Asante Kotoko Sporting Club risk being eliminated from the CAF Champions League following a 1-0 home defeat to Sudanese side Al-Hilal on Wednesday, 23rd December 2020 in Ghana’s capital Accra.
Kotoko who earlier accounted for Nouadhibou of Mauritania in the previous round, now has their job cut out in the return leg away in Omdurman, in Sudan in the New Year.
For Kotoko to be successful in the Sudan terrain where Asante Kings, Diplomats, Traders, and Producers have prevailed through quality kola variety trade, the team will need to outplay themselves and offer the quality of play, the kind the Sudanese are used to with their Kola supply from Asante.
Asante Kola Trade to Central Sudan
Kolanuts were in great demand in Central Sudan, a region far from Asante kola forests to the south-west as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries as highlighted in the epic work of Paul Lovejoy entitled Caravans of Kola. It is worth noting that for centuries, many products were traded between Central Sudan and Asante, but kola was usually singled out as the commodity of most interest both by traders involved in international commerce. Historically and presently, the use of the nuts served the same function as other mild stimulants do in many societies. Kola was and is offered to friends and guests as a sign of hospitality, just as Englishmen serve tea or American coffee. At the height of the Islamic expansion, the demand for kola also rose as the nuts were the only readily available stimulant which Islam did not condemn; thus as more people in the savanna region of West Africa became Muslim, the trade-in kola increased.
Kotoko vs Al Hilal in CAF Champions League
The history behind Asante trade and domination of the kola trade through the caravan transport system era presents useful lessons for Asante Kotoko Sporting Club, in their games in Sudan. Whereas, the team has a Board, Management, and systems from branding to beefed-up technical teams, increased sponsorships, enhanced technology use, the key ingredient of quality football ( like the C. nitida kola variety of the Caravan days) will need to be displayed to succeed in Sudan. This will mean that the players will have to play above themselves, controlling the game from start to finish with quality football that will mesmerise the Sudanese. Anything short of that will be considered sub-standard and a loss of control and a failure.
In the 1780s, Sharif Imhammed was the commercial representative of the Sultan of Fezzan, in the northern Sahara, who traveled to Asante to deal in gold and kola. According to Paul Lovejoy, his report is the earliest evidence of Asante control on northern commerce leading out of Asante through to the heart of Sudan. As Wilks, an accomplished Asante historian has shown, Imhammed was not the only example of a commercial cum diplomatic mission between Asante and other countries, particularly those along the routes to Central Sudan.
The Asante kola industry was, therefore, a major industry, and to understand its operations it is necessary to examine a number of factors, including the supply of Asante supplied virtually all the C. nitida variety of kola which was of high quality and demand in Central Sudan. Further, a combination of economic policies which included taxation, production control, and the development of support mechanisms such as transport, legal and diplomatic engagements including a strong security network to keep the business going, and eventually nationalisation.
Al Hilal is a strong team that has been together for about three years helping them improve year on year and with strong systems, just as Asante confronted in the kola trade with increased competition. To beat the competition, you enhance your systems, build experience, and employ the best there is from management through to technical team and players to deliver the quality of play that Kotoko has been noted for in times past. This is the time to show grit and power in the game in Omdurman as never seen in recent times.
All the fans need to replenish for the loss in Accra is quality football in Omdurman leading to a win and proceeding to the next round.
Wokum Apem a, Apem beba!
By: Yaw Adu-Gyamfi