Former Hearts of Oak midfielder Esme Mends has explained possible reasons why Ghana’s two biggest flagship football clubs – Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak have failed to compete squarely with the elite clubs in the CAF inter club competitions – the Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
According to Esme Mends, both Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko have failed to stay on top in the continental competitions because they live on past glories instead of seeking to invest hugely into the club by buying quality players to be able to match their competitors like TP Mezembe, Esperance, Zamalek etc.
He stated that football in the world now is about money, pumping huge sums into the club and until Hearts of Oak and Kotoko learn to invest into the club there is no way they can match their competitors on the continent. Mends argued that while other clubs on the African continent are competing with the European market, Kotoko and Hearts of Oak are relaxed and living on past glories.
“There is a problem with Hearts and Kotoko and the problem is, our Hearts of Oak and Kotoko they live on past glories”, Esme Mends told ghanasportspage.com. He continued saying, without investing into the club, you can compete domestically but will be outclassed when you go out for continental competitions.
“In Ghana it might work for you but when you travel outside and play against the TP Mezembes you can’t, you can’t compete because now football is money (investment), when you don’t pump money into it, when you don’t buy the right players into your club, no, you’ll fail, you can’t compete with them”, Mends outlined.
Using DR. Congo’s TP Mezembe’s poaching of some quality Ghanaian players (Gladson Awako, Solomon Asante, Daniel Nii Adjei, Yaw Frimpong, Kissi Boateng) years back to win continental lures, Mends said Kotoko and Hearts of Oak are unable to to even poach quality players from Ivory Coast or Nigeria. They only rely on local talent which they sometimes can’t even feed well to develop, and till that is corrected, expectations will never be met.
“TP Mezembe came to poach about five boys from Ghana; the Gladson Awakos the…you name them to win [CAF] Champions League year in year out with them. We are in Ghana here and we can’t even poach Ivorian players or even Nigerian players, we depend on our local boys who we can’t even feed, you understand. We are not ready to expand, we don’t invest money into the team”, he compared.
Comparatively, Esme Mends believes clubs such as Etoile Sportive du Sahel, Wydad Casablanca, AS Vita Club, Al Hilal Omdurman etc are financially stronger because of huge sponsorships but they worked for that and Ghanaian clubs must learn to do same. He questioned the marketing ability of both Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko saying, the other big clubs on the continent with big sponsorships don’t get grants from Europe or just government but work to get sponsorships within their country. He urged the two clubs to intensify their marketing skills and win sponsorships from corporate Ghana.
“Sometimes Hearts and Kotoko win the league and complain they don’t have money to play Africa, no, find money, there is money here in Ghana find it because TP Mezembe and the likes they don’t take grants from Europe or depend….they run the club to make money. Until Hearts and Kotoko stop this we won the Champions League in the year 2000, we’ve won Confederation Cup (referring to Hearts of Oak), Kotoko has won this and that, no, it’s the same reason why even our Black Stars has not been able to win a cup since 1982 because while other countries are improving because they are trying to compete with the Europeans, we are here and living on past glories. Now Hearts of Oak can’t even compete with teams in say Tanzania that play Africa year in year out, no, and it shouldn’t be so. They should invest into it and buy quality materials”, he advised.