The last time I checked, GHALCA, acronym for the Ghana League Clubs Association, is still the umbrella body of all football league clubs in the country. It is still the clubs' mouthpiece and the body that has nurtured a number of GFA chairmen/ presidents. It is therefore baffling to note that certain top clubs that should know better are, by their lukewarm attitude, indirectly sabotaging the association's efforts to organise their annual fund raising tournament dubbed ‘The Top 4’.
For nearly two decades this flagship tournament of GHALCA has been put firmly on the football calendar producing a lot of thrills and financial benefits to the clubs. How come instead of showing progress we now see naked retrogression with traditional crowd pullers Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak surprisingly pulling down the strings of progress.
Let's face facts. All hands are not equal. Kotoko are undoubtedly the nation 's biggest crowd pullers followed closely by Hearts of Oak.
The two clubs are the only side never to taste demotion since the national league started in 1958.
They are the only two Ghanaian clubs with CAF championship titles not to mention their complete
domination of both the national league and FA Cup series.
So massive is their support that many clubs have to rely on gate proceeds from matches against them in order to meet expenditures. When these two giants meet in the league it is labelled "Super Clash".
Take it or leave it Kotoko and Hearts are in a class of their own. It’s when they meet that you get the real league fever akin to the English premiership we watch on TV here.
It is not my intention to show any disrespect to the other Premier league clubs but I regard most of them as pretenders. There is very little excitement about them and they make the large numbers in the top division unnecessarily wieldy. Every club wants premiership membership even though they lack the intrinsic ingredients to attract patronage. How I wish the number could be slashed to 12 as Col Nkegbe did in 1972. He was then in charge of Education and sports in the early days of Kutu Acheampong’s regime. And with military precision he slashed the wieldy 20 club competition to 12. I recall we had an exciting 12 club fiesta that was remarkably won by Asante Kotoko followed closely by Bofoakwa Tano and Hearts of Oak in that order.
The eight forcibly demoted clubs were Accra Panbros, Koforidua Mighty Rovers, Swedru All Blacks, Bawku Highlanders, Tamale Gbewaa, Savanna Stars, Ho Sunset and Ho Mighty Eagles.
The whereabouts of these clubs cannot be traced most probably due to the poor foundation from birth.
This is in sharp contrast with the solid foundation Hearts and Kotoko had in 1911 and 1935 respectively. Backed by brilliant administrative and financial support by men like H.P. Nyemitei and B. K. Edusei, the two clubs have maintained their glamour over the years.
In short, Fabulous Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Glorious Accra Hearts of Oak can be said to be pacesetters in Ghana football. They are therefore naturally expected to set a good example.
I have gone to this length to profile these two giants of Ghana football so I can express my disappointment in the way they have stabbed their own association, GHALCA, in its effort to make the body exist on solid grounds.
It is totally wrong for Kotoko to underestimate the importance of the annual pre-season GHALCA tournament by boycotting it. Being the fulcrum of the tournament as crowd pullers, pulling out of the tournament was a big sabotage. It robbed the show of its glamour and financial success.
Can you imagine the United States of America pulling out of the United Nations? It will be a financial disaster in the offing I don't want to believe the rumours Kotoko quit because the original format was changed from Top 4 to Top 6 to make room for Hearts’ preparation for Africa.
Since the tournament is a dual purpose to raise funds and also prepare teams for Africa, it stands to reason that the number should be increased to cater for the FA Cup holders who missed the Top 4 on the league table.
The saddest aspect is Hearts decision to field a junior side for an exercise that was changed to accommodate them.
My conclusion is there must be some lack of unity in the GHALCA, which must be tackled double quick.
Since the days of Zac Bentum, Ampofo Manu, Budu Acquah, Nana Butler, Alhaji Jawula, Dr Nyaho Tamakloe, J.Y. Appiah and Kwesi Nyantakyi, the GHALCA has been a solid association and the trend must continue.
The latter day apostles of Ghana football must close their ranks and sincerely aim at bringing back the love for the game.
If Kotoko had already arranged their own pre-season programme, they should have sat together with GHALCA Exco to adjust the schedules to suit all sides. This is unity of purpose.
As for Hearts, the decision to field a junior side in a tournament rearranged to include them, is simply baffling to say the least.
My verdict in the whole saga is that both Hearts and Kotoko took unacceptable decisions and need to be more circumspect in future dealings with their own association.
The poor show by Hearts in the downgraded GHALCA tournament and the spectacular flop by Kotoko in their North African tour, may be the laws of karma at work.
In the case of Kotoko, the star gazers believe many things coincidentally go wrong for the fabulous boys in the month of August that marks their birth in 1935.
It was on August 31, 1969, their 34th birthday, that Kotoko received their heaviest defeat in the history of the national league losing 5-0 to Mysterious Ebusua Dwarfs at Cape Coast.
The second such shameful defeat was 4-0 to EL Ahly in CAF champions league match in Cairo on August 26, 2006, and this August 2022 marking their 87th anniversary, Kotoko lost hopelessly on a tour of Sudan.
The popular refrain these days is that, “Times are hard”, but I strongly believe football and for that matter sports in general, is the tonic that will give us some breather.
On that note cheers everybody and keep loving sports.
By Ken Bediako.