|Inter Allies captain Joseph Aidoo gives me a thumbs up after I ask him to pose for a shot|
TEMA ----- Joseph Aidoo was so neatly dressed, looking so dapper in his club branded lacoste shirt, a pair of jeans and a smart pair of sneakers that it was hard to imagine that this same person had been completely sweat-drenched just a few minutes before. He walked out of the dressing room, making his way through the bustling zone just outside: with players, fans, traders, coaches, officials, ball boys and general observers all gathered and doing one thing or the other. The game between home side Inter Allies and visiting side Medeama SC had just closed, and the sun was setting beautifully over the Tema Sports Stadium. The activity was just about dying down, with people steadily making for the main stadium gate on their way home.
Aidoo headed towards the team bus. Just as he was about to board, about three little boys mobbed him, singing his praises while asking for coins as tips. Aidoo had no money on him. But he did not ignore them. He asked them to gather around him, and he bent down to talk to them, promising them that he would surely give them something next time. The kids smiled. Aidoo then responded to a few calls from fans, taking his time to respond to each greeting, thanking each person on each occasion. The humility he exhibited was striking, the gentlemanliness too.
What was even more interesting was that during the 90 minutes that ensued on the field just a few steps away from the tunnel, he had been anything but nice. Inter Allies came out victors with an impressive 2-0 win, but contrary to what the score suggested, the action did not always play out in Medeama’ half.
Aided by the superb passing of the midfield duo of Conney Aidan and Malik Akowuah, the trickery of Kwame Boahene and the experience Hans Kwofie on either wing, as well as the tireless running of striker Nathaniel Asamoah, the visitors caused a lot of problems for Inter Allies. But rarely did they manage to beat their back line and make it into the box, because there was one defender who just wouldn’t let that happen – Joseph Aidoo.
His performance oozed so much class. His tackles well so well-timed, his interceptions so clever. Even without an armband on it would be so easy to tell he was the leader – you just had to look at the authority with which he handled the ball and the aura of leadership that glowed like a halo around his powerful , manly frame as he marshaled the defence with dutiful seriousness. There was a sense of thrill that would surge across the crowd anytime a defender came up against him, a feeling that would soon be replaced by awe, because he would boss the situation so admirably. He was so calm, yet so beastly: so composed yet so aggressive.
A gripping chant of “Bobooooo!” – an affectionate stretch of his nickname ‘Boboo' - emanated from Inter Allies fans, greeting every occasion in which he owned an attacker or recovered so brilliantly after a tackle. “Herh, this defender, this captain!” a fan would yell during the silence in between the chants. “What a warrior. What a player!”
The admiration Aidoo commanded from the crowd was as breath-taking as his performance. This was a fan’s favourite at the height of his powers, extracting charged chants from fans who were enjoying their money's worth. At the end of the game, Aidoo led his charges – including goal scorers Lord Ofosuhene and Niare Benogo, who had found the net in either half – to the inner-perimeter marking fence wall to acknowledge the fans who were applauding proudly behind it.
Inter Allies coach Paa Kwesi Fabin walked up to him and gave him a warm hug that evinced so much trust and confidence. A spirited pat followed as he beamed brightly, muttering some words to his captain that from a distance looked congratulatory; not least because of the pride written all over the gaffer’s face. Aidoo, though, with his hands crossed behind him, listened carefully, the look on his face complementing the gesture to depict respect and submission.
“Fantastic player,” Fabin sighed in an interview after the game. He seemed overwhelmed by Aidoo’s impressive display. “He’s such a committed player. There’s nothing that you tell him at training that he won’t do. I believe he’s on cause for the national team.”
Last season, Aidoo, who rose through the team's youth ranks, broke into the first team from the fringes and emerged as the most fitting candidate for captaincy with regular captain Seidu Diawudeen Dabo out injured. He led the team through a chunk of their much-publicized fairy tale resurgence that saw them recover from a disastrous, six-losses-on-the-trot start through to finishing in the top half of the table and emerging runners up in the MTN FA Cup.
Before the start of this season, with Seidu Dabo struggling to regain his place, Aidoo was named team captain as a reward for his stewardship. “It's a huge step forward but it's a proud moment in my career and massive honour,” he told the club's official website. “This team is blessed with many leaders and to lead these gallant leaders is like a dream for me. I hope I don't change much from the way I am as a player but to improve more.”
In a side brimming with attacking talent, it is telling that the 19-year-old defender has been heralded by many as the team’s main driving force. H is a charismatic professional whose work ethics, passion and commitment is at a standard that all other players wish to emulate.“He has so much command, for someone so young,” a club insider told me. “Even the older players respect him because he does his work so well and guides all other players.”
Inter Allies have had four different coaches since the start of last season and every one of them have trusted Aidoo enough to field him at some point. Even at the national team level, where he plays for the U-20 team, the Black Satellites, his influence is starting to grow. “He’s Sellas Tetteh’s man,” the insider revealed. “He trusts him so much. So much so that he took him on a trip the last time knowing fully well that he was injured.”
Aidoo’s influence is very much needed at a club that is beginning to show signs of ambition. Inter Allies have been, without the slightest trace of doubt, the fastest growing club in Ghana over the last two years. Last season, at the same venue, they lost their opening league fixture 2-0 to an Ebusua Dwarfs side that they completely outplayed. This year, they've learnt from their mistakes after a long, hard road and the story is different: this 2-0 opening day win against an experienced Medeama side seems set to propel them towards a great season ahead. What is even more impressive is that they have not always enjoyed stability: there has been a significant chunk of their players leaving for Europe – a quotidian routine at the club - and quite a number of managerial changes, but the club seems to be growing from strength to strength.
|Coach Paa Kwesi Fabin|
Coach Fabin, a trained teacher and coach of Ghana’s Under 17 team was appointed at the end of last month. The club’s top hierarchy – consisting of twins Omar El-Eter (chairman) and President Rabeh El-Eter (president) as well as energetic CEO Delali Senaye – have tasked him to finish in the top four.
And with many players – from talismanic playmaker Prosper Kassim, hardworking midfielder Sarbah Lawson, striker Abdul Fatawu Safiu and Aidoo himself – set to leave the club for Europe at some point this season, this will be a herculean task indeed.
But Fabin, who has managed Ghana’s two biggest clubs – Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak - at some point in his career, knows pressure all too well to be fazed by such a challenge. Already a players’ favourite with his down-to-earth, affable personality, Fabin seems to know what he's about.
“I like the youthful exuberance of my boys. They are ready to learn and ready to fight and work harder. And if you want to be at the top, you need to work hard. This is just the beginning,” he warned.
---Their season ended in defeat last season and it started the same this season too against the same opponents. Dormaa is the definition of dreaded for defending league champions Asante Kotoko. For the sixth time in six years, the Porcupine Warriors traveled there and failed to win. They lost by a goal to nil, a result that has already started causing panic among their fans owing to the fact that so much work has gone into the side over the last few months and the last thing anyone expected was an opening day defeat. Having won the league three times on the trot, the hunger might have subsided on the domestic front as hopes for the CAF Champions League continue to rise astronomically, but the Reds know all too well that “S3 kwasiada anopa b3y3 d3 aa, na 3firi memeneda annwunmer3”
[An Akan saying that basically means: If the main event will be successful, a sneak peak or indication of that success should be seen in the preparations. Directly translated, it reads something like: If Sunday morning will be fun, it should start from Saturday evening]
--Great Olympics bowed out of the Ghana Premier League in 2010, five seasons ago, with a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Asante Kotoko in Kumasi. Years of lower tier toil later, they were back in Obuasi over the weekend and the story was the same, as they lost 2-0 to AshantiGold. It will be a long season for the Oly, and a quick U-turn is looking inevitable given the return of their traditional board room wranglings and disagreements. We all hope they go through an Inter Allies-like rejuvenation at some point. It's always fun having a club with so much deep history strutting their stuff in the top flight.
--After a difficult past two seasons, it must have been heartwarming for Hearts fans to see their much-vilified marksman Gilbert Fiamenyo hit the ground running this season. On familiar turf in Kpando – where he broke out as a goal machine for Heart of Lions years back – the bulky Fiamenyo was the difference as the Phobians ground out a typical Herbet Addo scoreline: a simple, effective 1-0 win. That is the thing about a Herbert Addo side; the scorelines aren’t as high profile or spectacular, and so the team escapes the eyes of the public as they steadily grow. As a big club, Hearts’ management and fans may be expecting loud performances, but they know all too well that the quietude associated with the immensely experienced Addo’s modus operandi is admittedly slow, but most certainly sure.
Match Day 1 Results
Saturday January 17
Kpando: Hearts of Oak 1-0 WAFA [Gilbert Fiamenyo]
Sunyani: BA United 1-0 Bechem United [Isaac Danso]
Sunday January 18
Obuasi: AshantiGod 2-0 Great Olympics [Bernard Morrison, Emmanuel Baffour]
Tema: Inter Allies 2-0 Medeama SC [Lord Ofosuhene, Niare Benogo]
Kpando: Heart of Lions 2-0 New Edubiase United [Isaac Twum, Osman Muntaka]
Dormaa: Aduana Stars 1-0 Asante Kotoko [Richard Arhin]
Sekondi: Hasaacas 3-1 Liberty Professionals [Frederick Quayeson, Samuel Afful 2x: Alfred Nelson]
Wa: Wa All Stars 1-0 Berekum Chelsea [Stephen Nyarko]
Premier League Table here