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MTN FA Cup Final: Brong Ahafo’s rare day in Ghanaian football’s spotlight

It would be no stretch, certainly not an exaggeration, to say Ghana’s Brong Ahafo region has been a major building block—if not, in fact, the cornerstone—of the nation’s football structure and heritage.

Nana Opoku, the first Ghanaian skipper to lift a FIFA World Cup at any level (U-17, 1991), came from the region. Baba Yara, arguably Ghana’s greatest footballer of all-time, was also born and raised in Brong Ahafo.

And, more recently, there was a period when the Black Stars head coach (James Kwasi Appiah), his assistant (Maxwell Konadu), and captain (Asamoah Gyan) were all natives. Gyan, of course, retired as Ghana’s all-time top-scorer and still lays claim to that distinction.

The man whose record he broke in doing so?

Kwasi Owusu (now deceased), also from Brong Ahafo.

I could go on and on… and, oh, I will.

The 18 years between 1996 and 2014 saw Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, the country’s biggest clubs, win all but two Ghana Premier League (GPL) titles; for the pair of exceptions, kindly check the trophy cabinets of Brong Ahafo sides Aduana and Berekum Chelsea.

Aduana’s 2009/10 conquest, achieved in their very first season as a top-flight club, broke at least one world record, while Chelsea would build on their triumphant 2010/11 campaign with a run to the group stage of the CAF Champions League—a platform no Ghanaian team had graced in the preceding six years and which only one other has in the ensuing 12.

And there are still signs of domestic Brong Ahafo dominance even now. No region had more teams represent it in the 2023/24 GPL season than Brong Ahafo’s five, three of which—Chelsea, Aduana and Nsoatreman—finished in the top four; just one among that quintet, Tano Bofoakwa (more on them later), failed to escape relegation, and even they would be replaced next season by newly-promoted neighbours Young Apostles.

It’s the sort of reputation that should see Brong Ahafo recognised—celebrated, even—but that hasn’t quite been the case.

Part of it is the region’s own doing. Hardly a season goes by that, across the various divisions, a serious incident of hooliganism isn’t registered there. And while violence is, no doubt, a rather regrettable part of the game nationwide, the various grounds in Brong Ahafo have acquired a particular notoriety for it.

Speaking of ‘grounds’, well, there lies another reason the success of Brong Ahafo feels so diminished: a dire lack of the sort of facilities that could enhance the potential and profile of the region’s football. The Coronation Park in Sunyani, the capital, is the grandest state-owned/run sporting arena in the region, yet it is anything but grand both in appearance and in function.

The next time two Brong Ahafo teams face off in a competitive game, though, both the occasion—Sunday’s MTN FA Cup Final—and the venue—the pristine University of Ghana Sports Stadium—would definitely be befitting of the region’s rich footballing pedigree.

The FA Cup is, perhaps, the only facet of the Ghanaian game Brong Ahafo clubs have not yet left a considerable imprint on. Just three—Brong Ahafo United, Bofoakwa, and Bechem United—have featured in its final (four times in all) since the inaugural competition in 1958, with only the latter ever winning the trophy (2016).

However, this year’s edition—the first to be contested by two teams from one region since New Edubiase took on and beat Ashanti/Adansi rivals Ashantigold in 2012—guarantees the coronation of a second Brong Ahafo winner, with Bofoakwa facing first-time finalists Nsoatreman.

The former prevailing would give their season a sweet aftertaste, significantly dulling the sting of demotion, while victory for Nsoatreman would certainly be in line with the progress they have made since securing maiden Premier League promotion in 2022.

The sides were separated by 17 points on the just-ended season’s league table, but they both only picked two each from their head-to-head engagements, with those fixtures proving as cagey as one might expect of a derby. Their upcoming encounter would likely play out similarly, but a winner is certain to emerge this time, as silverware and a ticket to represent Ghana in the CAF Confederation Cup are at stake.

Regardless of which team claims those spoils, though, the glory and the honour would ultimately go to a region with an unrivalled yet greatly understated football culture. For ninety minutes—possibly more—Brong Ahafo would be right where it belongs: in the spotlight, and hopefully for all the good reasons.

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