Hearts, Kotoko prove they are still the biggest football show in town

Published on: 01 May 2018
Hearts, Kotoko prove they are still the biggest football show in town
Hearts of Oak beat Asante Kotoko in Kumasi

It has become a pet subject among Ghanaian football fans and pundits. Hearts and Kotoko are becoming irrelevant they say and no longer the most dominant football brands in town.

For some time now, the two most successful clubs in Ghana football have effectively lived in the shadows of emerging and more ambitious clubs.

But twice every season, they take center stage again and remind us all that they are still the best football show in town. Full stadiums, the whole matchday dedicated to them, decent football and these days a big social media talking point.

Last Sunday was one of those days and not even a clash with Manchester United versus Arsenal could change that. On any other day, in any other fixture, that would have meant an empty stadium.

It was another reminder that for the Ghana Premier League to thrive and become relevant amongst a largely young fan base engrossed in social media, Hearts and Kotoko must do well.

The two clubs used to be the first club young Ghanaian football fans knew. They formed the basis of conversations at home, a hot topic for loud arguments in schools and divided families, like most football rivalries.

Yet as football took hold on television in Ghana, that influence waned. With a remote control, young fans have not needed Hearts, Kotoko for their football introductions.

They have instead developed their love and affection for the sport behind the box, admiring clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea while Hearts and Kotoko fade off.

Part of that process has been made easy by the big two in Ghana themselves. As television and social media wowed young Ghanaian football fans, they stagnated. They have become increasingly active on Twitter these days but many young fans can't name two or three Hearts or Kotoko players.

Often too, the players just don't stick around long enough to even be noticed. Kotoko's best players have left season after season for any league that pays more and that has included many destinations on the African continent.

Last season, Thomas Abbey was the star man for Hearts of Oak with his outstanding displays and goals from midfield. Now he plays his club football in Egypt.

Last Sunday, Patrick Razak looked like the full package, scoring the winning goal against Kotoko to top an outstanding afternoon but he nearly would not have been there. Hearts just managed to hold onto him after advances from Horoya in Guinea.

His current deal expires in November and he has not signed a new one.

All that was forgotten on Sunday as the poster fixture of Ghanaian club football took center stage again. Hearts have effectively kick started their season with that win. And they badly needed it after a run of three games without a win that included two losses.

For Kotoko, this could be a turning point for different reasons. Paa Kwesi Fabian was reminding everyone at the club that even Pep Guardiola can't turn their fortunes around in two months. The loss against Hearts will increase the pressure on him more than he has ever been under.

Beyond the one-day attention, both clubs will be engrossed in how they can that long term. A first point will be success on the field. Kotoko last won a league title three years ago. The last two Ghana league title were won by Wa All Stars and Aduana Stars, Hearts have not been champions for nine years.

They have not lost their lustre as Sunday proved but the shine waned long ago.

By Michael Oti Adjei, KweséESPN

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