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Sports - June 27, 2021

A match beyond three points

A match beyond three points

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“What I need from them [supporters] is,” elated Samuel Boadu, began a message meant for supporters ahead of Sunday’s game against Asante Kotoko.

“They should come in their numbers and support the boys,” he continued. “We are going to deliver,” the former Medeama boss declared.

History has shown that, since 2013, Hearts have won one (1), drawn one(1), and lost five (5) against Kotoko at the Accra Stadium in seven (7) competitive attempts, including a Normalisation Committee Cup via penalty shoot out. Many fans are cautiously optimistic of a win, but the man tasked to oversee an end to their 11 years of failure to win the title allayed potential fears of another defeat.

“They shouldn’t worry at all,” he assured.

“We need the three points. We don’t have any problem with Kotoko, we have a problem with the three points,” he concluded.

During this interview, one could hear cheerful supporters singing at least, 100 meters away. They were singing on top of their voices because the team they love reclaimed the top spot from rivals, Kotoko. They were singing because it was another step towards annexing that eluded trophy.

This club, its fans are beginning to believe. The ghost that has haunted this history-making club appears to be on the verge of being exorcised. It’s been about 11 years of emotional trauma. 11 years of losing that trophy-winning credentials, but this might just be the year. Eight games, seven wins, and a draw is a testimony of a club that has regained a deed it was known for in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

However, since the famous flotation of shares, since that famous sacking of Kosta Papic for losing bizarrely to nine-men King Faisal in 2009, this club, that adores history, has not been anywhere near the pedestal, many claims they deserve.

Supporters have often taken Board Chairman Togbe Afede, XIV, to cleaners for what they say, is mismanagement of a club they have loved for years, his hidden critics have questioned his desire to win laurels; they never lose an opportunity to reprise what a few say, ‘running a one-man show’ and that ‘Hearts is not a one-man club,’ but since the arrival of Samuel Boadu the fortunes of this Oak family seem to be on a track never seen in recent years, and that has gotten a disunited family united.

This weekend, when the players walk out of that tunnel to face Kotoko, their enemies who have a knack for ending their parties, 10,000 eyeballs will be on the stands to witness what could be a history-changing era, while millions will be watching from home.

Physically, many will be afar, but emotionally, they will be closed with a deep breath and a sense of belongingness, expecting Boadu and his boys to cross that line.

The stakes in the game are higher — it was expected considering the two clubs are level on points. Hearts have not lost a game in 10 outings, while Kotoko has not lost any in 11 games. Though this might not be a destiny-defining match, it is certainly a hurdle when crossed successfully, it will be about catching me if you can.

Kotoko coach Mariano Baretto said “we are facing each match to win the league”, but this game goes beyond just the outcome to help win the league. It is a game with many storylines, but the ultimate storyteller will be Daniel Laryea, the matchday referee.

Kotoko supporters brazenly wrote a letter and copied the presidency, alleging manipulation of matches in favour of Hearts. A planned demonstration against the Ghana FA was halted recently. Some of the placards had inscriptions, “GFA, STOP THE HATE” and “ASANTE KOTOKO WANTS FAIR PLAY.”

It is within the right of supporters to demand fair play if they have any reservations. They have seen more than enough to hold a suspicion.

For instance, when the clock ticked 48:37 seconds, the cameras caught the eyeballs of Nii Odartey Lamptey, interim head coach of Elmina Sharks, he looked visibly distressed, his fingers holding his waist; he balanced his body to the right, and back to the left before lifting his right hand, and pointed a finger to pitch, murmuring some words in unison of his gesture to his assistant coach who was on the touchline with him.

The noise in the stadium could not permit one to hear him unleash his emotions: It was not vicious. It was not belligerent, but one could tell, reading from the movement of his lips, a complaint about a penalty awarded against his team seven minutes earlier.

The ball had hit the shoulder of Kingsley Adjei, a partisan crowd screamed for a penalty, referee, Maxwell Owusu, initially unsure of the appropriate decision – ignoring the appeal from players and supporters or awarding a penalty, pointed to the spot.

Elmina Sharks would later protest, but could not overturn the decision. They rather ended up losing a man for being badass towards Mr. Owusu.

He showed his power, one that is superior to anyone at the stadium. The ramifications of his arbitral award were dire: the emotional toll on Sharks, and his ‘incompetence’ exposed.

It would get worse as he overruled his assistant’s flag for the penalty to be retaken because Sharks goalkeeper Osei was off his line before Aidoo took the kick.

Matchday color commentator, Jude Acheampong said “…he is making a mess of himself here,” in a tone that sounded flummoxed at the decisions.

 

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