HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: OKWAHU LOOKS TO NANIA FOR INSPIRATION

The team from Nkawkaw readies itself for one giant leap which could return it to better times once enjoyed

By: Sammie Frimpong

It had almost become the forgotten club of Ghanaian football, but Okwahu United has suddenly lunged into the consciousness of football fans this side of the Atlantic — and probably beyond — with the ticket it just secured to the 2016 MTN FA Cup final.

Defeating Liberty Professionals, once its Premier League peers, in the competition’s semi-final over the weekend only represents the latest step in Okwahu’s bittersweet mission of redemption.

Okwahu, one of Ghana’s more renowned ‘traditional’ clubs, had long been a regular feature in the national top-flight, before losing that status when relegated in 2005. The ensuing 11 seasons have been fraught with frustration in the form of near-misses and depressing lows. The most crushing of those came in 2007 when arguably the greatest match-fixing scandal yet in Ghanaian football history — don’t hold your breath on the brewing 2014 Fifa World Cup qualification mess eclipsing it — had Okwahu, along with three other ultimately ‘convicted’ lower-league clubs, embroiled. Okwahu infamously succumbed by a 31-0 score to Ghana legend Abedi Ayew’s Nania FC, a result apparently arranged so the latter could have an edge over Great Mariners (who themselves bested Tudu Mighty Jets 28-0 in the other game) in the race for promotion to the national championship. That controversy got Okwahu demoted a tier, but the club’s quest for a quick return to Ghana football’s high table was done far greater harm.

Needless to say, the Asaase Aban haven’t quite looked like recovering — until now.

Okwau-bus

Okwahu’s run to the August 28 final has certainly been eventful. The Nkawkaw-based side sunk six opponents en route, including four from the Premier League. They’ve also held their nerve when it’s mattered, nailing Hasaacas and Liberty via shootouts. Now run by freshly sworn-in Member of Parliament for Abetifi, Bryan Acheampong, Okwahu truly have their sights set high. Eight points off the top and 4th on the Division One Zone 3 table, progress to the Premier League in the not-too-distant future — even this term — isn’t entirely out of reach.

The immediate focus, of course, would be on winning a second FA Cup title (from four finals) — three decades after their first — and re-establishing themselves as a force of repute on the domestic scene. For inspiration, Okwahu could look no further than one-time co-conspirators Nania, who themselves salvaged some honour with their own FA Cup triumph just five years ago when they became the first club outside Ghana’s Premier League elite to lift the trophy.

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Okwahu United got the better of Liberty Professionals to set up an MTN FA Cup final date with Bechem FC

And should they succeed against Bechem United in Cape Coast, Okwahu could outdo the Pride of Paga by participating in African club competition — namely, the Caf Confederation Cup — for the first time in a very long while and make a mark while at it.

For an outfit once so great that it had been steered by some of Ghana’s most brilliant tactical minds — the likes of Sam Arday, Emmanuel Afranie, Francis Oti Akenteng, Herbert Addo and the late Jones Attuquayefio have all been at the helm at some point in history — it’s the least Okwahu deserves.

 

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