Leaving Kotoko behind, Nana Yaw Amponsah is reaching for the stars

Published on: 20 May 2024

When, less than 12 months ago, Nana Yaw Amponsah vacated his role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghanaian club Asante Kotoko, many wondered what the young, bright, ambitious fellow would try his hands at next.

The thing about being associated with Kotoko — by some metrics Ghana's premier club — is that, once you're out of there, you don't get too many options on the local scene that could genuinely be considered an upgrade, or even an equivalent.

For Amponsah, the only destination that would have represented a natural progression was the Ghana Football Association (GFA), whose presidency he had made a failed bid for four years prior, before Kotoko came calling.

He had done reasonably well for the Porcupine Warriors, leaving the Kumasi-based club more attractive, professional, and self-reliant than he had found it. As is almost always the case with Kotoko, however, even those who arrive with the best intentions — especially those who arrive with the best intentions, in fact — make enemies, deliberately or otherwise, among those upset with the upsetting of a status quo that they may have been exploiting to their advantage.

So it happened with Amponsah, who eventually became a victim of a smear campaign by some, especially elements of the city's media. It's likely what ensured his mandate did not get renewed by Manhyia — seat of Ashanti royal power, where Kotoko's strings are pulled — after the initial three-year duration. And it is also what may have informed Amponsah's decision not to make another go for the GFA post, despite having the opportunity to do so almost as soon as parting ways with Kotoko.

Instead, he chose to break new ground for a Ghanaian — if not African — football administrator, by taking his expertise overseas, becoming the president of Moldovan side Petrocub Hincesti at the start of this year.

Surprising as that trajectory was, it wasn't entirely out of the blue.

Even while at Kotoko, Amponsah had had a feel — albeit indirectly — of the small Eastern European country's footballing scene, negotiating moves  for two of the club's top players, Razak Abalora and Salifu Mudasiru, to FC Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova's pre-eminent football club (memorable for a UEFA Champions League campaign a couple of years ago that was headlined by a famous victory at the Santiago Bernabeu).

It was, however, to Petrocub, the biggest threat to Sheriff's domestic dominance in recent years, that Amponsah eventually exported his own services.

Founded just three decades ago, Petrocub has undergone quite a few evolutions over the years — the latest in 2015, when they rejoined the Moldovan top-flight — to steadily grow into the league's runners-up in the last three seasons.

Amponsah's arrival was swiftly followed by Petrocub signing Ghana internationals Abalora (on loan from Sheriff) and David Abagna (joined by Basit Seidu, their countryman, from Al Hilal Omdurman of Sudan). The duo would contribute significantly to transforming not just Petrocub's fortunes in this campaign, but the club's entire history.

Sheriff had, expectedly, won the regular season, six points clear of Petrocub, as 2023 ended. But the latter, during the championship phase that kicked off in March, flipped the script, winning by a six-point margin, with seven victories and no defeats from ten games.

The perennial bridesmaids had finally shed their dull gown for a more shimmering one, picking up their maiden league title — a first major piece of silverware since the Moldovan Cup triumph of 2020 — over the weekend.

Their success ends the straight run of eight title wins by 21-time champions Sheriff. And they could dethrone Sheriff in the cup as well, should Andrei Martin's team see off Zimbru Chisinau in next Saturday's final, to secure a brilliant double. Amponsah, Petrocub's supporters would tell you, has truly brought the Midas touch.

That is just the sort of touch fans of Kotoko would wish their team had right now, as they stumble to the end of a thoroughly disappointing season. With four games to go, the maximum number of points Kotoko can now finish the term with is 52 — the same total in the 2022/23 season, Amponsah's last with the club.

And while that was enough to secure a top-four spot back then, it is unlikely that same tally — which Kotoko would have to reach by overcoming their archrivals and the three teams fighting for survival at the bottom of the table, by the way — would get them much higher than mid-table. Under Amponsah — who also delivered the club's first league title in eight years — they never finished lower than fourth.

Amponsah, clearly, has come out stronger from the divorce with Kotoko, but one imagines he has better things to do than cast mocking glances at his struggling ex — definitely not when he has a Champions League campaign to oversee.

It may only start in the qualifying rounds, but with Sheriff's not-so-distant adventure as an inspiration, Petrocub's path could lead to some very lofty places; places unimaginably far beyond the reach of a Kotoko team that Amponsah has, well and truly, left behind.

Source: SK Frimpong

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