COMMENT By Prince Narkortu Teye Follow on Twitter
Few leagues could boast of the Ghana Premier League’s all-action drama last season; the battle at the top was as fierce, and the tussle at the bottom gruelling.
Whether its perceived competitiveness was a result of lousy performances by traditional big guns or down to a bridging of the gap by the ‘smaller’ teams, it certainly did hold up excitement and interest until the last whistle.
For example, only three points separated relegation-trapped Bechem United and sixth-placed Berekum Chelsea after matchday 29.
After a season total of 240 matches, Ashanti Gold broke the status quo, taking the league for the first time in 19 years with 52 points. They toiled, and even fell at the last hurdle in a 2-1 defeat at Great Olympics, but a six-point gap ahead of matchday 30 was enough to nullify any consequential effect.
Ashgold ended a near-two decade wait for a title, and headed into the final day with nothing to lose
Was that the case a year earlier?
In season 2013-14, Asante Kotoko emerged champions for the 23rd time in the league’s history. Under coach Didi Dramani, the Porcupine Warriors won 17, drew four and lost nine matches to their lay hands on the diadem.
With 54 points, Kotoko finished eight points clear of second-placed and now relegated Heart of Lions, and the title race was all but decided earlier on matchday 28. At the bottom, Dwarfs and Amidaus Professionals had been confirmed demoted ahead of matchday 30.
Why were things so different in the 2014-15 campaign?
How the 2014-15 table stood ahead of matchday 30
Ahead of the final round of matches, at least two things were clear; Ashanti Gold had wrapped up the title and BA United had been confirmed one of three casualties headed for the drop. With the title race having ended, it was little wonder that all of the attention had veered towards the relegation dogfight.
In all, eight teams, from 15th to 8th position, could possibly have bitten the dust.
Safe to say only Ashgold, Aduana Stars, Liberty Professionals, Inter Allies, Hearts of Oak, Berekum Chelsea and Wa All Stars had all guaranteed their places in the 15-16 season, while WAFA (40 points), Lions (40), Kotoko (39), Hasaacas (39), Edubiase (39), Medeama (38), Bechem United (38) and Olympics (37) had their fates to decide.
With Olympics and Bechem on the 15th and 14th positions respectively, the Accra-based side did not only have to win; they needed results elsewhere to go in their favour.
But then, the ‘Dade Boys’ had to come up against runaway champions Ashgold, who would surely want to sign off their title-winning campaign in style.
Great Olympics | The greatest result of their season wasn't enough to avoid relegation
Indeed, Olympics ground out a 2-1 victory, ending up tied with Lions on 40 points in 15th and 14th respectively following the final day. That, though, wasn’t enough to save both teams from falling down the divisions.
WAFA (who eventually finished 13th), Medeama (12th), Bechem (11th) and All Stars (10th) all found themselves on 41 points, effectively cementing their places among Ghana’s elite. Edubiase, Hasaacas and Kotoko, for their parts, did not just beat the drop, but found themselves inside the top ten!
Courtesy of a post-season reinstatement of six points docked from Kotoko on disciplinary grounds in a battle with Hearts, the Porcupine Warriors were moved up to second, the Phobians having dropped down to 13th. The ensuing sequence of events have now changed the face of the table from how it stood at the close of matchday 30.
This most dramatic, and tightest of seasons, it seems, couldn't resist the temptation to twist once again, even after the final whistle had blown.
“This season is the most competitive I’ve witnessed as a coach,” Ashgold manager Bashir Hayford told Hot FM.
Hayford | A season to remember...!
“The competition was very tight because even a club that earned 40 points got relegated, unlike the previous seasons where it was enough to enable a club beat the drop zone.”
A precise summary!
It's fair to say that the 2015-16 does have some lofty standard to meet; last season’s league may have had its fair share of disciplinary tussles, but it did serve us excitement in the least – a blockbuster of unadulterated Ghanaian soccer.