Captain Samira Suleman was named best player of the entire season shortly after the game.
She smiled. She was tired. Happily tired. “I don’t know what to do now. I feel so…so excited. Being the best player in the first ever women’s league? I don’t know what to do. This calls for celebration.”
Suleman’s Hasaacas Ladies had just won the first ever National Women’s league, beating arch rivals Fabulous Ladies 2-1 in the champion of champions’ game at the Accra Sports Stadium. Suleman herself was overwhelmed by the occasion that also saw her emerge as joint top scorer of the competition with 14 goals from 11 games. She had not scored that afternoon – midfield dynamo Jennifer Cudjoe had scored both their goals via the spot in the 35th and 83rd minute – but she knew what she and her team-mates had accomplished. The joy that filled her eyes as she lifted the trophy said it all.
Echoes of Hasaacas’ famous “Dooo!” chant filled the air as she did so. As she lifted the first ever women’s league trophy. As she made history.
The victory not only meant a cash prize of $1000 and a giant trophy for the ladies from the west, it also meant a first ever victory against Fabulous Ladies after five previous tries. “It was always going to be about current form and not past records. We were not depending on past records,” coach Yusif Basigi said after the game.
Fabulous Ladies started the game as the stronger side. They had piled on the pressure from the blast of the whistle and had seen their efforts rewarded when Hasaacas’ Regina Antwi brought down star striker Agnes Aduako.
Aduako wasted no time on the ground, she got up and immediately walked towards the ball, picked it up, and placed it on the spot. The keeper stood ball watching as the ball flew from her deadly right foot into the net to give the Reds the lead. The goal took her personal tally to 14, meaning she had joined Suleman as joint top scorers.
Brouhaha over top scorer
Before the game, Hasaacas Ladies coach Yusif Basigi - who works with Aduako as assistant coach of the Black Queens - had said most of Aduako’s goals, compared to Suleman’s, had been penalties. Aduako had this to say; “I don’t know what he means by that. Even if you look at top scorers in Europe, they score penalties amongst their goals.”
Fabulous Ladies saw their confidence and dominance gradually diminish after the goal. They played second fiddle to their opponents from then on till the end of the encounter. “The person I was playing up top with (Captain Fatima Adjei) wasn’t supporting me enough, because if she was, their back four wouldn’t have been able to hold us,” Aduako complained. “Anytime I took the ball, I wasn’t getting the support so it was easy for them to overcome me. Their back four rarely moved because they all know how I am and what I’m capable of.”
Lack of support was not the only reason Aduako failed to click. Diminutive Janet Egyir was in the number five jersey for Hasaacas Ladies. On the day, she was far from a lady. She was a beast, one that had been specifically tasked to mark Aduako. And she did it so well. “I know Janet very well,” Aduako revealed. “We’ve been to camp several times. I know how she is, how she tackles and all that. But you see in football, if you figure out a defender’s weak points, what will enable you overcome that defender is adequate support from your team mates; especially your midfielders and the striker you play alongside. But if you’re up against it alone, it becomes very difficult, no matter how good you are.”
“I’m with her in the same camp (Black Queens) so I really know how she operates. The coach had instructed me to mark her out, and that’s what I did.” Janet said of Aduako, with a friendly smile. “I feel so proud about what we’ve achieved today,” she added, arms spread wide open, soaking in the emotions.
Janet and her team mates celebrated with the trophy as Fabulous Ladies coach Nana Owusu Sekyere looked on in despair. His side had failed to carry on their performance after a fired up start. “They’ve won, so we’ll give them all the credit,” he began. “But we’ll give the proper credit to the assistant referee,” he continued sarcastically. There was bitterness in what followed. “You see how he has undone us. Look at the unnecessary penalty that he awarded our opponents. You all saw the situation; it’s bad. I was even told he’s from Takoradi (where Hasaacas Ladies are based).”
“Imagine. We’re playing such a final and you give them such an unnecessary penalty? He frustrated us.”
The emotional moment
Elsewhere, Elizabeth Cudjoe stood, satisfied. Happy. Coach Sekyere’s complaints weren’t going to worry her. She had flown into the country from the US just to honour her team’s invitation to help them in the final. She did not regret flying in.
The cherry on top for her was that her little sister, Jennifer Cudjoe, had made the day perfect with her brace. Elizabeth herself would have been in anyone’s list of top performers of the game. She was simply immense, dazzling fans with her breathtaking attacking play. “That was my role, to play as a libero. So I was able to do what the coach told me to do.”
“I’m so excited. This is the first time ever that a women’s league has been held and we’ve won it. This is history,” Cudjoe, who is a level 300 college student in the US, added emotionally.
Fabulous Ladies, for once, had been forced off their thrown as Ghana’s women’s team to beat. Not even an impressive display from defenders Portia Boakye and Ama Saabi had been able to save them from a Hasaacas team that was determined to make history. A free-scoring team that stayed unbeaten throughout the season.
“Our secret was that we trained hard, twice a day in fact,” Hasaacas Ladies welfare officer Michael Frimpong said. “We were also determined to make the people of Western Region proud.”
And just how proud the people of Western Region will be. Their men’s team last won a league title in 1977.
Coach Basigi was optimistic about the team’s future. “The future looks bright for us. We look forward to winning more trophies.”