The Big One: Liberty & Faisal in End-of-Season Battle for Survival
A day after the red carpet is rolled out in Sogakope for champions Accra Hearts of Oak in their last game of the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League season, away to WAFA, the turf would be covered with battle-lines when two of the division’s most colorful clubs over the years, Liberty Professionals and King Faisal, clash in a final push to retain their top-flight statuses.
Faisal, readmitted to the league in 2019, following demotion some seasons prior, have had a torrid time trying to stay up. They stumbled through the first half of the season, playing well upfront but getting undone far too often defensively.
Some solid recruitment during the mid-season window, though, has seen the Kumasi-based side perform so much better; so well, in fact, that their last 15 results in the league sneaks them just into the top half of the table, and that’s certainly worth applauding. The fact that Faisal are only 13th after 33 games, however, says a lot about just how much work that poor start left them to do in securing safety.
Still, of the five teams at risk of sinking — Liberty (15th), Legon Cities (14th), Elmina Sharks (16th), and Ebusua Dwarfs (17th) are the others — Faisal are closest to dry land, and a five-game unbeaten run certainly inspires confidence that they can find that final positive result — at a venue where they’ve scored their most goals in an away game this season, albeit in a 4-3 defeat (to WAFA) — required to get themselves over the line.
Against another vastly improved side, however, Faisal might have to work a lot harder for their wages. It had seemed, for much of the early part of the season, that Liberty wouldn’t be too far from the relegation mix when things got really messy, but what most didn’t see coming was the sort of fight they’ve put up during the league’s second round.
The return of Sellas Tetteh, the man who holds the distinction of being the only head coach to ever steer an African side to victory at the Fifa U-20 World Cup, has had a lot to do with that resurgence. Liberty have played with greater surety, spirit and structure, but they’d need to come up with the goods one more time before the job is truly done.
Tetteh has been involved in much bigger games and competed for more gleaming prizes in his illustrious career, but this would be right up there with those in terms of magnitude. It would be a stretch to say his reputation is on the line here, but, more than anyone, he will feel the sense of occasion; this, after all, is the club that he made and which made him, and Tetteh wouldn’t want to be the captain at the helm if the ship goes down, even if he’s arguably done more than anyone to stop that — seemingly inevitable, at a point — from happening.
(Where is TB Joshua when Tetteh, his long-time devotee, needs him?)
The 64-year-old would be keen to pull out all the stops — oh, he’ll definitely throw everything he’s got at this! — to help Liberty pull off another late, great escape (an art they’ve sort of mastered in recent seasons) and preserve their proud record of never losing their seat at the table since joining the big boys in 1999.
A draw might just suffice for both — two clubs that, lest we forget, were once so good that they even represented Ghana in continental inter-club competition — if results elsewhere go their way, but neither would want to leave their fate to chance. The high-stakes nature of this game is probably why Daniel Laryea, one of the best referees in Africa — and certainly the best in the land — has been summoned to handle it.
In a season that has sold us a proper title race, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years, it’s an extra credit to the Premier League that, going into the concluding gameweek, only one team — hopeless, hapless and helpless Inter Allies — has their relegation ticket booked; when the whistle blows its last, we’ll see who else goes down that steep hill with them.