Ahead of the club’s latest continental campaign that kicks off in Nairobi next weekend, Asante Kotoko has never been more confident about its prospects.
Much of that belief is drawn from the squad available to head coach Charles Akunnor: players with varied profiles bonded by the common goal of fulfilling individual desires and the club’s lofty ambitions.
Of the lot, though, none could be hungrier than Daniel Nii Adjei, the one-time fan favorite who has just returned from a hugely successful sojourn abroad. Ironically, Adjei should probably be the least hungry of the men registered by Kotoko for Africa — but he isn’t, with his craving for glory still as strong as was the case before he left these shores for pastures greener elsewhere in Africa six years ago.
“I’m optimistic we will get closer to the [CAF Confederation Cup] trophy [as] we are in good shape and we have the confidence to play,” Adjei told Kumasi-based Fox FM prior to departing for Kenya as one of 18 players in Kotoko’s traveling party.
“I won two CAF Confederation Cup trophies and a Champions league trophy at TP Mazembe and I want to do same now at Kotoko.”
Adjei, one of an elite few Ghanaian footballers to have tasted action at the FIFA Club World Cup, isn’t merely playing Oliver Twist. International titles he may have won for fun during his adventures overseas — the most recent being a CAF Super Cup winners’ medal collected during a brief stint at Morocco’s Wydad Athletic Club in February — but Adjei knows similar accomplishments in a Kotoko shirt would feel so much more special. Kotoko — as Adjei himself revealed in an interview sometime in 2016 — “is [his] boyhood club and a club [his] family supports,” for whom he excelled at the beginning of his professional career.
In that time, Adjei made the center of the park a domain where he reigned supreme — ‘Ga Mantse’ they called him, remember? — and won a couple of titles, signing off with silverware as skipper. Adjei’s brilliance drew a cult following which lionized him at Kotoko, monitored his exploits while away, and willed him right back home.
And ‘home’ is where Adjei now finds himself — just in time for Kotoko’s 2018/19 Confederation Cup mission. The Porcupine Warriors haven’t reached the group stage of an inter-club competition in a decade, long before Adjei’s first stint ended, and the former Norchip youth would be keen to help end that drought. Of course, from a player aged a ripe old 30, head coach Akunnor and Kotoko fans can’t expect too much in the way of high-octane performances, even if Adjei still got enough juice to be nominated for the most recent SWAG Footballer of the Year gong.
He isn’t as limber as goalkeeper Felix Annan, as zippy as young Maxwell Baako, or as eager-to-please as attacking import Yacouba Songne. Still, Adjei comes with his own toolbox, furnished with an asset Kotoko have a great need of right now: a winning mindset acquired in Kumasi and refined in Lubumbashi.
“When you play for a big club, you have to convince every day,” Adjei said in the aforementioned interview. “You need to have this responsibility. You have to be hungry and want to improve every day. If you don’t have this mentality, you can’t play for a big club.”
Hopefully, that’s a lesson Adjei’s new Africa-bound teammates — the undecorated and those only having one domestic trophy or the other to their name — imbibe quickly enough. And Adjei doesn’t necessarily have to be on the pitch to impart his rich experience.
He might not start many games under Akunnor — or probably not feature at all on occasion — while the armband wouldn’t be reclaimed from current skipper Amos Frimpong, but Adjei would still have ample opportunity to demonstrate the sort of leadership he slammed Frimpong for lacking shortly before sealing his comeback.
With all Adjei could teach — and the class of willing and fast learners at his feet — Kotoko can’t go wrong. Or can they?