The Ghana Premier League has never been a friendly ground for newcomers, and surely will not be for the likes of Tema Youth, Accra Great Olympics, Elmina Sharks and Bolga All Stars over the coming months.
The four teams, two of which are set for their debut top flight campaigns, have their work cut out; the difficulty of their task not lost on anyone.
The quartet will be somewhat inspired by the outcome of last season, when only one of the three newly-promoted teams bit the dust by the end of matchday 30, with the number only increasing post-season following the demotion of Dreams FC by the Appeals Committee of the Ghana Football Association for fielding an unqualified player en route to securing promotion to the top flight in 2015.
Due to Dreams’ predicament, the top flight will see four new teams this campaign rather than the usual three.
Tema Youth were the side to benefit from the relegation of CK Akonnor’s outfit, having played alongside Dreams in same qualifying group in the Division One League, and somehow look like a side capable of holding their own.
Aside the signing of new players with top flight experience, this optimism is also supported by the fact that Youth will not be new to the elite division.
The side last played in the Premier League in 2013, but after struggling to make a return since, coupled with the fact that their current promotion was decided in the disciplinary room rather than the pitch, there can be no certainty about their survival.
If Premier League familiarity will be any decisive at all, then Great Olympics must be the happiest side.
The Dade Boys have been in and out of the top flight over the past years, and having spent only one season in the second tier following relegation in 2015 – something Tema Youth cannot claim – Olympics could be the true force to reckon with.
The Accra-based side, as is the case of all traditional clubs, boast of a strong fanbase. They spent only one season in the lower tier and their immediate return somewhat indicates their readiness to rub shoulders with Ghana’s elite.
They have one of the most interesting personalities in a head coach – former Ghana striker Godwin Attram, who doubles as a player of the team, and the side have a good representation of experience, with the likes of Dan Quaye and Richard Kingson, who were both part of Ghana’s squad for the debut 2006 World Cup campaign, offering considerable nous.
Champions in 1970 and 1974, Oly will surely need no showing around.
Elmina Sharks, a club steered by one of the country’s famous politicians – Progressive People’s Party 2016 Presidential Elections flag bearer Papa Kwesi Nduom – look positive, only because they seem to have the financial power to compete.
The Central Region-based club announced the signing of former Liberty Professionals duo Francis Arthur and Felix Addo as well as ex-Ashanti Gold man Anthony Yerful shortly after their promotion, aptly indicating their zeal to make an impact on the big stage.
Coach Kobina Amissah’s outfit may have beaten second-placed Karela FC by 10 clear points to qualify from Zone Two, but finishing outside the bottom four in the top league will not be child’s play by any stretch of the imagination.
Bolga All Stars became the first club from the Upper East region to qualify for the top flight in October last year, but seem the least fancied of the new four. They can call on former Wa All Stars midfielder Seidu Zida as well as Noah Neequaye, who scored four times in a 5-0 friendly triumph over Division Two outfit Soe Soccer Masters in their last preparatory match on Tuesday.
Comparatively, not much is known of Bolga All Stars, partly due to their geographical location, but could metamorphose into a big force in the coming months if they can cause some unlikely upsets.
From this weekend, many of the teams in the GPL will be battling to remain in the division. For now, though, all four will predictably fancy their chances.