Okay! I confess, I have a particular weakness for Christmas Carols, and you shouldn’t be surprised to find ‘oh holy night’ locked on repeat on my i-Pod.
There is just something about the festive season and its carols, which brings good feelings. Maybe it’s the fact that it is year end, and naturally we are reflective and thankful for making it through another year.
Well, no matter the different ways we approach the season, there is one mental exercise common to us all; Reflection.
Yes, you may not verbalise it, but surely, consciously or unconsciously, we travel back into time; to January, when the year began.
We reflect on the different facets of our life and make new resolutions.
For us here at the Popular Stand, it’s been a great ride; we have debated, critiqued, praised and celebrated during the football tournaments and matches all year long.
I bet you have your big highlights of the football calendar. I have mine too; it’s in the form of awards to celebrate what has been an eventful year.
Take your seat, while I present to you my end of year awards.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Well, there weren’t too many nominees on my list for this one. It was a pretty straight forward fight between Berekum Chelsea and the female national U-17 side, the Black Maidens.
My mind and my heart battled but in the end, one won. Any guesses? Well, you don’t have to. You will soon find out.
My mind loudly spoke in favour of a Berekum Chelsea side that participated and put out a decent performance in Africa’s biggest club tournament.
The level of competition was high. Chelsea found herself grouped with former title holders, DRC’s TP Mazembe, Egypt’s duo of Zamalek and Al Ahly (who eventually won the tournament) in Group B.
For a first time participant, Chelsea did well and held its own, beating Zamalek and TP Mazembe, drawing 3 and losing only 1 match on the road to securing 3rd place in the group.
Chelsea’s striker Emmanuel Clottey (now with Esperance of Tunisia) also ended up as top scorer with 12 goals. Yes, they didn’t win the trophy but they provided as moments to savour.
And then there was my heart, in favour of the Maidens. Far away in Azerbaijan, a group of Ghanaian girls lost their first game to Germany.
Their follow up game was against China, a world super power.
It was expected that the Maidens would have even packed their bags in anticipation of a loss and imminent elimination from the tournament.
That was the pundits’ script. But as so often happens, football can sometimes make some smart people look awfully dumb.
The maidens threw the script out of the window; beat china and Uruguay to qualify for the quarters, where against expectation, they beat tournament favourite Japan to book a semi-final date with France.
That, in itself was historic; becoming the first African side to qualify for the semis.
The French however had too much firepower, as the Maidens bowed to them 0-2.
But the Maidens would finish on the high in the 3rd place match, when they exacted revenge on the Germans by winning 1-0 and the bronze medal in the process.
It may only be success in a junior tournament, but the heart and grit shown by those young ladies will be etched in our memories especially a certain Jane Ayieyam, who finished with 4 goals to her credit.
In the end, my heart won over my head. For me, the Black Maidens are my team of the year.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The one job in the world I would run from. No, it has nothing to do with cowardice, no not at all, it’s just that a brother like you and I, wouldn’t mind a prop once in a while, ‘I lie?’
Unfortunately, coaches get the stick most of the time and on just few occasions like this, we appreciate and celebrate them.
Well, join me to honour two coaches who distinguished themselves in the course of the year. Like the previous award, it is a straight tango between Mas Ud ‘Didi’ Dramani and Maxwell Konadu.
Konadu in the first half of the year marshalled Kotoko to recapture the Glo Premier League for the first time since the 2007/2008 season.
His good work was recognised and he was made assistant to Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah.
Konadu’s work, so stood out that when the previous Satellites coach Orlando Wellington was fired, he was assigned the difficult job of qualifying the team for the 2013 African Youth Championship, which he executed creditably.
He also assisted Appiah to qualify the Black Stars for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Just like his height, he has definitely stood tall in 2012.
Didi Dramani would however have a word or two on that height of achievement.
You cannot begrudge him though, as mentioned above, he was the man who supervised the Black Maidens fantastic run at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Championship and his input, by way of tactically outmanoeuvring his opponents, was clear for all to see, as the Maidens won bronze.
This was a difficult one, but for me the impact of the Maidens achievement towers those of Kotoko and the Satellites, thus making Mas Ud Didi Dramani, coach of the year.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ok, so I know this is the one you have been waiting for. However, I must confess that I was slightly disappointed when I drew up the list.
There weren’t many standout performers for me and even as I pen my thoughts, I am not that tickled.
But a quick glance through the year dug up some decent outings worthy of commendation. First up was John Boye.
Called up late into the team for 2012 AFCON in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January, Boye did not only fill in for Vorsah, who was suspended for the first two matches, but stood like a colossus, making the central defence position his own.
He was a major reason Ghana progressed to the semi final despite a patchy performance.
He has been a consistent member since and has become a mainstay for club (Rennes of France) and country. But does that impact, warrant a player of the year? I think not.
I also considered Black Stars captain, Asamoah Gyan. He started the year on a bad foot at the AFCON; missed a crucial penalty against Zambia (a match Ghana eventually lost 1-0), retired from the national team and then ‘unretired’ in mid year.
Through it all, he has prospered at Al Ain, his United Arab Emirates club, earning a reported £200,000 a week. He helped Al Ain win the 2011/2012 league scoring 22 goals in the process.
This season (2nd half of the year), he has been off to a blistering pace, scored 20 goals so far and not even the tragic loss of his dear mum in November, has slowed him down.
As per his own standards, he has done well, but the level and competitiveness of the UAE league waters down his achievements. Good job, yes but not player of the year for me.
Finally, it comes down to Kwadwo Asamoah, now with Juventus, a club he moved to in the summer from Udinese. Kwadwo in the previous season did tremendously well with Udinese (41 games, 3 goals and 4 assists).
So Juventus had enough faith to secure his services. Many were those (myself included) who were sceptical of the move.
However, Kwadwo has delivered albeit in an unfamiliar left wing back position (played 17 games and scored 2 goals).
If there is one Ghanaian playing and delivering at the highest level (Serie A and UEFA Champions League) this year, it’s got to be Kwadwo Asamoah.
Yes, he has been a disappointment with the national team but that is the only blot on his report card this year.
So, on the balance of club and national team contribution, I won’t hesitate to crown Kwadwo Asamoah as Ghana’s Player of the Year.
I bet the debate has started in your offices, cars and homes, do so indeed, and drop a line in my inbox if you agree or disagree, after all, that is the essence of this platform.
And oh, am available for that party that you have been planning. Don’t worry, I won’t sing any carols; will just come with my two friends; Feliz and Navidad.
Source: 90 minutes