His arrival in Ghana was inimical. No one knew him. Kenichi who? They ask. The announcement by officials of the club making him the next coach of giants Accra Hearts of Oak was met with a great deal of consternation among the football fraternity. Fans of the Oak tree wanted to know more about their new coach, journalists went into their archives to be updated on his work history.
Much to the dismay of the football family, his work history wasn’t alluring and encouraging and entirely antithetical to what the fans wanted. His coaching credentials were brought under scrutiny. His knowledge about the African game was questioned thus dampening the spirit of many a Phobia fan.
So many questions arose. Among these were: Has he the wherewithal to propel title-starved Hearts of Oak to a league triumph? Why a Japanese and not a coach from an endowed ‘football nation’?
Can you fault the fans? Certainly not! The Phobians for the past 7 seasons have lost their spark and shine that made them a force to reckon with in Ghana and Africa at large. These were the days family of the Oak tree virtually had to live with the faith of a prophet and nerves of steel to survive. For the Phobians to endure this long-suffering and experiment with a coach with a very little knowledge of the African game was something the fans and a section of the board were not ready to embrace.
King Kenny as he is affectionately known received the blessings of the board and begun work as the head coach of the continental club masters. He had a sweltering pre-season which heightened the fears of the fans who called for the dismissal of the king Kenny but the management and board were quick to assuage the fears of the fans and assured them that all shall be well with the club and they only had to rally behind the coach as they seek to restore the lost Phobian glory. Funnily enough, King Kenny was not deterred by this development but rather spoke with a zeal that fans wanted to hear, journalists wanted to listen to and players wanted to respond to.
Fast forward to today many a Phobian can’t believe how immensely things have changed; how dramatically the tables have turned. It may seem surreal but that’s the reality. Accra Hearts of Oak are on top of the log and are tipped to be title contenders. They have amassed 13 points from 5 games, winning 4 and drawing 1, scoring 9 and conceding 3- their best start since 2002- playing a brand of football that has captured the imagination by entertaining and at times, enthralling the rest of the league games earning them the moniker ‘sushi taka’ which encompasses tactical intelligence, hunting in pack and pace on the counter attack.
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