Oly Gbogbo, Oly Mashie, Oly Rosalinda, Oly Biegya, Oly Muntie 3, Oly Toaso, Oly JM, Oly Pogba, Oly Nana Addo, Oly Ayariga, Oly Kumkum Bhagya, Oly Attractive, Oly Cuando Seas Mia, Oly La Gata. Bet you’re wondering what this is all about.
Well, you only had to be at the Teshie Park last Sunday after Great Olympics’ 2-1 victory to experience the joy and conviviality that heralded the Wonder Club’s return to the Ghana Premier League. The club’s woes over the last few years have been anything but challenging. Fans of the club would recall all that transpired on Sunday, September 13th, 2014, where a 2-1 result against Ashgold was still not enough to see the Dade Boys escape relegation. The side had only made a return to the top echelons of Ghana football following years in the doldrums of Division One. Mismanagement and in-fighting at the board level had been cited as some of the reasons that led to club’s troubles.
I happened to be at the club’s new secretariat at Ridge a couple of years ago following their decision to enter into a partnership with the management of Optimum Media Prime and all the talk following their return focused on the need to build bridges and ensure the club’s stay in the elite division. There was even talk of the club building a side that was good enough to win the league in the not-too-distant future. I recall my conversations with the club’s bigwigs including former FA vice chair Fred Pappoe and he was more than confident that the club was back to relive its glory days.
Hear him: “It’s a great time to be a fan of Olympics yet again. We have suffered playing in Division One and after all the talk of in-fighting here and there, all I can say is that we are back with a bang. We are going to do everything to ensure that we remain in the Premier League for years to come. This club has come a long way and we simply can’t afford to let ourselves and the club down. We would want to ensure that we survive the league this season (2013/14) and then build a side that would be capable of competing very strongly for the Premier League title in the years ahead of us.”
As we all do know, that was not to be as the club made another quick return to the second tier of Ghana football. Out they went into the wilderness, with the buzz that surrounds the club especially when they come up against the elite sides in the Premier Division. Why the club has suffered the shame of relegation a couple of times should be extremely worrying for anyone attached to the club. Big question though is how they have it made it to the elite division yet again despite the myriad of challenges that seems to be an everyday occurrence at the club.
Depending on who you speak to, there are several interest groups at the club’s top echelons who pull strings that suit their cause. Difficult to comprehend why one of the big guns of Ghana football would have had such an alleged divided front in their quest to continually stake a claim as one of the nation’s revered clubs. For a club with such history and pedigree, the talk has always been why these boardroom divisions continue to trickle down to the unacceptable performances exhibited by the players on the pitch over the years.
Boards of every corporate space are to ensure that there is a clear policy direction and formulation of policies that would inure to the benefit of that corporate entity. The Board of the club have over the years been led by some great minds – former Youth and Sports Secretary Amarkai Amarteifio and Eric Nii Afotey Odai. It is sad to say that these boardroom politics have not inured to the benefit of the club as has been depicted by the topsy-turvy history with the league in the last decade. How fans would be desperate to see a board that dutifully plays the role of policy formulator rather than a group of individuals who continually show each other where power lies. At this point, it is fair to say that with qualification, these boardroom politics may have been taken care of. We wait to see if that would not rear its ugly head again.
Focus on the youth
I have had the opportunity to be at a couple of games and training sessions of the club and it is fair to say that the decision to go in for a relatively youthful side seems to have paid off. Most of the lads I am told are 22 and under and have the grit and tenacity to deliver in a 16-team league.
I had the chance to speak to Wa All Stars CEO Samuel Oduro Nyarko on his side clinching the GPL title and he was quick to tout the youthful credentials of the side. According to the astute club administrator, his lads were compelled to travel the length and breadth of the country to honour their games and but for the youthful nature of his side, they would have struggled to cope with all the intense travelling and little time to prepare for their games. Olympics have been involved in 29 tough games all over the Southern belt and with a record that explains why they are top of their zone. Twenty wins, three draws, six losses, and as many as 48 goals scored this season is not a bad return especially from what we know about away trips in this zone. The youthful grit of the side may just have seen them over the line, especially with the challenge all season from Heart of Lions and Okyeman Planners, who are all tied on 59 points, four points off the zonal leaders with only a game to go.
If there is anyone who deserves tonnes of praise for the team’s return to the elite division, then one needs not look beyond club legend Godwin Attram. This is a player/coach who has given his all to the club in such trying times. I recall the season in which the club were relegated and how he committed himself to some games with no wages in return. This was a time when many a member of the Olympic family shunned the side due to its plethora of challenges. He has stayed on over the last two years to give back to the side in a player-manager situation and the results are there for all to see. His contributions are really immense and it isn’t any wonder that his name is etched in the club’s folklore. I have spoken to him and visited their training sessions as well as some games and what hits me is his passion in discharging his duties. I doubt if his wages are anything to write home about but one can clearly see a passionate and animated character especially ahead of games. He has made the lads believe in themselves and their abilities again. I am happy for him. I do not know of his medium and long term ambitions as far as staying on in his current capacity is concerned but I am confident the club would work hard to tie him to some kind of deal going forward. He has worked hard for it and it’s the little he deserves. His entire back room staff of course deserve plaudits too as he himself keeps emphasising any time I have spoken to him.
My understanding is that a young breed of individuals, including a UK-based Ghanaian football agent, has been working behind the scenes to add some professional touch to the day-to-day administration of the club. Modern club management demands individuals with the capabilities to achieving the clubs short, medium, and long term goals. I do not recall sighting that of a club in Ghana in a while but surely it’s a way to go. Poor results have been the hallmark of clubs with next to no vision and I am sure several examples can be cited in the Ghanaian space. That’s a topic for another day. Truth though is that structures should be clear and unambiguous and be based on a model that would make the club self-financing at some point. A club like Great Olympics may not have the huge fan base which they can leverage on financially, especially from gate proceeds. That is where the smart brains with the wherewithal to generate capital for the club comes. Most clubs in the developing, and even in the developed, setting thrive on nursing talent to sell to the big guns to help with their sustenance. It would be prudent then to constantly have a feeder side to replace the transferred players for example. That balance should surely keep the club afloat for the next couple of years.
The Olympics buzz
Their fans, never mind how much the numbers have reduced over the years, are such an entertaining bunch. You only need to have an encounter with them to fully appreciate this phenomenon. They have their own way of drawing the supporters of competing clubs on match days to make some decent money at the games. Their plethora of interesting names alone is a massive seller ahead of their games. There are times when the sporting tension ahead of big games are defused by their fanatical supporters in the most subtle manner. Now that is the Olympics family. That has surely been missed and there is no doubt that a return to the league would be most welcome by all competing clubs next season.
The Wonder Club
I am sure many of you, my cherished readers, would have wondered why the club is often referred to as the Wonder Club. There are loads of stories that have been told over the years concerning the brand. From playing with thirteen players (though it was later confirmed to be 12) in a game to courting some of the best players in the local game, these are but a few that cannot be ignored. Leonard Acquah, Torgbor Laryea, Alhaji Dodoo Ankrah, E.O. Oblitei, John Naawu, Frank Odoi (VC 10), and the great Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio once donned the blue and white strips of this great club. How would any passionate follower of the Ghana Premier League ignore such a family with such a rich and great tradition? I certainly want them in. That is the club many a Ghanaian football fan has come to love over the years. Their eternal city battle against Accra Hearts of Oak are ones that I personally look forward to. How a small group of fans intimidate the other to virtual submission is one I have struggled to comprehend. That is the Wonder Club for you.
The return is complete. Oly are back to where they belong. Big question is whether they would survive this time around. Over to you Papsay and co. I gather the club has spent in excess of GHS1 million to qualify for the elite division next season. They would be foolish to let all that go down the drain.
Oly Elections 2016, Oly Lady Char, Oly One Club, One Ball, Oly Manifest, Oly Sarkodie...and the list goes on. Oly, you do all.
By: Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang
The writer is Sports Editor @ Class91.3FM. You can follow him on Twitter @DwomohKwame and on Facebook at Kwame Dwomoh-Agyemang.