Source: Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo/ Daily Graphic
The two DDs who carry the destinies of the two most celebrated clubs — Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko — at such a time as this in Ghana’s soccer history have a lot in common.
In terms of ambition, philosophy, age, colour, dress code, demeanour on and off the field and all, there is very little to choose between them.
But come Sunday at the national stadium in Accra, these two great students of the game – David Duncan and Didi Dramani – will be under intense pressure in their third back-to-back clash to fulfil the joy of their respective fans with a much-needed victory to reverse the trend of stalemates between them in recent times.
Last season, Duncan instantly won the confidence of the Phobian family after preparing a depleted Hearts side within a week to force a barren draw in Kumasi against an in-form Kotoko side.
Dramani had his chance to retaliate in the second round tie in Accra but could only force a 1-1 draw as well, as Kotoko needed a delicate Kofi Nti Boakye equaliser to cancel a Winful Cobbinah lead.
Too early in the day though, a win for either side in this epic Week Two cliffhanger could provide a clue for this season’s championship and set the stage for a potential league decider in Kumasi in the return leg.
Technically, astute Duncan is desperately seeking to clinch his first major silverware with a well-drilled Phobian side, to be led in attack by new-found Amidaus striker Selassie Adjei, while fellow tactician Dramani is eyeing a personal second straight league title success to complete an enviable treble for the Porcupine Warriors, with a rich blend of battle-tested players, including Michael Helegbe, Michael Akuffo and former Hearts defender, Akwasi Bobie Ansah.
And as expected, both coaches are targeting a win this time around with total team play as their main strength other than individual star players.
Mind you, Hearts and Kotoko have lost their clinical finishers in the persons of Mahatma Otoo and Nti Boakye to foreign clubs, leaving Duncan and Dramani with no choice than to bank their hopes on other potentials.
The two giants enter this big game with first week victories, made possible by new kids on the block who will be in the spotlight on Sunday.
For Hearts, the star attraction will be the unsung offensive midfielder Emmanuel Hayford, whose brace nailed New Edubiase at Bekwai, while Kotoko will depend largely on in-form striker Seidu Bancey, who scored again in their 2-1 triumph over Aduana Stars at Sunyani last Sunday.
But for Duncan, boy wonder Winful Cobbinah remains the most influential player in his set-up despite believing in the capability of all his players. Didi also believes in total team performance, and that for him will be his trumpcard on Sunday.
But unlike Didi, Duncan has some injury worries to grapple with as Hayford and Stephen Tetteh are still doubtful, while tireless skipper Moro Abubakari is out through suspension. The fate of Hayford is expected to be decided today.
“We are going to fight and win this time. We have the men and they are all prepared for the match,” an ever-confident Duncan assured in an interview with the Graphic Sports yesterday.
“We deem this to be just another league match and we are psyching up the players to go out there and play their good, purposeful and possessive football to thrill the fans and carry the day. What is important is to get the three points,” the calm and soft-spoken Dramani told the Graphic Sports in a separate interview yesterday.
Beyond the outcome of the game, however, Didi had a message for officials and followers of Kotoko and Hearts ahead of this cracker:
“We should use May 9 (Disaster) as a guide and, therefore, stay away from any act that can incite the fans into violence,” he advised.
At Tema, Amidaus Professionals host Berekum Chelsea tomorrow, while Ashantigold face Liberty Professionalss at Obuasi, King Faisal welcome Heart of Lions to Kumasi, and Medeama play host to Bechem United at Tarkwa all on Sunday.
At Cape Coast, Dwarfs play Hasaacas in a cross-border clash, Aduana Stars battle Inter Allies at Dormaa-Ahenkro, while Wa All Stars vie with New Edubiase United at Wa.