After 82 days of inactivity, the curtains will be opened as the Ghana Premier League returns with a bang for another action-packed campaign beginning today and under a new title sponsor, betPawa.
The 2022/2023 Ghana Premier League will now be known as the betPawa Premier League and it would be so for the next two seasons as well.
For the very first time in the history of the Ghana Premier League, four-time winners Obuasi AshantiGold who won the first ever Premier league title after the local league was amalgamated in 1993/ 94 season, will not answer the league roll call after they were fined and demoted to the Division Two League for match manipulation in their 2020-21 Ghana Premier League fixture against Inter Allies FC.
League crack sides – Accra Hearts of Oak, Aduana Stars, Berekum Chelsea, Medeama SC and Bechem United will be looking to get their season off to a flying start this weekend and make an early statement of intent in the absence of defending champions Kumasi Asante Kotoko who are on CAF Champions League duties on Monday.
Four newly-promoted teams: Samatex, Kotoku Royals, Nsoatreman FC and Tamale City will also aim to replicate the show put up by their predecessors from last season Accra Lions – Biabiani Goldstars and Real Tamale United, in a bid to hold their own in the elite league.
Fresh from their off-season feat of claiming the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA) G6 tournament, the Wonder boys from Accra Great Olympics will have the honour of hosting last season second runners-up Bechem United at the Accra Sports Stadium in the season’s opener.
Coincidentally, Great Olympics success in the GHALCA G6 tournament was at the instance of the Hunters from Bechem.
Having lost their experience Coach Daniel Annor Walker to new boys Samatex, Olympics will be looking to begin a new life in the league under coach Yaw Preko who they believe has settled well in the shoes of his former boss, Walker.
Coach Preko oversaw the victory in the GHALCA tournament and is readying himself to do a double over the visitors led by former Olympics coach Kasim Ocansey Mingle in less than a month – but that may not come easy as the visitors have sworn fire and brimstone at the hosts for denying them silverware during the off season.
Games between the two sides especially at the Accra Sports Stadium have been too close to call, the last time the two sides met at the same venue the fixture ended in a stalemate, however coach Preko who will be without top marks man Maxwell Abbey Quaye for the first time in seven seasons after he left the club last season, is expected to field marquee signing Emmanuel Agyemang Badu in the starting line with the hopes to replicate the off season form to start the season on a winning note.
For Bechem, they would be without inspirational leader Augustine Okrah after he left to join Simba SC but they have augmented their squad with some new additions who they would be banging their hopes on to deliver a bright start to the season.
Referee Emmanuel Tampuri will be joined by Tijani Mohammed and Peter Dawsa to officiate the season’s opener.
League favourites Hearts of Oak will travel to the Nana Agyemang Badu Park in Dormaa tomorrow to play as guests of two-time league champions Aduana Stars in a game tagged as ‘match of the round.’
Games between the two have always been a cliffhanger, but most often at the Dormaa Park, Aduana smile away with all the three points. However, if the re-enforcement made by the Phobians with the likes of Junior Kaaba, Zakari Yakubu, Eric Ofori Antwi, Yassan Outching, Eric Esso, Prince Nana Kwesi Darmang and Konadu Yiadom is anything to go by, then Coach Samuel Boadu may likely pick all three points from the Dormaa – if not drawing at least.
Referee Mohammed Misbau will be at the centre of affairs together with his assistants Halilu Alhassan and Alex Osam.
Another league favourite Tarkwa-based Medeama SC will kick start their journey on the road this time at the El-Wak Stadium where they would be guests of the Maxwell Konadu led Legon Cities.
Medeama would be led by experienced coach David Duncan who is making a return to the Premier League after last coaching Asante Kotoko in 2016. The former Black Stars assistant coach is expected to lead the Mauve and Yellows’ attempt at laying claim to the league title after placing second last season, and will have to make a statement against Legon Cities away to start that journey brightly.
For the Cities lads, it has been survival after survival in the last two seasons and with many soccer pundits throwing warnings in their way to lift up their play else they drop into the lower divisions, this will be enough to challenge them.
Coming face-to-face with their bulldozer former striker Hans Kwofie, the Cities defence should be wary, else they may laugh at the wrong side of their mouth after Referee Charles Bulu, who will be officiating the game, signals the end.
In other games, Real Tamale United will stay put at the at the Tamale Sports Stadium and welcome new boys Samatex FC with referee Latif Adaari expected to take charge of that game, new boys Kotoku Royals will be at their adopted venue the Cape Coast Sports Stadium to play host to Accra Lions, and would have referee Rustum Gameli officiating that game.
Referee Selorm Yaw Bless will take charge of the match between Biabiani Goldstars and Dreams FC at the Duns Park; Tamale City will begin their life in the top flight away at Aiyinase when they play Karela United with referees Maxwell Hanson in the middle.
On Monday, yet another league favourite Berekum Chelsea will host King Faisal with Referee Gabriel Opoku Arhin handling affairs.
The game between Nsoatreman FC and Asante Kotoko has been postponed dues to the latter’s engagement in the CAF Champions League.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY