|Abdul Rahman Ameyaw poses for a photo after the post match presser|
ACCRA --- When he walked in, taking his seat in front of journalists gathered, the glow on his face was so bright. Turn off the lights inside the Accra Sports Stadium's press room and Abdul Rahman Ameyaw's face would have lit up the place. The Aduana coach, a very well-trimmed man, was all smiles, dressed in an aptly coloured bright orange lacoste shirt, his beefy chest and bulging biceps particularly standing out. The air of bonhomie he exuded was contagious.
When he began speaking, he proved as interesting as his demeanor. He is known to outsiders as Ameyaw, but at home in Dormaa, everyone refers to him by the most interesting nickname you will ever hear off: ‘Holy sinner’. Inevitably, I had to satisfy my curiosity, and he was generous enough to share his story too. “When we were in school, you know, boys tried to pick up names and I had one of my seniors was called ‘Sugar pepper’. So I said to myself, okay, why don’t I also take two names. I thought; ‘Every person has a good side and a bad side, so when you are on the wrong side you are sinning, and when you are on the good side you are holy’," he explained with an almost childish excitement, ending it abruptly with a smile that seemed to say, 'the rest is history'. Some journalists burst into fits of laughter.
Ameyaw was probably that bubbly because his side had just beaten home side Great Olympics 1-0. But it was a game that saw them largely outplayed. Completely dominated, in fact. Olympics hungrily went at Aduana and incessantly attacked them for almost the entire game – “If football was a boxing game the referee would have stopped the game earlier,” said their coach Kassim Mingle – but couldn’t score. “We worked hard and created a lot of chances but we could not score as we wasted a lot of them. It was hard luck on our part,” Mingle moped. “If you miss chances, you get punished,” admitted Olympics captain Francis Mantey.
But Ameyaw clearly didn't seem worried about being in the shadow of Olympics' dominance all game. It was, afterall, a pre-meditated style, a well-calculated strategy. This was how they wanted it. This was exactly what they had planned to do. “We heard about how Olympics came back to beat Lions 3-2 in their last home game so when we came in our plan was to keep them at bay and hit them on the counter and luckily we were able to come up with that goal,” he revealed.
The goal had been a 42nd minute Richard Arhin header from a well-struck Daniel Darkwa corner. “Accidentally our goalkeeper fumbled and they had the goal,” Kassim Mingle said, adding: “They didn’t work for that goal.”
Ameyaw begged to differ. “We work on set-pieces, that is our hallmark,” he beamed. It had been a job well done, a mission well accomplished in the simplest, most effective way. “One goal, three points. That’s all we need. That’s the most important thing," he said with a sense of satisfaction. “It was a sweet victory for us.”
|Olympics coach Kassim Mingle Ocansey|
Sweet victory indeed. The win – coming on the back of losses suffered by their top of the table competitors AshantiGold, Hasaacas and Wa All Stars – meant Aduana were the only side in the league that had emerged from Match day four unbeaten. More significantly, it meant they had climbed to the top of the table.
Ameyaw opines his boys’ early season is due to the team's “discipline, dedication, self control,”, but a club insider, media officer Kwasi Appiah Kusi, puts it all down to Ameyaw himself. “He’s such a good coach. He knows the club’s ins and outs and knows every player inside out too. He also has a cordial relationship with all of them,” Kusi, popularly known as ‘White man’, said.
Unknown to many, Ameyaw was actually the brain behind Aduana’s debut qualification to the top flight in 2009/10 season, but a lack of appropriate certification meant he had to make a step down and play second fiddle to the more experienced Herbert Addo – now coach of Hearts of Oak. Addo went on to make history, winning the league title that very same season. Aduana had come straight from the second tier to rule the roost in the Premier League, a remarkable run which was as bizarre as the manner in which they did it: a record of W-15 D-8 L-7 GF-19 GA- 10, chalking 53 points.
Since becoming the first team out of the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana to become league champions – joining a prestigious league of nine clubs who have won the league in it’s close to 57 year history - the Dormaa-based club have essentially failed to measure up to their potential, finishing outside the top four in the last four seasons. But this season, they want to change things and step up.
Ameyaw – whose longevity at the club means he has had many spells in charge in between many other coaches - came back to replace controversial Serbian trainer Milutin Bogdanovic in the middle of last season, fresh from the pursuit of a CAF license B course. A fans' favourite, Holy sinner is now managing a very coherent squad – “About 90% of them have been at the club for close to six years,” Kusi says – that also abounds with talent.
|The very popular Godfred Saka - considered by many as the best right back in Ghana|
The quality runs through. There's recently capped Ghana international goalkeeper Stephen Adams, set-piece specialist and goal-scoring right back Godfred Saka, the very physical captain Emmanuel Akuoko and his rocky central defensive partner-in-crime Abdul Ganiyu, the energetic holding midfielder Seth Opare as well as an attack brimming with speed, skill and goals: the likes of James Abban, Daniel Darkwa, Sam Adams, Elvis Opoku and Stephen Arhin.
Arhin, in particular, has been the hero for the team thus far this season. His well-timed header against Olympics was his third goal in four games this season. It could not have been so, though, but for the work of Ameyaw. “People have complained a lot about him but every coach has his own talisman, and he is one of them,” Ameyaw said of his striker, who is enjoying a breakthrough after two quiet previous seasons. “I know what he is capable of doing. People keep commenting about him but I don’t listen. I have had all the confidence in the world in him and I always know that at the crucial point he will deliver for me.”
Aduana’s early season form has got fans dreaming. “We are hoping to in the league,” Kusi said. “Even if that doesn’t happen, we don’t want to go beyond the top four zone. We believe this is possible because our patron and bank roller Nana Agyemang Badu (the paramount chief of the Dormaa Ahenkro) is giving us everything we need, like he’s always done. Money is never a problem for our club as long as we perform. You know, we pay the highest winning bonuses in the whole of the league!”
Are Aduana eyeing their second title now that they’ve started the season so well? Or is it too early to entertain such ambitions? In response, Ameyaw had an interesting analogy ; one that seemed terribly misplaced initially, but seemed to make sense eventually in a cryptic, mind game-like sense. “If you cannot beat them, you join them. So we’re joining those who are in the race. Our aim is to join those who are at the top.”
What he was sure of, and thus clear about, was that his side isn't going to succumb to the pressure and intimidation of being on top of the log. “We all started at the same time. We're all playing in the same league. We have good players too. We are going to compete with them."
---Medeama signed up expat coach Tom Strand - the youthful, movie-star looking Swedish tactician - last week. First game into his tenure and he has already secured the Tarkwa-based club their first win of the season - a 2-0 win over Ashanti Gold. In so doing, they proved strong enough to halt Ash Gold’s 100% record start to the season too. AshGold were bound to lose at some point, but will this loss derail their form?
---Hearts’defensive frailties coupled with their conspicuous dependence on Gilbert Fiamenyo caught up with them once more as they lost 1-0 in Bechem. It has been a weird start steeped in mixed feelings for the Phobians – they aren’t playing either poorly or exceptionally. The results, though, haven't been good, and they know they need to step up to the plate before the season gets complicated. It's not going to get any easier too. Herbert Addo will definitely be feeling the heat going into next week’s ‘Super Clash’ with arch rivals Asante Kotoko – who won their second game on the trot earlier on Friday – next weekend. Kotoko coach Didi Dramani was in Bechem to scout his opponents too. Next week should be interesting. Who is your money on?
---Hasaacas and Wa All Stars (in addition to hitherto leaders AshGold) all lost their unbeaten records. All Stars, particularly did so while conceding their first goal this season. The season is getting real and personal, with resistances being broken. How long the last team standing - Aduana - holds on remains to be seen.
-- B.A United have now lost three games on the trot, sitting rock bottom of the table. Whipping boys? They have more time to prove doomsayers wrong, because unlike WAFA, they haven't looked like a side that have what it takes quality-wise to endure top flight pressure.
Friday: Asante Kotoko 1-0 Inter Allies [Dauda Mohammed]
New Edubiase 2-1 BA United [Nuhu Fusseini, James Boadu : Enoch Gyimah]
Liberty Professionals 1-0 Wa All Stars [Emmanuel Antwi]
Berekum Chelsea 2-0 Sogakope WAFA [Samuel Kyereh, Stephen Baffour]
Great Olympics 0-1 Aduana Stars [Richard Arhin]
Hearts of Lions 2-0 Hasaacas [Mohammed Razir, Abdulai Abdul Karim]
Medeama SC 2-0 AhsnatiGold [Nathaniel Asamoah 2x]
Bechem United 1-0 Hearts of Oak [Hamza Mohammed]