In a sense, the 2021/22 Ghana Premier League season has been disappointing.
The last campaign brought us an epic chase for the title between archrivals Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak, of such intensity that we hadn’t seen in years, which the latter went on to win narrowly.
We’d been hoping for an encore this term, but the champions haven’t turned up – yet – with only Kotoko in serious title-winning mood. The Porcupine Warriors, now under the technical leadership of Dr. Prosper Narteh Ogum, are comfortably frontrunners for league glory.
Kotoko are now ten points ahead of Bechem United, the team in second, and 14 clear of Hearts (now seventh), just halfway into the season. It’s a lead they’re likely to widen, rather than relinquish, across the next 16 games.
Clearly, then, there isn’t really a title race to keep us engaged, while the battle at the other extremity of the table – for survival – isn’t particularly headline- or attention-worthy.
As the season gathers momentum, though, a proper challenge is shaping up that should have us all transfixed for a while: enter Franck Etouga Mbella and Bright Adjei.
The two strikers lead the scoring charts in the league, with Etouga just a couple of goals in front of Adjei. The Cameroonian’s excellence upfront has fuelled Kotoko’s charge, and it’s now almost an anomaly that he fails to score in a game; the next chance Etouga gets, he makes sure to rectify it.
It had looked, for a while, that Etouga was running away with the goal-king prize, as nobody seemed quite capable of matching his scoring rate. In recent weeks, however, a strong contender has emerged in Aduana forward Adjei.
Matchweek 17 saw Adjei respond to Etouga’s hat-trick against Accra Lions 24 hours prior with his own treble of goals (requiring all of 13 minutes to do so) when Eleven Wonders visited Dormaa-Ahenkro, and the start of the season’s second round finds both still red-hot.
Last Sunday, Adjei netted a first-half brace to seal a 2-0 win against Karela United for the Ogya. Kotoko, hosting Dreams at the same time, took a while to get going, but they’d secured their own comfortable victory by the time the evening was over – Etouga, unsurprisingly, at the double.
But while the brilliance of Etouga – a hitherto unknown quantity – has taken everyone by surprise, Adjei’s has been a rather slow burn. The 27-year-old had made a name for himself more as a scorer of great goals than as a great scorer of goals, having famously beaten off global competition – including strikes by Luis Suarez and Xabi Alonso – to win the CNN Goal of the Week twice in 2016.
Largely, though, Adjei has only been regarded as the Robin to Mohammed Yahaya’s Batman, the less imposing, less heroic member of Aduana’s long-standing attacking duo.
Adjei had been impressive all along, but it’s only now, with Yahaya’s own sharp edge blunted by declining fitness and advancing age, that his impact is being significantly felt.
In the form of his life, Adjei is gleefully trading goals with the new kid on the block, Etouga, and despite their contrasting backgrounds, both have their eyes on the same prize – the pursuit of which should be as much fun for them as for us.