Eighteen minutes into their Ghana Premier League (GPL) Week 11 game at home to Berekum Chelsea on Saturday, it looked like King Faisal were already condemned to another defeat — a sixth this term.
What happened next, even in a season that has thrown up some incredible results, was absolutely spectacular. Faisal pulled one back from the spot in the first half through skipper and top-scorer Kwame Peprah, but rather than accept that as a mere consolation, that goal got the hosts believing that a comeback — however improbable — was possible.
And they pulled it off in some style after recess. Frimpong Boateng struck a fierce, brilliant shot from range to take those hopes up a notch, before Peprah — Faisal’s best player this season, without a doubt, and deservedly named MVP here — scored twice more to seal the win.
But, then again, those who have followed Faisal since their return to the top-flight ahead of the aborted 2019/20 campaign wouldn’t be too surprised that they scraped and scratched their way back in such dogged fashion.
Faisal may not be the hardest team to beat in the GPL — not when they’ve lost more than half of 25 games across two seasons, and only won two — but they’re had to beat in the sense that they don’t give up very easily, even when the odds are highly stacked against them and defeat seems inevitable.
Their first game this season, away to WAFA, was another illustration of this never-give-up spirit in full flow (for one more, see last season’s 4-3 loss to Great Olympics).
With an hour gone, Faisal were trailing 4-1, but they just kept going, punching and pushing and prying their hosts for something more than the solitary goal they had clawed back; by full time, Faisal had fetched two more — not sufficient to draw level, no, but just enough to chip away at what would have been a far more emphatic win for WAFA.
In truth, in only one game this season — the 5-1 thumping at Ashantigold — have Faisal been hopelessly bad. Since that mauling, which spelt the end of Serbian trainer Slaviša Božičić’s tenure, Faisal have played much better, and have come quite close to getting a point — or more — from their next few games.
They drew three of those, and the two lost in that run were down to late, costly defensive errors (against Hearts of Oak and Techiman XI Wonders). The victory over Chelsea, then, is only just reward — hard-fought and well-earned, needless to say — for all the work put in to turn their fortunes around, especially after the recent appointment of Andy Sinason as head coach.
Going forward, the bulk of Sinason’s work should focus on tightening the screws in defence, where Faisal have been the league’s worst team (21 goals conceded already), as they don’t seem to lack firepower upfront; Faisal have scored more goals than any team currently in the table’s bottom half, though in the relegation zone, and are actually level on that count with leaders Bechem United.
Given their struggles, following relegation in 2014 and even after promotion five years later, it’s easy to forget that this is a club once reckoned among Ghana’s best — so good, in fact, that they even represented the country in African inter-club competitions.
And while Faisal remain very far from a return to the headiness of those days, they’d fancy the one thing which, if they keep fighting as much as they now are, should be within reach: survival.
Enn Y. Frimpong — Ink & Kicks