A 5-3 aggregate victory over Cameroon’s Coton Sport Garoua, secured last Sunday, saw Asante Kotoko book their place in the Caf Confederation Cup’s group stage for the first time in 11 years, and the prospect of rubbing shoulders with some of the continent’s best sides — for starters, Nkana FC, ZESCO United and Al-Hilal in Group C — has all involved with the club excited.
Not unexpectedly, there’s talk of Kotoko reinforcing its playing body for the task at hand and, while that’s not a misplaced priority, head coach Charles Akunnor already has a solid core on which to build a challenge. The Tough Tackle picks out some of the players who could lead the charge for the Reds.
Annan covers the least distance on the pitch for Kotoko, but he often does more than most in keeping the Porcupine Warriors competitive. Not much gets past the goal-line when the Ghana international is at post; time and again over the years, Kotoko have found him reliable. Thus far in the Confederation Cup, Annan has conceded four goals in as many games but has borne little blame for those. Going forward, he’d be just as important and, regardless of the odds, Kotoko always have a chance with Annan at his stunning best.
2. AMOS FRIMPONG
Kotoko’s on-pitch leader, ironically, is one of the team’s most underrated regulars. But Amos Frimpong won’t be bothered. With one arm bearing the captain’s band — and the other occasionally in a sling/cast — Frimpong has marshalled his colleagues with elegance, often oozing a level of composure never fully appreciated until he converts from the spot under great pressure (as he’s already done twice in the current African campaign).
He may not be Kotoko’s greatest ever right-back, but Frimpong could yet prove the club’s most successful skipper of the 21st Century should he hoist the 2018/19 Caf Confederation Cup trophy. In what remains of the mission to make that happen, trust Frimpong to come to the fore.
3. DANIEL NII ADJEI
Once upon a time, Adjei himself was skipper of Kotoko. These days, wearied and worn by a long but richly rewarding sojourn abroad, he doesn’t get to do much on matchday. The 30-year-old featured in the first game of Kotoko’s campaign, away to Kariobangi Sharks in Kenya, but hasn’t been involved in the three fixtures that have followed. Not that it matters; Adjei needn’t play to wield his influence, as he beats any other player in the Kotoko setup for sheer experience and success.
With more continental silverware than all his teammates combined, Adjei has a responsibility to impart some of his remarkable winning mentality to those likelier to be picked by Akunnor. And should the gaffer grant good old Adjei some minutes to show what’s left in those two lovely feet of his, well, even better!
4. MAXWELL BAAKOH
Baakoh is one of a kind — that much has been easily apparent despite signing for Kotoko not quite three months ago. His quality on the ball and eye for the spectacular — on show especially against Coton Sport when he scored in style during both legs — would add a lot more potency and sparkle to Kotoko’s attack, while making Baakoh’s fellow forwards look good.
5. YACOUBA SONGNE
One player looking to feed off Baakoh’s creative juices is Burkinabe import Songne Yacouba. Initially tipped to be Kotoko’s chief source of goals earlier in the campaign, Yacouba has failed to net thus far, surprisingly, but he’s assisted others in doing so — three times already.
Watching him, it’s easily apparent that Yacouba hasn’t operated at optimum levels of fitness and form, a challenge requiring extra work from Kotoko’s technical staff and the player himself to fix. Should he rediscover his cutting edge, Yacouba would answer a lot of lingering questions for the club in front of goal.
6. RICHARD SENANU
And then there is Senanu, the consummate ‘water-carrier’. For a player who moves around so much, doing all the work that keeps Kotoko’s engine humming smoothly, he doesn’t get nearly enough credit. He’s the lubricant, the fan-belt, the ‘connection man’ — all that, but still ‘invisible’. And maybe that’s Senanu’s biggest asset. When least conspicuous, Senanu is at his most efficient — Kotoko’s ‘secret’ weapon, as it were.
With the former Phar Rangers man holding down the midfield alongside partner Kwame Bonsu, Kotoko are well-anchored to spring towards greater heights.