Tuesday 4 July 2017, Kumasi.
Monday’s GHALCA President Cup contested by Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak is one that will go down in history as one of the most eventful Cup finals in the country. A football game that saw everything – the good, the bad and the ugly and the very , very, ugly.
From William Abgovi’s horrible officiating through the extremely bloodied clashes between Kotoko’s Sadick Adams – the eventual hero in the game – and Hearts of Oak’s Vincent Atingah – one of the villains in the penalty shoot-out to the world-class winning penalty kick from the anomalous Sadick.
ALSO – Kotoko won the penalty shoot-out 4-1 after a goalless draw in 90 minutes. Amos Frimpong, Evans Quao, Jackson Owusu and Sadick Adams scored all four kicks of Steve Polack’s side whilst for Hearts of Oak, Vincent Atingah and Robin Gnagne failed to score with only Richard Akrofi succeeding with his kick.
69 minutes gone. Asante Kotoko 0 Hearts of Oak 0. Sadick Adams – who started the rained off game the previous day – came off the bench for Yakubu Mohammed and at this time the tallest man on the pitch – Atingah – knew his biggest enemy in a Kotoko shirt has entered the pitch.
Indeed the bad blood between the defender and the striker started on Sunday – in the rained off contest – which would continue on Monday and so I wasn’t surprised at all this sorry incident occurred.
For Atingah – Sadick Adams is not a Yakubu Mohammed whose technique and intelligence on the ball is nothing dangerous for any defender handed the responsibility of marking Yakubu but for Sadick , a complete striker , who almost joined Hearts of Oak last season, Atingah who is not a ball playing center back has his methods of handling intelligent and sharp strikers – the methods of some strong and rough play to instill fear in the rivals he is tasked to mark. This is very common for most center backs whose mantra is – “Don’t give the striker an inch”. Atingah gave Yakubu inches in 69 minutes and no havoc was caused by Yak as he is affectionately called by the fans – but if he gave Sadick an inch, he knew his team is likely to get punished.
But Atingah got it all wrong. He was not intelligent with his rough play. First of all the two-footed challenge on Emmanuel Gyamfi in the first half was equally a red card incident – but the horrible referee Agbovi never even brandished a yellow and at this point the FIFA referee lost control of the game, the game appeared bigger and bigger than him and his assistants.
Atingah’s stamp on Sadick was wicked – one that could end the career of any player. It was ugly as referee Agbovi whistled for the foul but once again no admonition was given – something that – perhaps – angered the fouled Sadick to react in that embarrassing and unprofessional manner throwing blows all over at the Hearts of Oak defender – which I condemn with a loud voice.
Was it intentional or inadvertent, the Atingah tackle ?
I have no doubt Atingah did that advertently just like Sadick’s intentionally kicked Atingah in the 77th minute – which forced Agbovi to finally look for his cards to show yellow to both players . Atingah is too smart a person – one of the best defenders this season for me – he knew what he did. He went into the tackle to foul the Kotoko striker and we have seen this many many times where a player dishes out some of this dirty plays. It was an intentional bad tackle from the Phobia defender.
Yes, Atingah was not mandated to say sorry to Sadick after fouling him but a sorry from him would have represented an act of good sportsmanship from a pro. In high tempo games , some of these things happen – football is an emotional sport where Zinedine Zidane lost his temper and decided to head-butt Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup finals instead of reporting to the center referee – as the Italian used some “stupid” words on the France maestro. The difference here is that whilst Zidane was sent off for retaliation and Materazzi stayed on to win the World Cup, Sadick Adams still stayed on underlining how bad referee Agbovi was. The Kotoko striker should have been sent off for violent conduct.
But don’t also forget this is football. There is never football without risk. The game is a risky game. Once you accept to be a footballer, it means you have accepted the risks in it. This is just like any other risky profession. Joseph Hendricks, Daniel Coleman, Agyeman Duah, Nana Gyamfi, mention them. These were tough tackling defenders who made sure strikers don’t mess up with them. You cannot overrule this in football – its a beautiful game that we all love but at the same time it is also the dirty sport we all hate.
But whose duty is it to minimize the risk and to protect players ?
Its the referees. Atingah – inadvertently or advertently threatened the career of Sadick who just recovered from an initial injury but the poor referee Agbovi never cautioned the defender. Giving the foul was not enough. He should have shown at least a yellow to warn him. Sadick reacted in an unprofessional manner but he is only human – I am not endorsing his reaction but then he’s got a pro career that feeds him and his family – in the same way Atingah protected his life by shielding his eyes with his hands when Sadick threw the blow at him. What did Atingah do? He was protecting his life and career. Something is paramount here – life and career.
Not to mince words. I support praiseworthy efforts but never endorsed shameful and embarrassing incidents that happen in our football and for me the referees headed by William Agbovi delivered a really bad refereeing – even GHALCA would not be impressed with their performances in the game.
After all I was right in my preview that Mr Agbovi – banned for 8 matches last season for poor refereeing in a league game – is not the type of referee to be awarded this immense game. He proved me right – but actually I did not want to be vindicated. I wanted him prove me wrong with an acceptable level of refereeing excellence but he failed.
I have listened some commentaries from other referees who sought to explain why Agbovi did not show any red cards to Sadick and Atingah that any red cards in the President Cup means sent-off players will be suspended for the next premier league games since the President Cup counts as an official competition of the GFA. This is just farcical and lacks credibility. That a referee chooses to allow dirty players to stay on the pitch to endanger their careers and lives with rough play and violent conducts?Is that the argument? This is just beyond me and I do not want to even accept this opinion as that of Agbovi.
In the end it was good to see both Sadick and Atingah embrace each other – something that sent the signal that they have resolved all differences.
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