Five games away, archrivals Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko can see the finish line draw into sharp focus — and, with it, visions of Ghana Premier League glory.
Hearts haven’t enjoyed that sort of thing in 12 years, Kotoko in seven, and both now have their best chances to end those barren spells that threaten to deflate their mutual boast about being the most successful clubs in the land.
Even better, whoever wins it in the end gets to do so at the expense of the other — just like the old times, before these young upstarts (the likes of Aduana Stars, Berekum Chelsea, and now-defunct Wa All Stars) sprung up on the scene to upset the status quo.
Following this weekend’s FA Cup exertions — the pair is on course to reach the final, for the second consecutive edition — attention would return to the competition that matters most, where a delicious run-in awaits.
There would be mid-week action — Kotoko at ‘home’ to Karela United and Hearts ‘away’ to Legon Cities — but those fixtures, though significant in their own right, would almost feel like warm-up sessions for the one we have all marked on our calendars: Sunday’s ‘Super Clash’ between the two clubs that is effectively a six-pointer, even if there would still be three more games that could yet decide the destination of the title.
And as that dramatic finale — ‘squeaky-bum time’, in the words of one great Scotsman — approaches, both clubs are very much in character, staying true to the reputations they’ve carved for themselves over the years.
Let’s start with Hearts, a club truly rhythmic in their play these days. The Phobians are literally waltzing their way to the title, playing some of the best football in the land — and certainly the best football they have played in a long while.
Seeing Samuel Boadu’s charges strut their stuff on the pitch feels like watching a master artist filling his canvas with artwork of the highest quality. ‘Boadu-ball‘ — as they call it — has fans hooked, rivals envious, and neutrals excited.
Boadu’s Hearts don’t just beat opponents (including six of their last seven in the league); they blind them with dazzling brilliance. It’s football of such rich vintage, bubbling forth like champagne and worth savouring to the last drop — rainbow-kicks and all.
Speaking of a rainbow, that most radiantly beautiful of phenomena is just what Hearts have historically likened themselves to, so the brand of football they’re serving now is very much welcome, delighting the taste buds of their supporters.
Kotoko fans would have wished that their own team were going into these critical last days in such style, but the Porcupine Warriors aren’t having so smooth a ride.
While Hearts haven’t conceded in any of the games they’ve won during their ongoing unbeaten run, Kotoko (also unbeaten for some time now) have developed the habit of letting the opposition take a shot at them in even the games they’ve won (five of the last eight).
Hosting Dreams and Ebusua Dwarfs, they went behind first before coming back to win with varying degrees of comfort. And in their most recent league game, a visit to Dawu to face the league’s worst team, Inter Allies, only the third lead Kotoko took was enough to secure victory.
Allies, battling for altogether different reasons, equalised twice, but Kotoko held on to claim all the spoils, partly thanks to goalscoring contributions from players who haven’t offered much in that regard — or even featured much — all season: forward Evans Adomako with a goal and an assist on his first league start, and another strike from reserve defender Andrews Appau.
Surely, then, Kotoko’s supporters would find all these comebacks too tense or worrying to endure, no?
Well, not if the club’s kum apem a apem beba motto means anything. It has gotten them through many seemingly lost causes in the past, and the hope — assurance, even — is that such genetic indefatigability would see them survive and prevail this time, too, especially as there isn’t so much ground to make up (they’re level on points with Hearts, behind only on goal difference).
Either team, of course, is perfectly capable of operating with the spirit the other has summoned for this ‘tight-le’ race. Kotoko, as mentioned earlier, have as strong an appetite for aesthetically pleasing football, while Hearts’ never-say-die-until-the-bones-are-rotten mantra stirs up very much the same aura of invincibility as Kotoko’s.
Still, their respective current moods appear to be working just fine — a bit more comfortably for Hearts, it would seem, than for Kotoko — and if that brings the best out of both, well, who’s complaining?
Yaw Frimpong — Ink & Kicks