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HEARTS AND KOTOKO, THE END OF A RIVALRY?



Sports, for all the fairness it breeds, also harbors and actually thrives on rivalry. The game of football is no different. The atmosphere of a true rivalry in world football is incomparable. The passion and intensity exhibited at such matches is unparalleled.
Regardless of one's club inclination, there is the likelihood of the club having more than one fierce rival club. A club you never want to lose to. For this reason, such matches are held sacred and fans do not usually want to see it played more often. Just the fear of losing.

Being a global sport, football rivalries cuts across countries. The most revered being those that have long-lived the years and offer high historical stakes. Call it a derby, call it a classic or something entirely different, these games fill the stadiums and get people glued to their devices at homes without wanting to waste a blink of the eye. The Scottish "Old Firm", Celtic Vs Rangers, portrays the divide between Catholics (Celtic) and Protestants (Rangers) through sports in Glasgow.

The Old Firm Rivalry
In Ghana, the long standing rivalry between Hearts of Oaks and Asante Kotoko remains the flagship of the domestic football. This rivalry is based on their location, Accra and Kumasi respectively. The battle for supremacy between the two cities fires this feud. Some also attribute political party divides as the fan that fires the feud.

13 years after selling that spectacular CAF Confederations Cup (2004)final to the world, our two glamorous clubs' fate seems to have taken a downward trend. Hitherto, Hearts had won  6 of the previous 7 premier league titles. The one time they lost out was to Asante Kotoko in 2003. Asante Kotoko had chased that triumph for a decade.

After the 2004 Confederations Cup and league successes, Hearts have experienced only two league successes. This represents their only major titles won in the 13 year period. Having been ranked as the 8th best club in the world in 2001 by CNN, beating Arsenal of London by a point, the club was destined for the rise and nothing less. CAF Super Cup and Champions league winners, domestic league winners in 2000 set this perceived tone of success. The reality? The opposite has been achieved.
2004 CAF Confederations Cup Winners (Hearts of Oaks)
Asante Kotoko has meanwhile attained some domestic success in that same 13 year spell. They have won the league 5 times and lifted the FA cup twice. Having been named as the African Club of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics in 2010, the club cannot be content with domestic achievements. Prior to the 2004 Confederations Cup Final, the club had previously played in 7 different CAF Champions League finals winning 2. 13 years down the line, the club has failed to even attain a spot in the group stage in 9 attempts.

Our coveted rivalry looks certainly to be on the decline. Interestingly our clubs have lost it on and off the field of play. No identified systems of play, lack of physical infrastructure, poor organizational structure and even disregard for the financial opportunity their brands present has engulfed our clubs. Generally, a lack of long-term direction. Short-term goals they say, only yields short-term results.
Mark Noonan (middle) New CEO of Hearts
For the clubs to overturn their current fate, like my friend, Kwadwo Opoku Sarkodie recommends, they must adopt  a strategic plan. This plan must be multi-faceted. Projects and programs to achieve stated goals, objectives and strategies must be well stated and adhered to. This will provide some form of continuity and consistency. Periodic monitoring and evaluation will provide the necessary feedback to ensure that current situations are factored into the general plan.

Many are of the view that beautiful things are not perfect. Hopefully, the new wind blowing around these clubs changes their fortunes. Recent performances by the two clubs during their meetings have exhibited nothing but mediocrity.

Success may fade but rivalries do last forever.



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