With the Porcupine Warriors returning to their favorite home ground for the first time in almost two years, AshesGyamera.com’s editor-in-chief, Evans Gyamera-Antwi highlights how a vast majority of the players will play in front of the supporters
Asante Kotoko will host Bechem United in the second game of the season at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium on Sunday and this news of their arrival to the favorite ground has completely flipped the mood at from sombre to hopeful.
Apart from the three points at stake, there are other things that will make this game quite interesting. The club last played at this venue in March 2020 before it was closed down for renovations. Later, COVID-19 pandemic struck the world which halted the progress of the works.
However, it was officially opened in October by Youth and Sports minister Ussif Mustapha. Sooner rather than later, King Faisal, Kotoko’s local rivals, had the first bite of the refurbished stadium as they defeated WAFA 1-0 there last weekend.
On Thursday afternoon, Kotoko had the opportunity for the first time to have a feel of their one-time fortress as they fine tune for their much-anticipated homecoming. Head coach Prosper Narteh Ogum and his assistant coaches John Eduafo and Ocloo who will also be facing the home fans for the first time like many other players.
Ogum inspected the facility before quickly running out onto the training pitch for a 3pm training session with his new team that was focused primarily on tactics but also featured a lot of work with the ball.
In between drills, Ogum also briefly introduced the players to the stadium and promptly alerted them of what they should expect on Sunday before wrapping up the session with a practice match. The former WAFA boss is aware of the potential pitfalls of having a large squad, just as reiterated by chief executive officer Nana Yaw Amponsah few days ago, but he could use it to his advantage.
Goalkeeper Razak Abalora, who joined Kotoko last season from Azam FC in Tanzania and quickly became the first choice, is among the tall list of players who were part of the squad but never played at Baba Yara Stadium and in front of the home fans.
Kotoko had to adopt Accra Sports Stadium and later Len Clay Sports Stadium in Obuasi for their home games.
Also, defenders Yussif Mubarik and Andrew Appau who joined the club from Ashanti Gold and Bofoakwa Tano respectively last season, as well as Patrick Asmah who arrived as a free agent, will have a feel of what the stadium is made up of on Sunday.
Moreover, despite the incredible displays by Brazilian midfielder Fabio Gama during the last campaign, none of his jawbreaking performances took place in Kumasi. Gama needs to play ‘Kama’ to further win the hearts of supporters who will for the first time watch him closely from the comfort of their seats.
Emmanuel Keyekeh, Solomon Sarfo Taylor, Andy Kumi and Evans Adomako complete the list of old players who will be hoping to make their debut appearance at the Baba Yara Stadium after joining the club last season.
Aside the aforementioned players, there are sixteen others who recently arrived following a massive shake up by the club’s top hierarchy. They include goalkeeper Yakubu Abdul Rafiu who arrived from WA Suntaa as well as youngster Isaac ‘Neymar’ Oppong who joined from lower division side Bectaro Sasana in Sunyani.
The rest are Augustine Agyapong, Charles Owusu, Samuel Appiah, Maxwell Agyemang, Richard Boadu ‘Agadas’, Joseph Amoako and Clinton Opoku.
Again, Richmond Lamptey who signed a three-year deal with Kotoko from Inter Allies will likely play his first game in Kumasi this weekend.
Dickson Afoakwa, Sherrif Mohammed, Mfeuge George Rodrigues, Etuoga Mbella Frank Thierry, Samuel Boateng and Stephen Amankonah are the rest of new players who may be handed the chance to taste Baba Yara.
Will the new players feel comfortable against Bechem who are also coming to Baba Yara Stadium with familiar faces like Augustine Okrah, Emmanuel Asante and Latif Anabila?