2012 Under Review: The story of the legend killers from Ghana’s Berekum

Goal.com Ghana’s guest writer, Kwesii Asomadu, walks us through the epic story of Berekum Chelsea in their debut Africa Champions League mission this year
By Kwesii Asomadu

Legend has it that when England were defeated 1-0 by the USA in the 1950 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, it was so unexpected that British newspapers reported the score line as rather 10–0 in favor of England.

How could the hastily assembled, semi-professionals and amateurs from America defeat the team with the reputation as “The Kings of Football”? The mighty English were beaten by an American team that included a postman and a mill-worker. An American team that had a player withdrawn from the tournament because he could not get time off work. Before the game the English were so confident that the Daily Express newspaper wrote that “it would be fair to give the USA three goals of a start.”

 Raja Casablanca | It wasn't an easy journey in Ghana

So when the often overzealous radio commentators kept bleating out that Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea were leading African football Aristocrats, Raja Casablanca 5-0, you would be forgiven if you thought it was probably in relation to the corner kick count or the attempts on goal. Berekum Chelsea’s team did not contain any semi-professionals, but to white wash the Moroccan giants and three-time winners of Africa’s biggest club competition was no mean fate.

The massacre of Berekum was as bloody as football could ever get, with Emmanuel Clottey leading the barrage of assault with a hat-trick flanked by goals from Solomon Asante and Abdul Basit. What the Blues accomplished that day was nothing short of remarkable. They had shown they had the quality to wrestle with some of Africa’s finest. They had built upon their 5-0 aggregate win over Liberian side LISCR FC in the preliminary round and had now visibly shaken the tectonic plates of African football. Raja would try a spirited comeback in the second leg winning by three goals to nil, but the damage had already been done in the first leg. After the Raja hurdle was cleared the name Legend Killers was hinted at but the rest that would follow would give it more credence.

Garoua defeated | The Blues put off the lights in Cameroon

The ticket to qualify for the group stage of Africa’s biggest club competition came with the task; defeat Cameroonian side Coton Sport Garoua. The 2008 finalists would earn a goalless draw in Ghana making the return leg in Garoua a task that would have required Ethan Hunt and his Mission Impossible team to complete. Against all odds the club that coined its name from Abramovich’s Chelsea would dig into the same reserves that their London cousins dug in to win their first Champions League trophy. “In 2004 we formed a division three team in Berekum, it was around the time [Michael] Essien had joined Chelsea and so as a Chelsea fan I decided to name the club after them,” explained club owner Emmanuel Kyeremeh in an interview with the BBC.

Goals from Clottey and Basit were enough to shock the people of Garoua and beyond. Berekum Chelsea had become the first Ghanaian club to play in the Group stage of the continent’s flagship event since 2006. They were now proud warriors with the conquered skulls of two African club legends, but little did they know that like the myth about the Hydra; when you cut off heads of clubs engraved as legends, more legends do appear.
Picture a group in the European Champions League that contained a relatively new comer against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United. This was what befell Berekum Chelsea as they were drawn with Al Ahly (current champions with a record of seven titles), Zamalek (five Champions League titles. Last time they won it was in 2002) and TP Mazembe (four Champions League titles. Last time they won it was in 2010). This was not just a group of death; it was also the highway to hell.

Zamalek shocked | The Egyptian giants fell in Accra

Their first game in the group stages was against Egyptian side Zamalek. With Caf not allowing them to use their home grounds in Berekum (because it did not meet certain requirements) the game was held at Ghana’s Wembley - Accra Sports Stadium.  Losing 2-1 at half time, Clottey, who is currently with Tunisian side Esperance, would drag them from hell, as he scored to notch up his second hat-trick of the tournament and gave the Ghanaian side a superb comeback. Clottey’s mother had passed away a couple of weeks before the game and he dedicated the feat to her. “It’s not been an easy two weeks. All the three goals came from my mother, and I dedicate them all to her. May she find rest wherever she is,” the 25-year-old emotionally stated.

 The Talisman | Tresor Mputu got his fair share of pain from the Blues

The next game was away to TP Mazembe in a game that marked the commissioning of the Nouveau Mazembe Stadium. The script was boldly written as a party day for the DR Congo side and the first half followed the script perfectly. Goals from Tresor Mputu put the home side ahead and fuelled the party atmosphere, but the top goal scorer of the elite inter-club competition of the continent had other ideas. He managed a second half rescue act scoring a double and gate-crashing the Ravens’ party. The brace took Clottey’s tally to 11 goals for the tournament and propelled him to Superstar status across the continent. Coaches were now working overtime to stop the predatory instincts of the player who had thus far scored all of Berekum Chelsea’s goals in the group stages.

But while he was singled out for praise for obvious reasons there were other notable contributors. Jordan Opoku was such a massive influence in midfield, while Asante was a constant threat from wide areas. The ever present Jackson Owusu provided steel in the midfield. Accompanying their  new found tag - comeback kings - was a weakness in defense that prompted someone to tweet “If Neil Armstrong had been on the moon this afternoon, he'd have seen the gap between the Berekum Chelsea defenders, fix it guys.” This weakness would bring these Legend Killers to their knees.

"It’s not been an easy two weeks. All the three goals came from my mother, and I dedicate them all to her. May she find rest wherever she is,"

- Emmanuel Clottey

A massive 4-1 loss in Cairo against Al Alhy was followed by a draw in the return leg. So a win in their next game against Zamalek became imperative. One of the worst pieces of defending would cost them a goal and eventually their semi-final place in the competition. They would equalise in that game but that was one comeback too many. A 1-0 win in their last game against TP Mazembe marked the end of a remarkable journey.  

It was a journey of gallant heroes from Berekum, who massacred Raja and put the lights out in Garoua. A journey of a team led in the dug-out by Hans Van der Plyum and then on the pitch by Clottey. A perilous journey of a Blue Army that slain the White Knights from Cairo and gate-crashed TP Mazembe’s party. A remarkable story of a team that just under a decade of existence had written itself into elite African footballing folklore. The story of the Legend Killers from Berekum who were downed by friendly fire.