BEFORE IT POPS: Enjoy Olympics’ Blue Bubble While It Lasts
For years, Accra Great Olympics — one of Ghana’s more popular and illustrious football clubs — have collected little more than a plethora of nicknames.
Let the records show, however, that only two Ghanaian clubs — the dominant duo of Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak — have amassed more major domestic silverware than Olympics’ total of five (two league titles and three FA Cup trophies).
The Wonder Club also claims other accomplishments, among them the distinction of being the first Ghanaian club to hire a foreign coach, and a standing record of a 38-game unbeaten run. All that is probably true, but few people living today would ever remember — let alone confirm — them.
The Olympics of which my generation — three decades old, give or take — has the most vivid memories is far removed from those heights, with a rapid descent into depths of mediocrity triggered by a first-ever relegation from the top-flight in 2004.
That year marked Olympics’ golden jubilee and, while it wasn’t quite golden in how it turned out, the team was soon back in the big time. Their new, latter-day image as a yo-yo club, though, was already shaping up: they’ve been down, and up again, a few more times since then.
The latest ‘up’ came last year, when Olympics were promoted to the Ghana Premier League at the 2019 Extraordinary Congress of the Ghana Football Association, having challenged their last ‘down’ since 2017.
The season that followed saw Olympics pick up 20 points, just under half of the total they’d competed for, and dangling not too far above the bottom. A woefully poor attempt at reclaiming ‘ownership’ of the Ghanaian capital from/against cross-city rivals Hearts in Week 14 raised serious doubts about whether the Dade could still cut it at the top; about whether they wouldn’t be sinking again by the time the league had gone full-term.
Thankfully, that never happened, as the coronavirus pandemic swept to the rescue of Olympics and other underperforming clubs (I see you, King Faisal!) and prematurely ended the season. With their slate wiped clean, Olympics had a chance to rebuild and — thus far into the 2020/21 campaign — they’ve made a thumping start of it, snugly nestled in second place and just three points off the top.
A fairly young team armed with will and skill — led by decorated veteran Gladson Awako, arguably the league’s best player right now — has shown plenty of promise and potential, making some resounding statements of intent at the command of head coach Annor Walker.
Their biggest win, 3-0 in November, came against Legon Cities, one of the league’s well-resourced clubs. For sheer impact, though, Olympics’ victory earlier this month, over record champions Kotoko, would take some beating.
That result was hailed as a giant-killing feat, and though that would have been true at any point in the timeline of Ghana football, the gulf in pedigree between these two traditional clubs hasn’t always been so wide.
For those old enough to remember those days — anyone? — the pair contested, famously, the semi-final of the 1971 African Champions’ Cup (a precursor to the Caf Champions League), with Kotoko narrowly edging it before going on to lose the final to Cameroon’s Canon Yaounde; a certain Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, of Olympics, finished as that edition’s top-scorer.
Their latest meeting with Kotoko — the performance, especially — felt like a throwback to those days, inspiring belief that some of Olympics’ fabled, forgotten greatness might be recouped from the bowels of history.
Well, the season is only six weeks old and, 28 more games from now, we could have an answer to that. But rather than scan the table each matchday for updates on how high or low — how fast or slow — they are sliding along the league table, you’d be better off enjoying Olympics’ latest purple patch while it lasts. It helps that they are fun to watch — and certainly fun to follow.
It does help, because with Olympics, you never know when that big, blue bubble would burst.