Football rivalries in Ghana that made the game better

Rivalry in football is one essential aspect of the game and the feel of witnessing a rival club lose is always great.

Some of the popular rivalries in football are the Classicos between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Madrid derby between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, the Reds derby between Manchester United and Liverpool, London derbies like Chelsea versus Arsenal or Arsenal against TottenhamHotspur and the Milan derby between AC Milan and Inter Milan.

There is also the rivalry between individual players in football - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane and Figo, Zidane and Luis Ronaldo, Lampard and Gerrard, Pele and Maradona, Rivera and Mazzola plus a lot more.

Ghana is no exception to the impact of rivalry on football. The beautiful game in the West African country was built on local rivalries.

To generate much excitement, the first 1958 Ghanaian topflight league which was organised after struggles in organising the 1956-57 edition ensured that the matchday one fixtures were all local derbies in the four traditional soccer cities in Ghana.

In Kumasi, Asante Kotoko played against Corners Stones, while Accra Hearts of Oak took on Gt. Olympics in the capital.

In Secondi, Eleven Wise were paired with Hasaacas, with Ebusua Dwarfs taking on Vipers at Cape Coast.

Taking a look at some of the fierce rivalry in Ghanaian football, here are a few fixtures that have shaped the game:

Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak

The Accra giants and the Kumasi giants have a rivalry which dates back into times. The two clubs command the largest following in the country and situated in the two biggest cities in Ghana.

This rivalry is always refreshing.

The mere fact that they are are the two most successful clubs in the country automatically creates some kind of tension between.

Fans of either side always feel disturbed when their idol club suffer a defeat in the hands of the other and players always fight their hearts out since such matches could turn things around for them in a positive manners.

Over the years, it's been a trend of hunger strikes for fans when their idol clubs lose.

Fufu being the favourite food for Kotoko fans, trolls talk about the loss of appetite and food going into the trash when Hearts defeat the Kumasi club.

The first league game generated so much tension between the two cubs it had to end abruptly because Kotoko who were losing in front of their home fans had a player, Moro Gargo, refuse to walk off the field after he was sent off.

Players from the losing end sometimes weep when things don't go in their favour.

For instance, Mama Acquah, who was the oldest player in the Hearts of Oak team wept as if he had lost a wife or parent when Asante Kotoko scored three unanswered goals to beat the team in Accra in the year 1980.

One significant aspect of the rivalry between Kotoko and Hearts was the transfer of Charles Taylor from Hearts of Oak to Asante Kotoko.

Taylor was the most exciting player on the local scene in the early 2000's and after helping Hearts win the CAF Champions League in 2000,  Asante Kotoko under an ambitious chairman Sylvestre Asare Owusu made him his major transfer target.

It was always going to be difficult transfer, but Asante Kotoko in dire need of his services used an inappropriate means by inducing the player into committing his future with the club, without thinking of the consequence.

Hearts of Oak took the matter to FIFA and although the Porcupine Warriors were asked to pay a fine to Hearts for a breach of contract, they secured the transfer of the player after a tug of war.

Another height of the rivalry between the two Ghanaian giants was when Hearts of Oak edged Kotoko on penalties in the first ever continental final played by clubs from the same country in the maiden CAF Confederation Cup in 2004.

The Phobians won the bragging right and painted Kumasi red.

Asante Kotoko and Corners Stones

Asante Kotoko and Corners Stones are both based in Kumasi.

Asante Kotoko, mostly drives their support from the typical Twi people, while Corners had large of their support base from the Fante settlers in Kumasi, precisely Asem area.

These were the two biggest clubs in the Ashanti region, so naturally there would be a bit of struggle for supremacy between them.

To make the rivalry intensive, Corners Stones formed alliance with Accra Hearts of Oak, who are Kotoko's sworn rivals, while Asante Kotoko also teamed up with Gt. Olympics, Hearts of Oak's city rivals.

The rivalry was a big driving force in terms of spectatorship. The stadium was always packed to capacity during games of that nature.

Another twist to the genesis of their rivalry was that, every young talented footballer in Kumasi's dream to play for Asante Kotoko.

As a result of that, after Corners had nurtured some of the players by giving them the platform to thrive, they eventually lose them to the Porcupine Warriors.

Two of such players became African best after joining Asante Kotoko from Corners Stones; Ibrahim Sunday - 1971 fooballer of the year and Abdul Razak 'Gholden Boy'-1978.

Rivalry between Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak could sometimes be unhealthy, leading to injuries and even death after an unpleasant decision is taken against a side. A clear case scenario was the May 9th disaster which led to the death of 127 people at the Accra port Stadium, following a clash between the Porcupine Warriors and the Phobians in 2001.

Hearts of Oak vs Gt Olympics

Matches between these opposing sides were dubbed the Ga Mantse derby.

It was the biggest local derby in Ghanaian topflight football, because there was a thin line between these Accra giants.

Gt. Olympics which was formed out of troubled stand fast although witnessed their formation four decades after Heart of Oak, had been established in 1911, believed they command the support of the typical Ga people.

These opposing sides had some of the best of quality in Ghana back in the 50's 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's, hence matches between them paraded galaxy of stars who were national team players or potential national team players. Since football fans are interested in players who would entertain them on the field of play with their creativity, they couldn't stay a match day without football action.

Although Gt. Olympics were not as strong as Hearts of Oak, they always gave the Phobians a run for their money and even managed to pick all  the points in  some of their games, making it not a father and son affair giving their games a touch of unpredictability.

The height  of the rivalry between Hearts of Oak and Gt. Olympics was when the latter lured, the starman of the Phobians to join them in the 1970's with huge sums of money and a fridge.

The player in question was Robert Hammond and that earned him the title 'Expensive or Robert 100 dollars Hammond.

Ebusua Dwarfs vs Vipers

There was always fireworks in Cape Coast whenever these sides took on each other.

The rivalry was intensive in the early years of football development in Ghana, but even today that Vipers have lost the spark that made them a powerhouse, there is so much tension between them and Dwarfs when there is an avenue to battle it out.

To make the rivalry exciting and a  bit complicated, the two sides pitched camps with Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak, so during matches between the Accra giants and  the Kumasi giants, fans of the two Cape Coast clubs identify themselves with them.

Vipers fans are supporters of Hearts and  they even go to the extent of assisting them to get a win in Cape Coast against Dwarfs by engaging in all ways and means to let it come to pass and the reverse side goes for fans of Dwarfs and their affiliation with Asante Kotoko.

Hasaacas and Eleven Wise

The people of Sekondi love their football and Wise and Hasaacas provided them reasons to visit the Gyandu Park (the traditional venue for these Sekondi clubs, before the Essipong Sports Stadium took over).

Hasaacas nicknamed the 'Giants of the West' was a big force to reckon with and the same goes for Eleven Wise, affectionately called the 'Western Show Boys'.

Hasaacas have produced great national assets who generated much interest in the game like Isaac Paha, PSK Paha, Aggrey Fyn, etc, while Eleven Wise can also boast of Edward Acquah and Kofi Abbrey.

The the emergence of  Stars in the Western derby ignited the interest. For instance, in the late 1950's and the early 1960's, while Hasaacas had Aggrey Fyn, Eleven Wise had Edward Acquah and these two players who were creative geniuses and goal machines as well were the highlight of the derby and fans were always itching to see them play.

Fans would troop to the stadium with the expectation of getting value for their money by getting entertained by these stars.

Hasaacas and Wise fans like Vipers and Dwarfs supporters also affiliated themselves with Kotoko and Hearts and aside the local rivalry, they extended it whenever the Phobians took on the Porcupine Warriors.

Hasaacas are associated with Kotoko while Eleven Wise relate very well with Hearts of Oak.

They go to the extent of offering helping hands to the Accra giants and the Kumasi giants when they make a trip to Sekondi to face their city rivals, by disclosing the  weaknesses of their city rivals to the opposing side.

Kotoko and Goldfields/AshGold

Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko had monopolized the Ghanaian topflight league for more than a decade from 1978-1993: they were the only two sides who won the league within the 15-year period. It took Goldfields (now AshGold) to break the monopoly.

Kotoko had won the Ghana Premier League - three on the trot- 1991, 1992 and 1993 and for the Miners to deny them the fourth, they aimed at some of their keys players by making them transfer targets. They set a three-year plan to buy big stars from domestic rivals, which Kotoko was the worst culprit and competed for players of top quality on the African continent. For instance, they signed the likes of Agyemang Duah, Osei Kwadwo, Yaw Owusu, Joe Okyere, Opeele Aboagye all from Kotoko.

As a result of this huge spendings by Goldfields, they became the only side with the potentials of stopping Asante and they did that in the 1993-94 season during the maiden Ghana Premier League in the country.

This created much tension between the two big Ashanti clubs and their fans, hence the emergence of the Ashanti derby.

Goldfields (AshGold) dominated the Ghana Premier League winning it for three consecutive times and began to play second fiddle to their regional rivals and the only thing the Kumasi giants could boast of was beating the Miners when they faced off.

AshGold, since their promotion into the Ghanaian topflight league in 1993-94 season had never beaten Kotoko in a league clash, but when they finally won their first title, they also ensured they broke that jinx in 1994.

Bofoakwa and B.A United

The Sunyani derby is always electrifying. There is so much tension between them that fans of the opposing ends sometimes end up in bloody clashes.

Both Bofoakwa and B.A United want to rule the Sunyani city, which has a lot of soccer-loving fans, so they put up splendid displays to put smiles on the faces of their teeming supporters.

Bofoakwa and B.A United like the clubs in Sekondi and Cape Coast, affiliate themselves with Hearts and Kotoko.

Bofoakwa get on well with Hearts of Oak, whereas B.A United relate well with Asante Kotoko.

The rivalry between clubs is sometimes narrowed down to the rivalry between players. Ghana football can account for some individual rivalry.

Mohammed Polo and Abdul Razak

Polo affectionately called the 'Dribbling Magician' and Razak nicknamed the 'Golden Boy' played for Hearts of Oak and Kotoko, respectively.

Both players graced the field as creative midfielders- Polo was a winger, whereas Razak was a central midfielder and since they played for rival clubs and they were more like the face of their clubs, the debate was narrowed down to the two individuals.

The highlight of games between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko in the 1970's was on Mohammed Polo and Abdul Razak.

The fans would engage in hot debate, before and after such games, all to try and settle the score between Abdul Razak and Mohammed Polo.

In the 1978 African Cup of Nations, both players played in the same Black Stars team that won the championship.

Razak, however, outshined Polo and he consequently won the African Player of the Year, but up to date, there is a section of local football fans who believe the former Hearts of Oak winger was a better player than 'Golden Boy'.

Joe Debrah and Shamo Quaye

The last time two individuals influenced the Ghanaian topflight league was in the early 1990's and the players in question were Joe Debrah and Shamo Quaye.

It is very rare these days for fans of local football to troop to the stadium with the aim of getting excitement from individual players.

The era of Shamo Quaye and Joe Debrah had a great impact on local football which is quite fresh in the minds of local football fans.

Both players were goal-getters and also had some touch of creativity and playing for the two bitterest rivals in the country they emerged as newsmakers.

Hearts of Oak fans always rated Shamo Quaye over Joe Debrah, while Asante Kotoko ranked the latter over the former.

Kotoko fans argued that while both players were good goal scorer, Joe Debrah was better on the ball.

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