Forget form guides and tactics; fixtures between Kotoko and Hearts operate on a custom-made plane of logic
By: Sammie Frimpong
Suffice to say it’s now widely accepted that, whenever Asante Kotoko play Hearts of Oak, tactics, style and form guides are temporarily thrown out of the window.
Apparently, it matters very little who’s playing better or has the lesser momentum when the duo cross swords on any platform. And so as the latest instalment of the famous ‘Super Clash’ is honored today at the Accra Sports Stadium, coaches Kenichi Yatsuhashi and Michael Osei of Kotoko and Hearts respectively would do well to give themselves and their players a break, as they watch one or more of the following factors come into play for 90-odd minutes.
When Kotoko play Hearts, the scent of superstition — real or perceived — heavily saturates the air. Soothsayers emerge with all sorts of predictions, even detailing the minutes during which goals — if there’d indeed be any — would be scored. Team managers may sprinkle concoctions on the pitch pre-match, while one camp wouldn’t hesitate to accuse the other of more subtle forms of voodoo practice if there is the faintest reason to be suspicious. In the end, the side with the stronger package of black magic presumably wins — a draw probably means the forces employed by the clubs neutralised each other.
For many Kotoko fans, the sole hope their struggling team has of not losing to the high-flying old enemy in Accra tomorrow hangs on the ‘fact’ that the Reds have never lost to Hearts on a public holiday in the capital. Absurd to you, perhaps, but such reasoning makes perfect sense to the millions who support Kotoko and Hearts, with ‘experts’ scouring the archives to provide tons of such proof before each ‘Super Clash’. To some, that’s really all that matters.
And, sometimes, it’s reduced to debate over who wears what. Believers would tell you Kotoko don’t lose to Hearts when donning a certain shade of red, or that the Phobians, when in full ‘rainbow’ gear, are almost invincible. There even was an occasion during the early noughties when, in Accra, the game wouldn’t kick off because neither outfit would blink first in resolving a clash of colours. It’s that deep!
Rarely are match officials tasked to handle duels between Kotoko and Hearts rated highly by both sides. In fact, if a certain referee is approved of by one club, he’s unlikely to be in the other’s good books, and trust the latter to recount every single instance in the past they ever felt victimised by said official. It could even be a ‘simple’ issue of which part of Ghana the fellow hails from. Heck, recall that, for the 2004/05 championship decider between the pair, a referee had to be brought in from neighbouring Togo just so the contestants could be assured of ‘neutrality’?
Depending on what’s at stake in a certain meeting between Kotoko and Hearts, one could decide where to place his money with relative confidence. Hearts are generally considered the safer bet in a cup final, while Kotoko, if it’s no more than just three points on offer, are usually the club to back.
For teams that pride themselves with the support enjoyed when playing before their own, it’s a tad ironic that Kotoko, on recent evidence, claim they’re more ‘at home’ playing Hearts away, while their archrivals would also refer to the ambience at the Baba Yara Stadium as one they’ve found hugely favourable over the years. It’s why many tip Kotoko, though not in top shape, to hold their own on Monday. After all, they’re playing in Accra, right?