Although some may disagree that superstition has no role to play in football, ardent followers and players of Ghana Premier League clubs Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko know it takes more than just playing to win.
Sometimes the rule of form guide is defied because football is not just the physical play.
Here is a recount of some of the Hearts of Oak versus Asante Kotoko matches that were dominated by juju and superstition.
Asante Kotoko suffered a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Hearts of Oak in Accra in 1984. The Porcupine Warriors went down 0-2 in the first half through goals from Ofei Ansah in the 3rd minute and George Lamptey in the 5th minute.
During the break, something bizarre happened: Asante Kotoko returned from the dressing room having changed from their red jersey into white for the second half.
According to the reports, a juju man told them to change their jersey because the white jersey was going to turn things around for them. However, it was mission impossible as they failed to stage a comeback in the second half.
1989 – 31st December 1989 (League game Cum 31st Revolution Cup Match)
Hearts of Oak 2-2 Asante Kotoko (6-7penalties)
The Ghana Football Association (GFA) introduced penalty shootouts to decide a winner whenever a game ended in a draw in the 1989-1990 season.
Hearts of Oak were held to a two-all draw at the Accra Sports Stadium by Asante Kotoko with the Porcupine Warriors subsequently winning 6-7 in the penalty shootout to break the tie.
Sarfo Gyamfi nicknamed the Black President, a key member of the Asante Kotoko team was told by a juju man that two different balls will be used for the game- a ‘blue and black’ ball and a ‘white and blue Adidas’ ball.
According to the juju man, the black and white ball will favour Asante Kotoko, whereas the blue and white ball will be to the advantage of the Phobians.
Sarfo Gyamfi and Mohammed Odoom, who kept the post for Kotoko, fashioned a covert plan: whenever a blue and white ball was introduced they resolved to deflate it with a needle they hid in Odoom’s gloves.
Interestingly, Kotoko got their two goals through the black and white ball and conceded the two goals from the blue and white ball.
Odoom, meanwhile, was ruthless: he deflated the blue and white balls whenever it was in play.
The ball that was eventually used for the penalty shootout was a black and white Adidas ball. Asante Kotoko won 7-6 to take two points and the trophy at stake, while Hearts of Oak got a point for drawing in regulation time.
Also, because it was an anniversary game to commemorate the December 31, 1981 coup d’etat that brought the then incumbent military government into power, the Head of State, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, led the delegation to inspect both teams before kickoff.
Sarfo Gyamfi, however, snubbed a handshake from Rawlings because apparently, the juju man had told him Kotoko would lose should all the players exchange a handshake with the Head of State.
The ‘Black President’, as Gyamfi was nicknamed, was suspended for some games for snubbing Ghana’s leader, but it was later rescinded.
1998 – Hearts 1-1 Kotoko (7-6 penalties)
This game was a June 4 Cup match (June 4, 1979 was the date on which Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings staged his first coup d’etat, bringing into power the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council – AFRC – that replaced the Supreme Military Council II government of General F.W.K Akuffo).
Both Kotoko and Hearts had been hinted by spiritualists after they went for consultations that the results won’t go in their favour if they start with eleven men on the field.
So they both started the game with ten men – before Lawrence Amankwa and Jacob Nettey came on for Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak respectively. The match ended 1-1 and Hearts of Oak won 7-6 in the penalty shootout to break the tie.
2003 – 31st August 2003
Hearts 1-1 Kotoko
Asante Kotoko, afraid of being hypnotized under a presumed Hearts of Oak spell came to the stadium in bits and pieces.
When they finally assembled in the dressing room, they used the tartan tracks briefly for the warm-up and only went onto the pitch after their opponents had done so.
The game itself was also full of drama, as Hearts of Oak scored the opener through Bernard Dong Bortey with Yusif Alhassan Chibsah firing the equalizer which created much controversy.
Chibsah shot the ball in after goalkeeper Eben Dida who was brought down was cruelly forced to spill the ball in the six-yard box.
The decision angered the home fans who resulted to hurling bagged water and other missiles at the match official and players.
2005 – Asante Kotoko 1-1 Hearts of Oak
The final of the 2004 CAF Confederation Cup which was played in February 2005 is believed to have had some superstitious acts.
Accra Hearts of Oak who won on penalties after the game ended in a 1-1 draw claimed they used the hair of the Asante Kotoko coach Hans Dietar Schmidt to perform some rituals.
It was amazing on the day that Charles Taylor, who was the most exciting player of the Porcupine Warriors, was taken out by the German at a time they were leading 1-0 against Hearts of Oak.
A group of Hearts of Oak fans later came out to ‘confess’ that they masterminded their side’s victory by collecting Dietar Schmidt’s hair from the saloon he usually has his hair done and that influenced his decision to substitute Charles Taylor.
2005 – Hearts 1-1 Kotoko
Events from the start of the match set up the tone for an uncompromising game as both teams decided not to come into the stadium in their respective team buses but rather preferred to walk into the stadium.
More was to come when after the usual warm up, both sides appeared in the tunnel dressed in all-white jerseys resulting in a lot of deliberations between officials of the teams.
Kick-off was held up for more than one hour 10 minutes.
After sanity prevailed, Hearts players went to the field of play in a strip of green jerseys.
Another piece of drama occurred that delayed the match further as Kotoko had to change their white socks to yellow as it clashed with the colours of Hearts of Oak.
All these happenings took place because both sides had consulted some juju men concerning their fate and they were advised to go through those exercises if they wanted to avoid a defeat.
2012 – Kotoko 2-1 Hearts
Dr. K.K Sarpong, who was unknown in the football circles until he took over the Asante Kotoko job as the Executive Chairman of the club in 2011 was advised to seek spiritual backing from a juju man if he wanted to be famous among the Kotoko fraternity.
Various accounts claim he was introduced to a spiritualist at Nkoranza in the Brong Ahafo Region and in Kotoko’s home game against Hearts of Oak, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) allegedly had to harbour a female fetish priest in his house to chant to ensure Kotoko won the game.
Asante Kotoko scored first before Mahatma Otoo drew Hearts of Oak level. K.K Sarpong who was troubled with the outcome was forced to place a call to the fetish priest.
The priest told the Executive Chairman of the club that he shouldn’t worry because Kotoko was going to carry the day.
Michael Akuffo’s stunner from long range in added time won the Kumasi giants all the three points, bringing relief to Sarpong.