The new Ghana Premier League season kicks off on Friday, October 29, and quite a few of the 18 competing sides would have ambitions of — and, more importantly, the wherewithal for — winning the title.
Ink & Kicks‘ writers assess the chances of the four most eligible candidates.
ACCRA HEARTS OF OAK
Defending champions are almost always tipped to go all the way once more, and Hearts are no different. It goes beyond Samuel Boadu’s team’s status as holders, really; they’re still very much the team to beat.
With midfielder Benjamin Afutu being the only player to have left the fold after Hearts clinched that first title in a dozen years, consistency on the pitch shouldn’t be too hard to achieve, even with all the new faces brought in.
Further inuring to Hearts’ benefit is the number of games they’d get to play on the Accra Sports Stadium turf they’re so familiar with, with the arena also hosting three other teams (new boys Accra Lions, rivals Great Olympics, and nouveau-riche Legon Cities). In a league where home advantage carries a lot of value, and at a venue where Hearts have only dropped two of 27 points since Boadu’s appointment, the Phobians will feel confident.
Every move Kotoko have made since missing out on league glory to Hearts last season seems targeted at wresting that title — which they’ve won more than any other side, by the way — away from their bitter rivals in the upcoming campaign.
The Porcupine Warriors have been swift in trying to address the shortcomings of 2020/21, and the appointment of Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum as head coach suggests that the first step in doing so is to create a new playing identity.
Kotoko have spared no expense in trying to start off this new era on a strong note, bringing in a raft of recruits and sending the entire squad on an enviable pre-season trip to Dubai for the calm and serenity required to build and to bond.
What Ogum now has is a good mix of players old and new, proven and prodigious. All that’s left to be seen is how he blends the lot to produce the winning formula he has been hired to find. At a club where winning is an impulse, the pressure to deliver could bring out the best out of Ogum and his charges. Playing again before their teeming faithful in Kumasi, after almost two years of relocation and wandering, should help, too.
Last season’s title defence didn’t exactly go according to plan for Aduana, with managerial instability, loss of key players (to injuries and to departures) and other factors robbing the 2017 champions of the consistency required to sustain that defence and bring it to a successful conclusion.
Even so, Asare Bediako’s side managed to finish a respectable fourth, only six points behind the Hearts team which eventually claimed their crown.
They’ve now reinforced the playing body with experience — Emmanuel Gyamfi, formerly of Kotoko, the most notable example of that — and exciting youth like Welbeck Takyi, a revelation from last season’s Division One League who even spent some time with the Black Stars earlier in the year.
Belief is high among the Dormaa townsfolk and the wider Aduana fanbase that their club has now got its act together, ready to challenge for a third Premier League title.
This has been a period of transition at Medeama in many respects, but it’s the arrival of new head coach Ignatius Osei-Fosu that many would hope really sparks the revival of fortunes the Mauve & Yellow seek after the underwhelming end to last season.
The 35-year-old spent that campaign at the helm of fellow Premier League side Techiman Eleven Wonders, helping them survive a first full season in the top-flight while playing some exciting football.
Osei-Fosu’s brief in Tarkwa, though, would be quite different. There, expectations are higher — Medeama have won the FA Cup twice in the last decade, impressed in continental inter-club competition, and have looked like potential Premier League champions in recent seasons — but, to facilitate his work, the material at his disposal is also better.
The defence should hold up well, despite the departure of some fixtures, with the attack boosted by the additions of Division One League sharp-shooters Patrick Kofi Ansu and Patrick Akese Akese, while the continued brilliance of Rashid Nortey and return of Justice Blay in midfield would lessen the impact of losing Richard Boadu to Kotoko.
Medeama certainly have the squad for it; now, they need to show the mettle to reach that next level they’ve had within their sights for some time.