In August 2020, while all sporting activities were suspended across Ghana and the whole nation was reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of men and women were setting in motion the building blocks of what would soon become one of the leading women’s football teams in the country.
A meeting held in Accra had a host of football-savvy persons in attendance, including Samuel Anim Addo, a Ghana Football Association (GFA) Executive Council member.
After hours of jaw-jawing, of ironing out details, a roadmap to make Halifax Ladies FC serious contenders in the Ghana Women’s Premier League (GWPL) was unfolded before the Board of Directors.
Almost a year on, and a lot has changed about the club’s make-up — not least its change of name from Halifax Ladies FC to Berry Ladies FC.
Backed by a strong board and an overqualified technical team, the club is already making its mark in the GWPL this term. Having watched Hasaacas Ladies and Ampem Darkoa Ladies — three- and two-time champions, respectively — dominate the women’s elite division since its inception in 2012, it’s refreshing to see Berry emerge so quickly and strongly as a potential third force.
Ideally, the aforementioned clubs would have been involved in a three-horse race for the title but – fortunately or otherwise – they find themselves in different zones.
Sorry, I forgot to mention that a little earlier — my bad.
See, the 2020/21 GWPL has been divided into two eight-team zones, Southern and Northern, in a bid to cut travel and accommodation costs for the already struggling teams, while also minimising the risk of spread of COVID-19 infections; the winners in each will meet in a one-off final to determine the overall champion.
As expected, Ampem Darkoa are primed to win the Northern Zone and book a ticket to the final, having completely dominated and currently holding a nine-point lead at the top of the table.
The competition is much keener down south, however, where Hasaacas and Berry are separated by just a point, with the former on top. Despite being the less experienced campaigners, Berry are running them close and will likely race Hasaacas all the way to the finish line in the battle to be crowned zonal winners.
It’s been a remarkable journey for Berry, who have gone from mere also-rans to serious title contenders. But that’s only because of the work being done off the pitch — a direct reflection, in fact, of what the team has been doing on it.
Recruitment has been shrewdly carried out, with Berry boasting some of the best talents in the country right now: from goalkeeper Abigail Tawiah Mensah and midfielder Thelma Baffour Attuah to attackers Constance Agyemang and Felicity Asante — all established national assets.
From the bench, they’re coached by one of the most experienced figures in the Ghanaian game, Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo — a former top player and top referee — who doubles as head coach of the Black Queens, the senior women’s national team.
This is a club, clearly, armed with functional structures and serious ambitions of dominating the women’s game. That won’t come easy, though, with Ampem Darkoa and Hasaacas still the teams to beat; never has there been a final of the GWPL without one of those two, never a title not won by either.
But that grand objective is still some way off. The immediate goal for Berry would be to dethrone the long-reigning, undisputed queens of the south. On Sunday, following their narrow 1-0 win over Soccer Intellectuals, assistant coach Freeman Amponsah — currently handling the team in the absence of the temporarily indisposed Tagoe-Quarcoo — laid down the gauntlet.
“Even though Hasaacas Ladies are leading, it looks like Berry Ladies are everyone’s target,” he said.
“Most of the teams want to beat us, but we are still coming. We’re playing our own game. I’m not happy not just because we didn’t score many goals, but we still need to play beautiful football. We want to play beautiful, possessive football and win at the same time.”
Maybe, but Berry are on a mission and they aren’t looking back.