Astute football scout Esme Mends has stated that both Asante Kotoko and Ashantigold Sporting Club are top clubs in football history, but are not ready to successfully and satisfactorily represent Ghana in the 2020/2021 CAF inter club competitions.
According to the former Accra Hearts of Oak midfielder, both Kotoko and Ashantigold have established themselves as successful clubs in the Ghana Premier League, with Kotoko having justified their greatness in the continental competitions by winning the Champions League on two occasions, but both lack the needed squad depth and quality presently to survive the might of their competitors that will come their way from other countries.
Esme argues, that factors that lead to a club succeeding in CAF competitions are not limited to just having a strong starting eleven, but also requires a good bench with competitive quality. In his submission, Esme acknowledges the fact both Kotoko and Ashgold have a solid team, but their strength is limited to the starting eleven without a competitive bench, and this cannot help their course if they are to combine both the domestic league matches with that of the continental competitions.
Speaking to Ghana’s leading sports website ghanasportspage.com, Esme agrees with the Ghana FA for selecting the said clubs as Ghana’s representatives on sporting merits, describing it as a “fantastic decision” based on the pedigree of the clubs on the continent, but insists that they lack the needed quality to match their competitors out there.
“You see playing in Africa is not a joke, it’s a cup competition and you need a strong squad, not just your starting eleven but you need a strong squad”, Esme told ghanasportspage.com in an exclusive interview.
Elaborating on his argument, Esme explained that playing in Africa requires a lot of traveling far and return, along with packed fixtures ranging from the local league to the continental competition matches as well, requiring competitive squad depth. To him, Kotoko and Ashgold started the now annulled 2019/2020 domestic league well, but started dwindling in form when it came to substitutions.
“I believe Kotoko has a strong starting eleven but they don’t have a good bench, same applies to Ashgold. I have watched them (in the annulled domestic league) a couple of times; they are a solid side but aside the first eleven when substitution starts then their form start dipping”, he observed.
Analysing the performance of the two clubs in the just cancelled league matches, Esme Mends maintained that Kotoko for example, started the league very well, beating clubs left right centre, but dropped in form along the line, losing and drawing matches and that is a clear indication of lack of squad depth.
“If you look at Kotoko for example, they started well, they were beating clubs left right centre, but somewhere along the line they started losing back to back and all that. It tells you they don’t have a good bench, they don’t have strong squad – yes they might have a good first eleven but their squad is not ready, they don’t have the men in terms of a whole squad they don’t have the men to compete in Africa. So based on that I feel they are not ready”, he explained.
Aside having a great squad for the task, Esme Mends further argued that both Kotoko and Ashgold do not have the financial strength to travel to play preparatory friendlies with big clubs on the continent to intensify their preparation for the competition.
“Much as covid-19 has affected every club, Egyptian clubs and others have the money to play top top friendly matches. Let’s ask ourselves, our Ashgold and Kotoko are they willing to go outside, if the borders are opened to them, are they willing to travel outside and play top games outside Ghana? No. Even in Ghana, is Kotoko ready to play (against) Hearts of Oak week in week out as in a friendly to prepare, no. They can’t because there is no money, yes other clubs in other countries have also been affected by covid-19 but I believe they have much stronger squad than that of ours”, he concluded.
Asante Kotoko will represent Ghana in the Champions League whiles Ashgold will also compete in the Confederation Cup competition in the 2020/2021 campaign.