On Sunday, December 23 1984, Asante Kotoko players made a bizarre move which got fans talking. The Porcupine Warriors, who were 2-0 down in the first half, changed their jerseys from the traditional red to white for the second half.
The reason? A juju man reportedly informed the Kumasi-based side to change their jerseys to white as it would help overturn the deficit. In the end, Hearts held on to win 2-0.
For decades, Ghana’s two giants have delivered unending action on the pitch and off it. In the past, the backstories took center stage. The use of superstition by both sides made as much headlines as the results.
The two teams, to the surprise of many, started a game with 10 men in 1998. It was a cup tie which was eventually won by the Phobians on penalties after a 1-1 score line in regulation.
Dr. K.K Sarpong, a former Kotoko CEO reportedly hosted a fetish priestess in his home just before a clash with Hearts in 2012. The next day, Michael Akuffo’s scorcher secured a 2-1 win for the Kumasi-based outfit against their bitter rivals.
Perhaps, the most surprising event of all, was the Confederation Cup final played in 2005. Kotoko and Hearts had shown their superiority against other teams in the competition and had the chance to battle for the coveted trophy.
It was claimed that the hair of Hans Dietar Scmidt, the head coach of Asante Kotoko at the time, was collected from a saloon he frequented and used for rituals by Hearts of Oak fans.
Scmidt made a shocking call during the game by substituting star player Charles Taylor whilst Kotoko were holding a 1-0 lead. Hearts subsequently equalized and won the game on penalties, further strengthening the claim.
In present day, various stakeholders have become less concerned about the superstitious acts and more interested about the statistics.
Since 1958, the two teams have battled on 106 occasions. Hearts of Oak have clinched 36 wins with Kotoko winning 35. Both teams have shared the spoils on 35 occasions. These numbers do not include the results in the 2018 and 2019/20 seasons due to their cancellations.
Recent history has shown that Kotoko are usually dominant in Accra. The Porcupine Warriors have recorded just one defeat to Hearts in their last nine league games on the road. This statistic will of course please Kotoko fans.
However, the club have adopted the Accra Sports Stadium as their home venue this campaign. It will technically be a home match for Kotoko on Sunday. Hearts have won five of their last ten clashes with Kotoko away from home. Putting this into perspective, Samuel Nii Noi’s side have a chance.
At the moment, Johnson Smith’s players, despite crashing out of the CAF Confederation Cup, can boast of better league form than their rivals. Hearts have won two of their last five league games (W2 D1 L2).
Kotoko, in comparison, have recorded three victories using the same number of league matches (W3 D1 L1). The Porcupine Warriors are 7th on the log with 23 points and the Phobians are 6th with the same number of points but have played two games more.
This particular fixture has, in the past, witnessed acts of superstition, constant action, seemingly unlimited passion from fans, and exciting results. 22 players will decided the score line on Sunday. But, of course, how the game will unravel can only be guessed by all spectators.