The build up to every Kotoko-Hearts game is largely dominated by off the field issues. Superstition, numerology and spiritual prowess take center stage as “footballing war” is declared. A game of 90 minutes is played behind the scenes for days before the main act is staged.
The “drama” continues on match day from arrival of the teams in unusual ways to giving of team sheets down to the warm-up in unorthodox ways. Coming out of the tunnel for kick-off also takes a special form based on the recommendation from spiritual consultation but when the referee sets the game in motion, the 22 players on the field as well as the ball will make all the headlines.
Here, we look at the 4 protagonists who can decide the second round of the 2017 Ghana Premier League tie between both sides either with a kick from their boot, a body swerve or even a header.
SADDICK ADAMS (BULLDOZER)
One of Ghana’s stars at the 2007 U-17 World Cup in Korea is a typical definition of a defender’s nightmare. Great upper body strength and willingness to chase every loose ball trying to make a nuisance of himself. Saddick has pace and clever close control which could see him make the best out of tight situations and wriggle his way out of trouble. Above all, he packs power in his shots and a proven expert in set-pieces as well. An all-round striker for the Porcupines who will certainly bulldoze his way through the Hearts defence.
Expectation: Saddick and Vincent Atingah to have a little coming together in the game at some point. The pair had a little fracas in the President’s Cup.
THOMAS ABBEY ( “ADWUMAWURA”)
Abbey was not the preferred starter for the left wing role at the beginning of the season but by dint of hard work and sheer persistence, he has become the first name of Nuttall’s team sheet and a mainstay. To be more precise, he is the prime source of goals for the Phobians. Aside his goals and Abbey is known for his work rate. He basically covers every blade of grass and despite being deployed as part of the “2” behind Kwame Kizito in Hearts 3-4-2-1 formation, the captain is seen everywhere. In addition to his “adwumawura” levels, he his blessed with good skill and pace to take on markers and beat them.
Expectation: Abbey will be seen everywhere on the Baba Yara pitch but he will be prominent in goal scoring positions attacking the ball from deep. Difficult to pin a marker on him.
BABA MAHAMA (SPARK)
It took Techiman’s “Football President” time to settle in Kotoko and it was worth the wait. Mahama is one of the technically gifted footballers in the league at the moment who possess lots of tricks and skills. He thrives in systems where creativity and freedom are expressed and it comes as no surprise he is beginning to reach the level Kotoko fans expect him to be since the arrival of Steven Pollack. Often deployed on the left side of midfield, Mahama drifts inside with the ball into central to act as the main creative force of the team. His presence on the ball is usually a “spark” for the Kotoko attack with the Porcupines set to draw lots of fouls with his deft touches and flair.
Expectation: An intriguing battle between Mahama and Fatawu Mohammed to unfold down the flank but fans should expect him coming central at times to create some magic.
WINFUL COBBINAH (LIFE)
It is pretty ironic he is also nicknamed “life” but it certainly cannot be a coincidence because he is the heartbeat of the team. Cobbinah sends the Hearts in motion and dictates the tempo for the team. His skill and flicks are needed the most in a game of this tight nature and his ability to thread a pass is his biggest weapon heading into the game. His second coming to Hearts has meant a shift in role for him, one which has served himself as well as the team well. Often deployed as a second striker or right winger who cut inside under David Duncan, Cobbinah has now moved to a central midfield position where he sees and reads the game ahead of him. A trait he has mastered due to his maturity and better understanding of the game now.
Expectation: Cobbinah will dazzle and produce a lot of “wow” moments but he will be subjected to some interesting battle with tough tackling midfielders Jackson Owusu and Seth Opare .
Aside these four, there are a few expectations:
Patrick Razak will torment Kotoko with his pace but will be wasteful in the final third.
Emmanuel Gyamfi to put the Hearts left side to test. Isaac Mensah has been deployed as a left wing back in the last few games but his strength is in the final third not defensively. Ghandi Kassenu has not featured since being taken off at halftime against Ashantigold.
Full backs for Kotoko (Amos Frimpong & Eric Donkor) and Wing backs for Hearts (Fatawu Mohammed & Isaac Mensah) will be very dominant and the best pair could prove decisive.
Leonard Tawiah will have to put in a huge shift in the center of midfield to compliment Winful Cobbinah who seems to wander when the team is without the ball.