|CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB, ENGLAND|
In a poetic journey that culminated in Munich, Chelsea won their first UEFA Champions League title in this year. Roman Abramovic could not hide his joy. This was what he had always wanted, always worked towards. Years and years of money injection, player purchases, and manager sackings, had finally yielded result. The dream for him, and his club, was to conquer Europe and secure the long craved ''We've also won it!'' bragging rights for their fans. And he was living the reality version of that dream.
Somewhere in Africa, a club with a similar name, were also plotting a merger between dream and reality.
The CAF Champions League is Africa's own modest version of the prestigious UEFA Champions League. It is the highest level of competition for any African Football club. The prestige, the money, it's all in there. Elite traditional clubs with enormous reputations feature, year in year out. More often than not, the participants list totally dominated by teams who have lifted the trophy before. The expectations and intimidation is is raging.
When the group stage draw for the 2012 edition was made, there was an unfamiliar name in Group B. The group all pundits easily labelled ''the group of death''.
It had African Football powerhouse Ah Ahly, their arch rival and multiple winners Zamalek, and 2009 and 2010 back to back winners TP Mazembe. The surprising name that completed the pack? Berekum Chelsea FC. A small, small club from Ghana, with big, big ambitions.
Featuring at the level is every football administrator's dream. From that very hour, when that golden idea of creating a Football Club is formed, the dream draws out itself automatically, and later on, becomes the fuel for all efforts to progress. The chance to make that enviable progress from the bottom divisions to the Premier division is already a dream ginormous enough, but to get there, and win it, and further get the chance to represent a whole nation in the continent's flagship competition is something else. Remarkable is an understatement. That makes for a perfect journey, a beautifully rolled out fairy tale, more often against the odds. We all love such stories. It brings out a rare passionate sympathy out of every football fan.
How it all began
|( BEREKUM ) CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB, GHANA|
Deep in the heart of football passionate Ghana, a team was only founded in 2000 by duo Emmanuel Kyeremeh and Obed Nana Nketia, with the original name Semereka FC (translated to mean If I had the opportunity to say[something]). Berekum is a suburb of the Brong Ahafo Region(like a province of state) of Ghana. Kyeremeh had been into football administration for many years, and felt driven by his passion to form a football team, and get the dream chance exercise his passion.
The team was reformed and renamed in 2004. The current name, Berekum Chelsea Football Club was inspired by it's name sake Chelsea Football Club in England, of which he and his partner are ardent fans. The club explains that the naming was also partly influenced by the boom in the popularity of Chelsea during that time in Ghana, due to the presence of Michael Essien in the team.
Kyeremeh, a seasoned business man himself, had always been inspired by Roman Abramovic and how he had pumped money into Chelsea and transformed them into world beaters. He had similar dreams for his new club, from the infant phase. He knew it would require heavy risks, finance-wise, effort- wise, all that. But he knew what he was in for. And he had the money to make it happen. Abramovic-esque.
Football is a game where traditional clubs wield entrenched reputations and statuses, making it difficult for new ones to attain an equal standing. Thus most business magnates with grand plans(intrinsically related to dreams, backed by abundant funds) buy teams, usually ones with the dormant potentials, as opposed to actually forming clubs. Starting from the ground up therefore is a rare process in contemporary football. Kyeremeh and his team were fully aware. The prospect of actually forming a club from he scratch and leading it to an ''established force to reckon with'' status, although a tall order, was also an exciting idea. .
More than just a club
Of course, they also had to build a tradition around their creation. That is the core value of club football. The tradition, culture, sense of pride, of belonging. Berekum Chelsea was formed in the surburb of Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. The people of Berekum are passionate about their football, as was evident in the large number of clubs in the area. The first squad of the club was made up of about 75% of indigenes of Berekum. Infact, both founders were natives of Berekum, and listed in their club vision :The main objective for the establishment of the club was to create jobs for the young footballers of Berekum and to promote football in the Brong Ahafo Region. The aim was to build a club that would would empower and put the region on the Ghana football map.
It was ideally, a good setting to develop a new club too, as they could play some positives off the football activity there. Some sections of football fans in Berekum, as they say, ''fell in love'' with the fresh air of newness and optimism of the side. This was a club starting out, and they could be pioneer supporters who would define it's tradition. They were availed the exciting opportunity of having a team to proudly call their own. Chelsea fit the bill perfectly, and exploited a win-win situation--because it gave them the opportunity to build a following, and forge a tradition.
The number of clubs in Berekum was a decent advantage, but also posed some demerits. Like the Ancient Ethiopians, Berekum Chelsea got wind of the idea that being being away in solitude would provide a productive atmosphere to develop their ethos. Thus, the owners of the side, somewhere along the line moved the club to a neighbouring community called Bechem, which had only one football team(Bechem FC), and would hopefully serve as a conducive atmosphere for the club to grow. In conformity with their new home, the team was renamed Bechem Chelsea FC.
The move made the club amass even more sympathizers, who morphed over time into full fledged supporters. By this time too, they had managed to develop a rivalry with traditional side Berekum Arsenal (yes, Ghana is that obsessed with the EPL too!). They were steadily creating a culture, tradition and reputation around their infant club.
Again, the club had to move back to Berekum from Bechem in 2010, after the original fans they aquired in Berekum called for the club to ''return to it's founding home''. This was partly due to the fact that the fans felt frustrated having to travel from Berekum to Bechem just to see their side in action. Upon their return to where it all began, the club was renamed Berekum Chelsea FC.
A Remarkable Journey
The footballing journey was long and hard. Through the lower leagues, the club's management kept faith, making financial sacrifices and turning their back on the idea of giving up. After years in the wilderness of the bottom leagues, they finally made a break through into the the second tier. The motivation heightened from then on, and before long, the team's on-the-pitch performances elevated them into the Division 1 league(quasi Championship), where they qualified from with ease into the middle league(quasi pay-offs), the final hurdle on the path to Ghana's top flight. After 2 wins and a draw, they finally made the breakthrough and became the newest members of the Ghana Premier League for the 2008/09 season.
The culmination was all so surreal, they had finally made it. After years and years of discouraging frustrations and hardships. Through a mountainous obstacle course, they clung on to their undying hope, and finally announced themselves on the Top Flight football scene in Ghana. Realistically, they had a tough first season, but they successfully juggled settling in and being competitive, eventually being rewarded with a deserved survival.
The second season was mixed, they had a lukewarm campaign. In a season in which new comers (Aduana Stars) won the league in their first attempt in the top flight (an unprecedented record), Chelsea felt they needed to upgrade their ambitions. Aduana's win had proved that any team could win the league, with the right preparation, attitude and focus.
Management took drastic steps, and restructured the administrative and technical structure. Coach Kwabena Amissah was sown the exit door, with a young vibrant manager Orlando Wellington brought in as his replacement. Kyeremeh's partner, Mr. Obed Nana Nketiah, came in to take charge as CEO. They made the right plans, and hired the right people. They wanted radical results.
Just a season later, they found themselves at the summit of their self actualization ambitions--They won the League.
Ghana's Darling Club
The club currently the country's sole representative in the CAF Champions League(As The Ghana Premier League Champions) are enjoying massive support in Ghana. The support they enjoy these days can be likened to that of what Ghanaians give when the National Footall Team--The Black Sars are playing. Yes, they are that loved. They have effected this auror of renaissance at the moment, arousing public interest in the local football scene even more.
In all fairness, their giant strides shown in some courageous and mesmerising attacking football displays has won over the hearts and as well as united the majority of Ghana football's fandom. This is at a time when Ghana's participation and performance in African Club football competition has been abysmal over the past few years.
The club made it through the preliminary qualifiers after 9 grueling encounters both at home and abroad. Currently in the group stage cum 'money zone', they are still in with a chance of making it through to thee Quarter Final, with 5 points from 4 games (highly impressive,considering they are overwhelming underdogs).
Like their mentors in London, the club is on a high. In years to come, they will, at this rate become a powerhouse in Ghana football and break the dominance of the duopoly that is Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko. They even have on going projects that include a new state of the art stadium and a first-of-it's-kind club village in Berekum. Vision. Only a hand full of football clubs actually own stadiums in Ghana, not even Kotoko or Hearts.
Berekum Chelsea FC has grown from strength to strength as a football club. Chairman, co-owner and bank roller Emmanuel Kyeremeh couldn't have asked for more. After barely 12 years existence, they are already rubbing shoulders with African Football's finest.
Who knows, we might see Chelsea V Chelsea, protege v mentor, in the Club World Cup, in the near future, perhaps.