|GHANA'S DOMESTIC CUP CHAMPIONS : NEW EDUBIASE FOOTBALL CLUB|
Over a month ago, Ghana staged a second FA Cup final(second of its current format, after a 10-year hiatus) played in honour of recently departed president John Evans Atta Mills. The competitors; neighbours New Edubiase United and Ashanti Gold SC.
Pre-Kick off formalities had a mixed auror of excitement and solemnity; the trophy arrived via an official motorcade, a little girl gave a touching rendition of nationalistic song ''Yen ara yasaase ni'' and there was a ceremonial kick off. Publicity wise, the financial motivation for both teams had been emphasized by their respective managements. The stage was set.
95 minutes later, The Honorable E.T Mensah, the special Guest of honour, presented the trophy to Edubiase skipper Ibrahim Moro, whose powerful 50th minute free kick had been the decider. New Edubiase United, a team that only joined Ghana's top flight three seasons ago, had just won the competition with an impressive 100% record, without conceding a single goal.
It was something to be proud of, as CEO Abdul Salam Yakubu rightly pointed out ''When we started this project, I never stopped believing that we were going to be successful'' ''We were lucky we had a lot of motivation from our sponsors which helped,we also put in all we could to push our boys who were determined to do something significant for the club''. It was a dream culmination of three years of extreme hardwork. They had done it, and in record setting fashion.
''Our magic was determination and hardwork,” Coach Anthony Commey said after the game.“The boys have been very disciplined throughout the season and they really deserve this victory''. They had beaten BA Stars 3-0 in the round of 64, Yegoala FC 2-0 in the round of 32, Heart of Lions 2-0 in the round of 16, Danbot FC 3-0 in the Quarter Final and Wassaman FC 1-0 in the Semis. The final had been played at the Accra Sports Stadium, dozens of miles from Obuasi, around which the two clubs are based.
The attendance thus was very discouraging, but that did not take anything away from the joy and pride that characterized the aftermath, for the winning side.''We listened to our coach at half time, and his strategy of keeping the ball as our opponents were becoming physical. They got the red card, and it worked out perfectly'' Man of the Match Abdul Basit Adam said.
Edubiase, formed only in 2007, have just joined the elite group of relative new comers on the Ghanaian football landscape to upset the odds and play in Africa. And they did it without their star man Emmanuel Baffoe, who has since the close of last season left for South African Club Mamelodi Sundowns. Baffoe top scored in the league with 21 goals, scoring almost 60 % of New Edubiase's (31) goals in the league as they finished 5th. That was how influential he was, so doing it without him was symbolic of the resiliance in moving forward.
Ash Gold on the other hand, were crestfallen, justifiably so. The victory not only meant the obvious prestige, but a handsome cash price of GHS 25 000 as well. Their management had also promised a doubled winning bonus(of 800 Ghana cedis per player).
That said, of course, there was always going to be the traditional ''The referee is to blame'' situation rearing up it's head in such a game of high stakes. Coach of losing side Ashanti Gold Yaw Acheampong expressed his disappointment in the performance of FIFA referee Joseph Lamptey on the day, saying “I usually don’t talk about referees but the red card he gave(to Eric Opoku) was really bad. I am very happy with the performance of my boys but sometimes in football something small can happen to change the game.You could see that our opponents were not coming before, but after the red card they started coming in.''.
The reaction was normal, coming from a man who had just been denied a record of being the only man to win the FA Cup as both player and coach. Even further, he had just lost to a bitter derby rival, and lost the chance to compete in the relatively lucrative CAF Confederations Cup.
Last year's FA Cup Winners FC Narnia(owned by the legendary Abedi Pele), also then heavy under dogs, pulled out of competing in the Confederation's Cup in the last minute, giving the cliche excuse of ''financial constraints''. This landed them a heavy blow from CAF, in the form of a severe ban; something to serve as an authoritave deterrent to future champions who were also thinking of pulling a fast one.
Good news is, New Edubiase have declared they will honour the obligation of competing, as CEO Abdul Salam confirmed they believe they have the financial backing of Sponsors Sidalco to make it happen. ''We will compete in Africa, we are going all out''.
The football atmosphere in Ghana will benefit a great deal should they go into Africa and have a decent run. As it is now, most Ghanaian football fans have turned their back on the local game due to the inability of clubs to make an impact where it matters most; on the continental stage. It's been a long while since a Ghanaian club made huge strides outside Ghana. Ghana craves success. It craves a revival.
Ghanaians are anxiously waiting on them. Berekum Chelsea's ongoing exploits in the CAF Champions League has whetted the nation's appetite - they want more. More success stories. A revival of Ghana football.
Ghanaians hope New Edubiase do well. Efforts of massive support are in order.
As their famous motto says, ''Yenko nkoaa."(loosely translated to mean Let's only go forward).
Over to you, Edubiase.