By: Sammie frimpong
For decades, Real Tamale United — founded in 1976 — were the face of football in Ghana’s northernmost parts.
After the turn of the century, though, RTU hit rock-bottom and have never quite recovered, drowning into oblivion and only remembered favourably by an older generation. Northern Ghana needed a new face and, in Wa All Stars, that fresh representative was found.
All Stars launched themselves onto the scene just around the time RTU started to fade. Actually, the pair did co-exist in the top-flight from 2008 to 2011 when RTU staged a short-lived comeback from relegation. The last of those seasons saw RTU — at the end of their most recent appearance in the Ghana Premier League — demoted again. All Stars nearly went down with them on that occasion, surviving by only three points. It was the lowest the Northern Blues had been in the league — 6th and 7th (twice) had been their lot in their first three campaigns — and they wouldn’t sink to such depths again.
In the seasons that followed, All Stars regained their status as an also-ran, a mid-table club that never set its sights too high and never ended up too low. Even so, they never rose above the 8th achieved in 2013/14 and, falling to 10th next, few foresaw what’s happened this year.
All Stars started 2016 brilliantly, recording consecutive victories in their first two games, including one at Aduana Stars’ daunting Dormaa fortress (the only visiting club to pick maximum points from that venue, impressively).
A few blips aside, the good run continued, as they won more than half of their games in the first round and finished top. Capital club Hearts of Oak were on their heels — spending spells at the summit themselves — till mid-term but, while Enos Adepa’s lads maintained momentum in the season’s second half, their main challengers changed. Hearts switched coaches and slid till their challenge ground to a halt, while rivals Asante Kotoko — undergoing a revival which never really reached maturation — put on the most startling Jekyll-and-Hyde show you’d see in a century.
Neck and neck with All Stars’ now were Aduana, the Brong Ahafo-based club beaten earlier in the season. If Hearts were relentless in their chase before chickening out, resurgent Aduana were nothing short of brutal. A mix of brilliance on the pitch and some rough tactics off it may have sustained Aduana’s quest for a second league crown, but All Stars — no less excellent and far more dignified in their approach especially when things got tense (although the final stretch of their march was almost tainted by a match-fixing scandal into which investigations are ongoing) — always looked the likelier candidate.
And when, on Wednesday, the pair crossed swords in Wa in what was potentially the decider, the hosts made that advantage count. Unfazed neither by the quick equaliser Aduana netted in response to their early opener nor by a spot-kick missed afterwards, All Stars were hungry and determined enough to secure the winner via another penalty, this time coolly converted by Sadiq Alhassan, rendering the outcome of the final round of games irrelevant with respect to the title race. Wa erupted in ecstasy and the rest of northern Ghana — a section of the country long-starved of Premier League glory — with it.
Never mind that All Stars are owned by Ghana Football Association boss Kwesi Nyantakyi; this conquest smacked of no [obvious] foul play and hardly any ‘wind-assisted’ results. And thus All Stars have brought, in only their 10th year of existence (according to Wikipedia, i.e), success RTU — and any other club from northern Ghana, for that matter — couldn’t ever fetch.
Having achieved it so flawlessly, you couldn’t begrudge them a single ounce of the hitherto unclaimed piece of silverware which is the 2016 Ghana Premier League trophy. They are the champions — and very worthily so.