July 19th, 2015 — I attended my second game at the Accra Sports Stadium today. However, this time I witnessed the other, less popular, home team of the stadium, the Accra Great Olympic F.C., as they took on Bechem United.
This time, I attempted to find out how to get to the stadium on my own. However, I was a little unlucky. I made the mistake of taking the tro tro to go to the city of Tema, which was 16 miles away, when I actually was supposed to take a ride to “Tema station,” which was a stop within the city of Accra, where I was based. Feeling that the journey was taking longer than expected, I departed the tro tro at the next stop I could and took a cab, which took me directly to Accra Stadium, but I had to agree on paying a 35 cedi ($9) fare when the correct tro tro would have cost 2 cedis (50 cents). The cab driver was a smart lad though — sensing that I was in a hurry, he refused to give me change for the 40 cedis I handed to him because he knew that I wouldn’t be willing to put too long of a fight for it. And he was absolutely correct — having mere minutes before the match was to commence when I arrived, I leapt out and raced to the press box. Well, as former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam would say, when you fail to get things your way, “F.A.I.L” stands for “First Attempt In Learning.” Anyways…
I managed to get to the press box of the stadium and met up with the match commentator, Eric Asante, right as the whistle was being blown. This time, I knew much more of what to expect with how a journalist’s time at soccer games was to be structured. The match starts, the radio calls in for an update during the first half or whenever a goal is scored, halftime happens, radio calls in for a halftime analysis, second half commences, radio calls in, match ends, fan interview, and press conference.
However, this time I was in charge of taking note of every key event that happened in the match and the times when they happened: from goals (how was it scored), substitutions, injuries (including who got injured and who caused the injury), to fouls (who got fouled, who fouled). The stadium has a large screen, which was no doubt built to display the scores of the the home and away sides and keep track of the scores and time of the match; however, like in the first game I went to, it ceased to turn on. Therefore, we had to use our watches to keep track of the match time and I had to strain my eyes to catch the numbers of players on the field, which meant that I had to patiently wait for players to turn their backs towards me so that I could catch a glimpse of their digits.
This task proved hard when a player would collapse and roll about on the ground. Sometimes, I would get caught up in finding out who the player was on the ground and which player had knocked him down, which would cause me to lose focus on the action surrounding the ball, and I faced the risk of missing out on an important referee call or play. Meanwhile, the lulling player would just stand up and would end up not having an injury. The job was also very challenging when a player would get fouled as multiple opponents had come in for a challenge, which would cause me to have to make a judgement on which opponent had made the foul. In this match, such a dilemma occurred when two defenders rushed in to stop a striker in the penalty box and one of the defenders handled the ball to cause a penalty. Neither I nor the commentator were able to identify the exact player who had made the handball. I got to experience the competitiveness that exists between the radio stations first hand when we were met with snide grins as the other correspondents, whether they knew themselves or pretended to know, refused to tell us who had handled a penalty to the opposing side.
Compared to the first match I saw with Hearts of Oak playing as the home team, the turnout was significantly less. The 40,000 seat Accra Sports Stadium had only roughly 400 spots filled today. Great Olympic was second to last in the table and in the relegation zone. Bechem United was also a team which, if hit with even a couple of bad results, could be on that same dark spot of the league table. But if I thought that would mean that the supporters would be any less passionate for their team, I was entirely wrong.
Towards to the end of the match, when a late penalty was awarded to Great Olympic, several of the visiting supporters started to panic as they saw their beloved club suddenly facing the threat of relegation. They started jeering at their team’s coaching staff from behind the glass windows separating the seats to the pitch. Some started throwing full water bottles. Soon the few were joined by many, including Great Olympic supporters attempting to hold them back. Even on the field, chaos ensued, and Bechem United’s goalkeeper threatened to beat up the match official with players from both teams holding him back.
Below, I wrote a little match report of the events of the match:
Late penalty helps Great Olympic seize the 2-1 win against Bechem
On Sunday afternoon, in front of a crowd of roughly 400 passionate supporters at Accra Stadium, Accra Great Olympic emerged victorious in a 2-1 victory against Bechem United.
It only took five minutes for the home team fans to spring up from their seats in celebration. The match opened up with a quick goal by Olympic captain, Godwin Attram, from a free-kick just outside the tip of the penalty arc — as it dropped in low for Bechem goalie, Ernest Adu’s, right-hand side, and slid past his outstretched fingers.
As gut wrenching as an early goal was for Bechem United, Great Olympic seemed to struggle with maintaining possession in the first half, as Bechem intercepted several poorly placed passes, and carried out dangerous counterattacks deep into the heart of the Olympic defense; but with two breathtaking uncontested short crosses just skidding past Bechem boots in the box, and a stellar save by Olympic’s Richard Kingson, who knocked away a 40th minute strike off a loose ball at the edge of his right post, Bechem were unable to capitalize.
Something must have inspired the Bechem boys in the locker room as United midfielder, Issah Adamu, spotted a gap between the Olympic defense line, and shot in an equalizer from outside the penalty box — all in the first minute of the second half.
Just as the match seemed to be winding down, the stadium erupted with excited cheers from the home fans, and jeers of anger from the away side. With only three minutes until stoppage time, the match official, Ali Alhassan, called a penalty, declaring that a Bechem defender had committed a handball in the penalty box.
It was 78th minute substitute, Olympic striker, Kwame Boateng, who successfully secured the final goal in the back of the net.
There was much tension both inside the field and outside the pitch. Around 17 upset Bechem supporters made their way to the glass walls lining the entrance to the field, and started shouting at the Bechem coaching staff. Meanwhile on the pitch, United goalkeeper, Ernest Adu, charged forward, and threatened to attack the referee, Alhassan, and was held back by players and coaches from both sides.
Earning three points on Sunday, Great Olympic are 15th with a total of 25 points, and are still under the threat of relegation being the second last club in the Premier League standings. Bechem United are 11th, and are tied with 29 points with Kotoko and Edubiase F.C.
At the post-match press conference, Great Olympic coach, Yaw Acheampong, mentioned his confidence that with the win, Great Olympic would be able to climb clear of relegation, “We have eight matches more to go, and we have strategized to win at least 7 matches out of eight, and this is the first one, and so we are left with 6 matches for us to win, and I am 100 percent sure, when we are able to win the matches we will come out of the relegation zone.”
When asked about how Bechem United are going to move forward, Bechem coach, Nana Waye, responded. “Well, for Bechem, we are going to Tarkwa on Wednesday, so we are going to prepare tomorrow, and then take off from here.”
Next Sunday at 3:00pm, Great Olympic is set to play Brong Ahafo Stars at Coronation Park, Sunyani, while Bechem United is scheduled to play Medeama at Tarkwa T&A Park, Tarkwa.
Great Olympic: 22—Richard Kingson
20 — Godwin Attram
13 — Edmund Sekyei
44 — Dan Quaye
12 — George Brako
11 — Franus Mantey
15 — Emmanuel Armartey
13 — Danie Appiah
10 — Franus Attuquaye
14 — Godfred Asante
30 — Ronald Bortey
35 — Kwame Boateng
Bechem United: 16 — Ernest Adu
6 — Issah Adamu
4 — Patrick Cole
25 — Felix Kwakye
35 — Richard Bekoe
42 — Patrick Opoku
8 — Yaw Mensah
51 — Coffie Bekoe
18 — Aminu Mohammed
23 —Ernest Baffoe