Times Sports (TS): Congratulations for winning the First Capital Plus Premier League (FCPPL), and how do you feel?
Kudjo Fianoo (KF): Thank you. I feel very great and relieved. I’m highly delighted that at long last the battle has ended.
TS: How difficult was this achievement?
KF: Hnmmm! Maybe, I wouldn’t say difficult but it was really challenging. For the first time, we started the season with a budget cut of 50 per cent by owners of the club and that hard decision had the potential of affecting the psyche of the team. Indeed, it really rocked us.
But luckily for us, we had a dedicated bunch of players who were ready to sacrifice. Even when their winning bonuses ran into arrears in as many as eight games, the players kept their faith.
We also had a capable technical team handled by Bashir Hayford as well as a loyal support base that continued to goad us on even when the race was really tough and hard-hitting. Overall, too, we benefited from sound planning.
TS: Were you under any kind of pressure to win the league?
KF: Yes, personally yes. I have been in the mantle as CEO of the club for 10 years and though I came very close on many occasions, we failed to win the league. Though I changed a lot of things professionally since coming on board, I thought it wouldn’t be enough without the title. Indeed, the pressure was always on, especially after winning the Top-4 title last season.
TS: The supporters have constantly been at your neck and want you thrown out at the slightest faux pas. Did you enjoy their backing this time around?
KF: Huh! Amazingly, yes! They were really phenomenal. I guess initially they wanted to have an indigene to head the club, but things were different this season. And, after their elections, the current executive decided to limit their operations solely to support – and nothing else. To a large extent, that decision worked, and their support was unflinchingly massive.
TS: But what ‘magical’ decision did your management team take ahead of the season to give you this coveted honour?
KF: Great, I was going to come to that. I think one of the major decisions that may have worked the magic for us was the resolve not to do any new signings or open up for justifiers.
Rather, we decided to motivate the old guards and as such plunged straight into pre-season preparation. When people bring their players and they get registered, they expect them to be in the starting line-up even if they are not doing pretty well. This often results in confusion. Of course, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t make any signing along the line when need be.
TS: What does this victory mean to you?
KF: It means a lot to me. It’s a huge achievement. After 10 years at the helm and 19 years for the club without a title, the chase is over now and it’s so refreshing and rewarding. But I knew from the very first day I took the job that it was not going to be easy. I thank God for this coronation.
TS: Where do Ashgold go from here?
KF: Ashgold is moving into Africa and the resolution is to make an impact. Ghanaian clubs have not fared very well in recent times as they have struggled to make it into the money zone of the CAF Champions League. I think now it behoves on Ashgold and FA Cup champions Medeama to lift the flag of Ghana and force CAF to restore the nation’s four-club slot.
TS: Were you impressed with the standard of play in the league as well as officiating?
KF: I’m one person who doesn’t like talking about officiating. But I think generally it is not bad although there is much room for improvement. I think the referees can do better than they are doing at the moment. I think you would agree with me we have had a competitive league with all clubs displaying some composed football. The standard, for me, is appreciably high.
TS: Any particular lessons from the league?
KF: I think we need a sponsorship worth its salt. First Capital Plus Bank may not be doing badly at all, but like Oliver Twist we need more. I guess we also need an improved playing field and infrastructure for the development of the game.
TS: Do you intend to stay on as Ashgold CEO?
KF: It’s a bit hazy now. I’m yet to make up my mind until I engage my board in some discussions on my future. Truth is that, in the process of taking stock of what I have done so far and vis-à-vis my advance age, I have to look for options that would make me slow down a bit. Don’t forget I have gone beyond 60 years (laughs).
TS: Any final message to the football populace?
KF: I’m appealing to Ghanaians to devote time for our local game. That’s the only one we have. The foreign league is taking the steam off our game and the media can help salvage the situation. All the same, I can’t conclude this interview without lauding the media for their immense contribution to the development of the local game. They have been phenomenal, but they can do more.
TS: Congratulations once again and thanks for your time.
KF: The pleasure is mine. I’m grateful.