WAFA in coma: Will Academy Boys be able to survive relegation?

The West African Football Academy (WAFA) are 17th with just 23 points after 24 rounds of matches, but also just two points separates them from safety…

 WAFA in coma: Will Academy Boys be able to survive relegation?

Since Bonaventure Kalou‘s talent wowed the hallowed Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Netherlands to set up WAFA in 1999 in Ghana, the club has seen significant progress over the years, not least their promotion into the Ghana Premier league.

The club has been on an upward trajectory since. The main aim was, and still remains, providing a platform to raw talents to nurture them into refined products, and a serve as a conveyer belt to Europe, especially Feyenoord.

Playing in the Ghana Premier league was never a do-or- die affair for them, but everyone knew it would facilitate their mission at the talent factory – providing a platform for raw-talents to develop before their transition into main Europe.

Winning the GPL has never been a mission since coming into the league, as former WAFA head Coach, John Killa perfectly summed up the main ambition of the team years back: “My team is an academy team so I prefer the last one.

“I don't need to become a champion. Not at all. I have not a team for that. I mean Kotoko, Aduana and AshGold; they are better sides and they are big clubs. I have an academy team.

"My aim is to finish as high as possible and maybe two or three of our players can go outside to sign contracts then I am very happy.”

That’s the purpose of WAFA; a platform for selling players. Finito!

But they’ve been a mainstay in the GPL since the 2014/15 season making huge strides each season. They’ve consistently been a mid-table team but a couple of top four finishes have also been achieved – second in 2016/17 and third 2020/21.

Due to the defined seamless system at the club, they’ve continued to perform remarkably even with player sales each season and have fashioned a unique style of play for all the teams from the junior side to the main team. Same system but different players who understand the philosophy and principles underpinning their play.

Before this season, WAFA had built a fortress in Sogakope – their over 50 games unbeaten run at home came to an end when they lost 1-0 to Ashanti Gold at the Arena, before losing by 3-2 last season to Accra Great Olympics.

Since adopting the Red Bull Arena on 21st January, 2015, they made it hard for opponents to come there and win, but surprisingly they’ve now lost more games this season at home than in the last six years.

Visiting the Red Bull was as dreadful as the lion’s den – opponents celebrated stalemates like victories and losing was normalized because it became almost like a certainty for away teams. You dare not win over there.

Three slips at the hitherto unblemished arena;

0-1 King Faisal

0-1 Ashanti Gold and

0-1 Karela United.

It signals a deep crack in the hallowed Sogakope-talent factory and the fortress. A crack in the entire system that has been oiled to churn out results 24/7.

More worrying is the fact that the system known to unleash an avalanche of goals against opponents is no longer functioning properly, with WAFA now at the receiving end of their own previously lethal dose.

Surprising, isn’t it?

You remember the famous 5-0 massacre of Hearts of Oak in 2016/17, the 5-0 annihilation of Hasaacas in 2016, the 5-0 embarrassment of Dreams FC in 2018, the 6-1 demolition of Ashanti Gold in 2020 and the 5-0 drubbing of Liberty last season?

This is the WAFA we’ve known since they joined the Ghana premier league in 2014. To be specific, WAFA haven’t won a single away game this season.

And astonishingly, they've averaged less than one point per game this season – 23 points from 24 matches so far.

WAFA have also scored less than one goal per game on average – 15 goals in 24matches and conceded more than one goal per 90minutes – 29 goals in 24matches thus far.

The 5-0 humiliation suffered at the hands of the ‘Miners' isn’t that embarrassing on face value but astonishingly pathetic if you watched the game. WAFA is a known good loser – playing good football even when they lose

But it wasn’t the case this time around and mostly throughout this season. Their performances have been atrocious and it signals something remarkably wrong at the club.

Interestingly, WAFA, who finished in the top four last season, looks lacklustre and disjointed. Just last week, Ashanti Gold castrated the ‘Academy boys' by five unanswered goals to extend their winless away record to twelve this season.

They were structure-less, hopeless and purposeless in their play against an inconsistent Ashanti Gold team. Not a pleasant sight for the viewers and supporters who went to the Len clay.

WAFA is unfortunately in a coma-intensive care unit – and they need a ventilator to supply oxygen to be resuscitated by a hopeful doctor. Coach Guillermo Zaragoza is hopeful of turning things around, though.

“With me I have experience in coaching so I have a 24-hour role and after the 24-hour role you have to move forward and go after the next game... with the players this week we will be working psychological this week more than anything else to prepare for the next match.

“We’ve to take the points (against Berekum Chelsea) and we were hoping to take the points here. The last four matches we’ve played I think coming from the Hearts match we had so much hope, the technical team and everyone around in camp, really that we will take the points in this match because we’ve been performing well but this is a bit short.”

Their remaining matches – Berekum Chelsea, Medeama, Asante kotoko, Elmina Sharks, Accra Lions, Dreams, Bechem United, Babiani Gold Stars, Eleven Wonders and Karela United – looks interestingly unpredictable and astonishingly scarier considering WAFA’s form this season.

Now, it remains to be seen whether WAFA will be able to respond to the call of the gaffer by surviving relegation.

Like a patient in a coma responding to the doctor’s treatment. We live to see their ultimate fate.

By: Abdul Razak Salim

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