Asante Kotoko bringing in three French-speaking players in the latest transfer window – they have a total of five on the roster now – should have given us a hint or two about the direction in which the Nana Yaw Amponsah-led management sought to steer the team’s technical affairs, transitioning from the tenure of now-departed head coach Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum.
There had been, in fact, rumours about Kotoko fancied going in for a Francophone trainer, preferably one from neighbouring Burkina Faso, in their hunt for Ogum’s successor. In the end, they did just so, even if the man they settled on wasn’t the one whose name had made the earlier rounds.
Zerbo’s résumé isn’t quite as sparkling, but he arrives with considerable experience, having coached a number of teams in the Burkinabe top-flight, including RC Kadiogo, against whom Kotoko start their 2022/23 CAF Champions League campaign in a few weeks.
And Zerbo also knows a thing or two about the Ghana Premier League, which Kotoko won last season.
In the space of a month, from September-October 2019, Burkina Faso’s home-based national team engaged their Ghanaian peers thrice, with two of those games, contested in the qualification process for the 2020 CHAN tournament, sandwiching a knockout stage meeting at the WAFU Cup in Senegal.
Zerbo, then at the helm of the Stallions, came away with mixed fortunes from that testing series of encounters. Burkina Faso reached the CHAN at Ghana’s expense, courtesy of a 1-0 win in the first leg hosted by the Black Galaxies in Kumasi, the city Zerbo is set to call home for the next 12 months (the reverse, in Ouagadougou, was drawn 0-0).
But Ghana, coached by Maxwell Konadu – a not-too-distant predecessor of Zerbo’s at Kotoko – would prevail in the third encounter, albeit on penalties, after a 1-1 stalemate. Impressively, though, Zerbo was undefeated in all three games against the cream of domestic Ghanaian talent, and that alone should excite Kotoko fans.
Zerbo also has a creditable record of working with young players, and with Kotoko set to launch its academy, also considering the age profile of the first team, Zerbo – nicknamed Krol, after the legendary Dutch defender who also enjoyed a successful coaching career, much of it in Africa – could also make significant input in that regard.
There have been notable player exits from Kotoko in the off-season, with the likes of Salifu Mudasiru and Ibrahim Imoro – key components of last season’s title-winning side – moving overseas, while the club has already announced as many as 10 new signings (at the time of writing).
Zerbo won’t have too much time to adjust to the demands of his new role, but an ongoing pre-season tour of Sudan, where sufficiently high-profile games against the likes of Al Hilal Omdurman await, should help him ready the team for onslaughts on multiple fronts.
If Zerbo can prove himself within the year he is initially hired for, he’d stand himself in good stead to trigger the option of the extra year included in his deal, regardless of what becomes of his boss, Amponsah, whose own mandate as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) expires in 2023.
A new era is underway at Kotoko, and the hope is that Zerbo makes it every bit as successful as – if not more successful than – the last.