You were warned!
As I sat at the Treudelburg Golf and Country Hotel in Hamburg with Ernst Middendorp, Holger Hieronymus, Tony Yeboah, Richard Twerefuor and Wofa Yaw (Tony’s Uncle) Ernst made a statement which convinced me that he was the man for Kotoko. He said “do you expect me to bring Bundeslega standards to Ghana or to coach at a lower level”. I said that I expected the best and nothing less. He sighed a huge breath of relief! For those who did not realise it before Ernst Middendorp is a very serious man indeed. At a young age of 42 he has achieved more than virtually any coach in Africa. His exploits in taking Bochum in Germany from the third division to the first division and Bielefied from the second division to the first division are now legendary. He is in Ghana because he believes in the future. He is here because important and influential people like Holger Hieronymus of Hamburg convinced him that he could trust me and that Kotoko was no ordinary team. Ernst is a current Bundeslega Coach and that shows in his application to his job!
At the core of his success is discipline! He has always recognised that the basic foundation for any team is discipline. I warned all Kotoko players and technical staff before Ernst took over and stressed to them that if they felt they wanted and could play football at the highest levels in Europe then being able to meet Ernst’s standards would be the first test. I also warned them because several of them appeared not to be as serious they should be or indeed as their pay suggested they should be. Some players heeded my advise, others were hesitant and one or two ignored it. With a team like Asante Kotoko at this point in their history we need a very good coach. He is the centre of the team. He will decide technical policy and take the team forward. We thought that we had this in David Booth before he broke contract and trust. In Ernst we have a Coach of considerably higher standard and qualities.
On Sunday I sat with Ernst at a Hotel in Accra and he submitted his first report to me. It was very clear in his report that we have a long way to go before we can claim to be fully on the right track. At the core of his report on the playing body was a question of indiscipline in terms of absenteeism from training, lack of seriousness at training as well as a general attiudinal problem on the part of a few players. He said to me that you play like you train and this is why some players were not prepared to die for Kotoko on the park. He said that we have chance to get things right if we are really serious. I agree with him totally. We discussed the salary winning bonus structure and made some immediate changes!
1. Players who miss training without prior permission will be fined ¢200,000 (two hundred thousand cedis).
2. The winning bonus structure will change to now reflect on performance rather than for just turning up on match day.
3. Phone cards for the players will be given based on performance and discipline.
Ernst mirrored the feeling of many supporters in that they believed that the players simply did not appreciate who they were and what they are getting from Kotoko. I agree with him totally. If some players are serious and committed what is being planned will not affect them. It is the indiscplined ones who must fear!
Before the match with Liberty Michael Ofori Mensah (alias Mark Fish) was not prepared to train properly and was not included in the line up. This follows several other attitudinal incidents and as a result Mark Fish has been suspended without pay with immediate effect. He was warned. He is not being a scape goat. It is a case that Kotoko has spent too much money and has to get serious NOW and not in the future. Kotoko is bigger than all of us. I hope that this action will serve as notice for those players who believe that they are bigger than Kotoko. All actions take effect from Monday April 20th 2000.
We need to give Ernst some time to change matters. He rightly indicated that there was a need to create a Kotoko system of play which would be adopted throughout the junior teams. We need to start developing new training facilities with gym and medical support facilities. On Monday I had a meeting with Colonel Brock the Boss of the National Sports Council. I offerred him as a stop gap measure (until the Kotoko City project starts) of building a full gymnasium and medical facility at Oseikrom in exchange for Kotoko being able to use the stadium for training etc. Unfortunately Colonel Brock rejected this proposal on grounds of wanting to preserve the grass in the stadium. We now have to move quickly with our own project at Kwamo. I have asked Ernst to assist in the overall planning for this project as it will have to undertaken in phases!
Our victory over Liberty was important for the three points as well as to demonstrate the importance of a good technical boss. The match was won from the bench. I was with Sammy (Osei Kuffuor) when he commented as much and also pleasant surprise when he saw Ernst Middendorp. He recognised him from the Bundeslega! The great Yaw Bawuah had indciated that he wanted to come to the match. In the end he was unable to attend. Mr. Frank Appiagyei did attend.
Our march forward is relentless and obviously confusing for some people. Mfum’s attack on Kennedy was truly unfortunate and only showed that being a great footbsaller does not mean that one is intelligent. The statements made only showed a level of ignorance that did little to enhance his credibility. Over the last 12 months we have preached unity. We suggested a while ago that it was totally counter productive for Kotoko “die hards” to make the kinds of uninformed statements in public which our enemies were not prepared to make. Kennedy Adjapong is a great man. He has contributed some ¢400 million cedis to Kotoko to date and he has done it out of the convictions as supporter of Kotoko. He is not a member of Kotoko management and yet he spends so much of his time on Kotoko affairs. He should be encouraged and not attacked! Of the current management I am the only one who is based in Accra. Kwame Bosompem is our Accra Rep. In Kumasi the Secretariat staff including Patrick and Eric are not costing Kotoko money in terms of accommodation. Jarvis Pepera’s duties are being reassigned. It is a great shame the Mfum could not have better cross checked his facts before exposing himself in the manner he did. Other past players have made meaningful contrivutions to the team including the purchasing of kit etc. We would welcome that kind of positive contribution to Kotoko rather statements which suggest ulterior motives and a hidden agenda.
People should not forget that it takes money to rebuild and manage a great institution like Kotoko. Times have changed where players played for free and management only needed to manage the matches. Planning did not include the development of training facilities, medical support, gymnasiums, offices, internet development, newspaper, radio station, PR and Publicity management, fund raising, youth development programme, reorganisation of the basis for supporters and membership drive and the corporate image of the Club. Last year Kotoko owned nothing. I took over the Club with two footballs and some kit donated by …. We have no meaningful assets. We must be looking forward to the point where the Kotoko family generates it’s own funds through internal inertia. Kotoko is indeed bigger than all of us and we must in recognising this find ways to ensure that Kotoko can look after itself with careful management. We are slowly building a management team which will be able to cope with all aspects of the Club’s development.
I need to thank all of our great supporters (the greatest in the world) for their support over the last few weeks. Even whilst the Club was not playing to expectations the supporters continued to come in their numbers. Our support has grown over the period rather than decrease and continues to be bigger than any other club in Ghana. Last week we increased our charges and the supporters responded. It serves as motivation to both Kennedy and myself to know that we still have the support of the supporters. Change is never easily or readily accepted. Rian Malan has now completed the first phase of Kotoko ¢24,000 membership cards. The first 1,500 cards are currently being printed with the members names on the cards. We have been having a discussion about the possibility of creating a Kotoko loyalty/friendship card which could serves those not capable of paying the ¢24,000 a year for the normal “red” card. There has been a suggestion of the card costing between ¢5,000 and ¢10,000 as a one off payment.
From June I shall be working a small team to put a plan in place to start the reorganisation of the supporters groups. We need to redefine them into small economic units which can make money for both themselves and for Kotoko. It won’t be easy but with the assistance of the likes of Kojo Nyarko, Mohammed Harruna, Kuuku Yankah, Kwame Bosompem, Jarvis Pepera, Kennedy Adjapong, Eric, Patrick, Alhaji Sani and Edwin Addo I know we will make the kind of impression that will allow for success over a fifteen month period.
The question of fund raising, positioning Asante kotoko and management of the Clubs finances all in the context of the overall vision we have for Kotoko will always be ongoing. My trip to South Africa was only successful in terms of getting sponship for promotional tapes for Kotoko and the creation of a fund raising corporate video. I was less fortunate with the larger sponsorship for the youth programme. The devaluing cedi has been the reason for this. It has brought some uncertainty for the investors I spoke with.
I spent Easter Saturday morning with Harry Zakkour and his son, my god son Faroukh. They sat in my gym as I worked out. On Easter Monday I also spent a couple of hours at Bus Stop with Harry. Harry has done great things for Hearts of Oak and I hope that they remember