With each new episode, there is even less shame in a Ghana Premier League (GPL) side losing by a five-goal margin away to the West African Football Academy (WAFA), even if the stinging effect cannot be easily brushed off.
Sekondi Hasaacas, Hearts of Oak, Dreams FC and Ashantigold have all suffered that ignominy since 2016, but the latest victims, Liberty Professionals, would find the humiliation particularly damning.
Being scythed so ruthlessly by boys barely out of their teens was embarrassing enough; suffering that ordeal at the hands of WAFA, a team that is a throwback to Liberty’s remarkable past, made it even worse.
WAFA played in a manner Liberty were once famed for, the sort of football refined through science; ah, remember when we called them the ‘Scientific Soccer Lads’ and it actually meant something?
Those days are well behind Liberty now, invisible even in the rearview mirror.
Long before Liberty became a force to reckon with in the GPL during the noughties, the seeds of their success were sown in a football academy that would grow to inspire not just the club’s progress, but also Ghana’s international fortunes.
There were quite a few players from the Liberty production line involved, for instance, when the Black Satellites dazzled all the way to the final of the 2001 Fifa World Youth Championship (now the Fifa U-20 World Cup). That core proved instrumental when, five years later, the country’s senior national team, the Black Stars, made its bow on the world stage.
At that tournament, and at others in the next dozen years or so, the Stars’ lines were led by Asamoah Gyan: another Liberty graduate who has gone on to become Ghana’s most-capped footballer and all-time top-scorer, as well as Africa’s most prolific player in World Cup history.
But Liberty don’t make them that good anymore — not since the world-conquering U-20 class of 2009 (featuring the likes of Mohammed Rabiu, Ghandi Kassenu, Latif Salifu and Daniel Adjei), anyway — and it’s hard to see the next made-in-Dansoman star emerging anytime soon.
The academy almost shut down a few years ago — as explained in this insightful piece by Emmanuel Ayamga, my colleague — and Liberty (the club) has lost its way, too, degenerating from a formidable competitor to an also-ran and — at least once in recent memory — a serious candidate for relegation.
This season threatens to be another difficult one, and could well end up with Liberty scrambling and scratching for survival. They are in the drop zone, almost halfway into the campaign, and winless in their last five games (beaten in four of those, soundly beaten in two).
These days, the boxes that once belonged to Liberty — elite talent grooming, philosophical football, etc. — are being ticked by WAFA, a side usually imperious at home and mesmerizing to watch any day.
Last Sunday, at their imperious and mesmerizing best, WAFA absolutely thumped Liberty by a 5-0 score that elevated them on the table and sunk their guests a little deeper; a handing-over ceremony which confirmed, if there remained any doubt, that WAFA are the new Liberty.