BEACON OF HOPE: Karela’s Season Hinges on Umar Bashiru
A team’s game management, they say, is only ever as good as the man they have in the middle of the park conducting affairs.
For Ghana Premier League (GPL) side Karela United, they have Umar Bashiru doing that job pretty well, allowing the team to control proceedings like they did in most of their friendly games during pre-season. Bashiru has kept at it even after the campaign began, and his matchday performances certainly corroborate all the fuss about the former WAFA and Asante Kotoko man.
Bashiru’s inclusion in Karela’s setup has been an added advantage to the team because of the quality he possesses. The 24-year-old is a one-of-a-kind midfielder, intelligent in how he reads the game, and impressively versatile in how well he contributes to attack and defence.
His lanky frame may not seem the best for the sort of work he does on the pitch, but it belies incredible strength and size that make Bashiru tough to beat; his ability to hold off opponents and manipulate the ball in tight areas of the pitch is second to none. That build, slight and wiry, also works to enhance his outstanding talent and make him even harder to catch with the ball at his feet.
The movement of Karela’s formidable attack — comprising Kwame Boateng, Richard Berko, and free-scoring Diawisie Taylor — would not flow as smoothly without the engineering work of Bashiru. He possesses good all-round qualities and does his best work when given the license to buzz around the pitch in a box-to-box role.
Tough and tenacious in the tackle, Bashiru – with Paul Pogba-esque elegance — has also demonstrated a much-improved passing ability in recent weeks, and the fact that he is right-footed brings balance to the midfield. His more advanced teammates lay the final straws that break the opposition’s resistance, but usually only after Bashiru has laid a million other straws underneath: tackles, passes, drops of the shoulder and headed clearances that give his team a better chance of winning.
He sees football the way Ronnie O’Sullivan surveys a snooker table, thinks five steps ahead, and spots the angles and the runs and the tiny details that no one else does. Bashiru is a tireless worker, too, routinely racking up more kilometers on the pitch than anyone else — all while seemingly not breaking a sweat. Despite often starting in a deeper role, he can still flourish creatively with a sharp passing range over long distances.
One goal, two MVPs and three assists from the base of midfield isn’t a bad return by any means — especially when he’s still expected to fulfil defensive duties alongside Sadiq Alhassan — and one can’t help but think that, with Bashiru in such form, Karela could find themselves at the top of the table (where they currently are, in fact), or thereabouts, when their first full season in the Ghanaian top-flight ends.
He is, more than any other player, Karela’s beacon of hope.