Algerian outfit, Entente Sportive de Setif, must have welcomed their pairing against Aduana Stars with a huge sense of relief. And they will come to Dormaa on March 7, 2018, confident in the knowledge that Ghanaian clubs have been cursed against Algerian opposition.
It is this ‘curse’ that I wish to bring to the attention of the Dormaa lads as they gear up for an important date with history. Aduana need not look far for evidence of the measure of the task ahead.
Their Brong Ahafo neighbours, Bechem United received a cheerless continental baptism just last year with a 4-1 drubbing in Algiers to exit the CAF Confederation Cup at the hands of MC Alger.
The second leg scoreline more than overtuned a measly 2-1 first leg advantage for the Ghanaian side.
Bechem’s ordeal was not an isolated case though. On the contrary, it followed a pattern of recent and longstanding Ghanaian misery at the hands of Algerian clubs.
So absolute is the Algerian voodoo that flyweights like Mouloudia Olympique Bejaia alone stopped two Ghanaian clubs in two different African competitions in the same 2016 season.
Having eliminated Ashgold in the preliminary stage of the 2016 Champions League, Bejaia eventually failed to progress to the group stage and descended to the Confederation Cup to terrorise Medeama.
In a tie that would have sealed a semi-final spot for the Ghanaians, the Algerians defended grimly to earn a goalless draw at Tarkwa before ending Medeama’s dream with a 1-0 victory at home.
Even more baffling is the fact that the 2016 double whammy inflicted by Bejaia was not without adequate warning.
Indeed just three years earlier, the cheeky Algerians had put Kumasi to early sleep with a 1-1 draw against sleeping continental giants, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, who had come into the game with an encouraging goalless draw from the first leg.
And two years later, in 2015, another Algerian bantamweight, MC Eulma, carried impudence to unimaginable limits by daring to post a win 2-1 win over the Porcupine Warriors in Kumasi, even after a goalless first leg in Algeria.
But the Eulma anathema was only an affirmation of tradition. Kotoko’s demotion from the 2004 CAF Champions League to the play-offs of the Confederation Cup was occasioned by a certain USMA of Algeria.
After either side had won the home leg 2-0, the Ghanaians lost their nerves during the penalty shoot-outs, managing to convert just one kick against four by the North Africans.
Four years later (2008), Kotoko’s regional rivals, Ashgold, also succumbed to a 3-0 hiding by JSK of Algeria in a CAF Champions League second preliminary round encounter.
shgold were so overwhelmed by the first leg thrashing that they failed to recover in the return leg, with Mubarak Wakaso even throwing away a penalty in a 0-0 draw at Obuasi.
But before any diehard Aduana fan dismisses the above account as a recent fluke, let me tell them, as mentioned earlier, that the Algerian jinx has been long standing.
In 1990, Kotoko took a slim 1-0 first leg advantage to Algiers only to concede two – one in injury time – to lose 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate to bow out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage.
In what is the only Ghanaian triumph over Algerian opposition in club football, Accra Hearts of Oak eliminated USKA of Algeria on the way to a semi-final heartache against Arab Contractors of Egypt in the erstwhile African Cup Winners Cup in 1982.
However, 11 years down the line, even this flattering distinction of being the only Ghanaian side to beat an Algerian club in Africa did not avail much for the Rainbow Club.
In a 1993 clash in the defunct CAF Cup, Hearts laboured to a 3-2 home win in Kumasi against Algerian part-timers, USM Harrach.
With a couple of minutes to full time and the score at 2-2 in the second leg, the Algerians struck to send the game into penalties.
And the Phobians’ 1990 penalty nightmare against Tunisia’s Club Africain came back to haunt them.
The Ghanaian misery continued in 1995 in a Cup Winners Cup quarter final showdown. By the 35th minute, a brace by Thomas Quaye, both from the spot, had given Accra Hearts of Oak a 2-0 lead in Accra after a 3-1 loss to JSK in Algiers a fortnight earlier.
The Ghanaians only needed to hold on to go through on the away-goal rule against the Algerians who even had a player red-carded in the process of conceding the second penalty.
Yet, with some fifteen minutes to full time, Hearts goalkeeper Abubakar Kankani found himself forced to fetch the ball from his net after a screamer from 35 yards out stunned the entire stadium into palpable silence.
Two years after the Hearts fiasco against the dreaded JSK, Kumasi Asante Kotoko again came face to face with another Algerian opposition in the 1997 CAF Cup competition. Just like Bejaia, and MC Eulma, it was another “unknown quantity” by name USM Ein Beida.
Once again the Ghanaian epilepsy in the face of Algerian opponents surfaced. The little known Ein Beida cheekily held Kotoko to a 1-1 stalemate in Kumasi before romping to a 3-1 win in the second leg back on the desert.
What underlines this singular and uncanny Algerian vodoo is the fact that within the same period, Hearts and Kotoko have chalked some important victories against other formidable non-; Algerian sides from North Africa.
WAC, FAR, Marrakech, (Morocco), El Ahly, Zamalek, El Mahalla (Egypt) have all fallen to Kotoko over those years. Hearts, on their part, dispatched El Ahly, Zamalek (Egypt) as well as Esperance and Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) during their heyday in the early to mid-2000s.
Besides, Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea put current African champions, Raja Cassablanca of Morocco to the sword in 2012, spanking them 5-0 in Berekum.
If the above chronicle is anything to go by, then Aduana must brace themselves for a grim and grueling game. The Algerian threat does not, however, lie exclusively in the above records.
As seven times Algerian champions, eight times F. A. Cup winners and twice African Champions, Entente Sportive de Setif come into the tie as a formidable force in their own right.
They were African champions just four years ago, and playing in a tough league alongside the famous JSK and USMA, who are seasoned African campaigners.
Moreover, Aduana have been disadvantaged by the undue delay in commencing the local league.
Typical of North African sides, Setif will play a tactical game that will seek to slow down and frustrate the hosts.
The Fire Lads will need to exercise patience, keep 100% concentration and have their wits about them for the entire 90 minutes.
The Dormaa club must understand that a massive home win, though possible, is highly unlikely against their more experienced opponents.
The Ghanaians must therefore psych themselves for a two-legged trial of endurance, the second stanza of which will be aggressive, explosive, intense and high-octane.
Above all, they should get the totemic dog barking, the ancestral fire flaming fiercely all afternoon and invoke the old warrior spirit of Dormaa in aid of this awesome jinx-breaking assignment.
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