametepe have been suspended for 10 matches each for bad penalty decisions against Hearts of Oak. The optimum level of officiating has ensured that WAFA, Bechem United, Elmina Sharks, Berekum Chelsea and Medeama have all picked vital away points.
Television coverage has also improved the level of officiating. With matches shown live on TV, most referees display high sense of professionalism, reducing the home-takes-all perception that has bedeviled us for a while.
The new entrants
Three teams were promoted from the GN Bank Division One League to join the Premier League – Bolga All Stars from Zone One, Elmina Sharks from Zone Two and Great Olympics from Zone Three.
The impact of these teams but for Elmina Sharks has not been hugely felt. Great Olympics struggled with managerial and technical crisis from the start of the week until Tom Strand took over in week eleven. The Wonder Club is now third from bottom in a strong battle against relegation. Olympics have only 3 wins from 15 games.
Bolga All Stars will need a miracle to survive the drop after picking only 2 wins out of 15 matches and have suffered the highest number of defeats than any other club apart from AshGold.
Ekmina Sharks have however been impressive, placing 11th with 4 wins and 6 draws out of 15 matches and have demonstrated a strong conviction of sustaining their stay in the league following their first time promotion.
Spectatoring has not been encouraging for the first round of this season. Compared to last season, this season has seen a huge decline in spectatoring due to the absence of Kenichi Yatsuhashi, Techiman City and Dreams FC.
Before the start of last season, many were itching to see how a Japanese trainer will fare in the Ghana Premier League for the first time. This accounted for following of the league when Hearts of Oka picked their opening wins over New Edubiase in Accra and Medeama SC in Tarkwa.
The supporters began to follow the Phobians to every center and that accounted for the huge interest and spectatorship especially when Hearts of Oak are playing any opponent. In a survey conducted by GHANAsoccernet at the end of the first round last season, Hearts of Oak matches attracted the highest number of spectators, followed by Dwarfs and Techiman City in that order.
The people of Techiman guaranteed a packed stadium anytime Techiman City plays at home. The reason was simple – the hunger for Premier League football was being satisfied. So the fans were massively supporting the newly promoted side. But their absence this season has reduced the following drastically.
Another club that pulled the numbers was Dreams FC. Their sophisticated style of selling their matches ensured any club that plays them record massive numbers at the gates. People filled the stands when Dreams played sides like AshGold, Chelsea, Aduana Stars and New Edubiase not to talk of the clashes with Hearts and Kotoko.
Truth is that, the absence of these sides in the league this season has contributed to the low patronage so far, coupled with the downward trend of Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
Kotoko are not performing and Hearts did not start the season well hence their fans, who are about 80% of the entire spectators following the Ghana Premier League.
The trend however shows promise of improving with Hearts of Oak’s performance in their last seven matches before the round ended. Frank Nuttal is likely to return the massive following when the season resumes.
By: Sheikh Tophic Sienu @desheikh1 on twitter