If you have been following the Ghana Premier League (GPL) over the past decade, you will realize the advent and reign of the Northern clubs have fizzled out. Real Tamale United and WA All Stars were the household names of the North in the Ghana Premier League. Technically, Legon Cities, formally known as WA All Stars are still present in the club football showpiece. The hard truth however, is the fact that WA All Stars was sold hence the berth of Legon Cities which is now an Accra-based club leaving the North with no representation in the Ghana Premier League. This doesn’t look good for the Northern sector and as results have seen the number of fans who pay attention to the league depreciate. Scouts hardly go there to poach players but the rise of U-20 AFCON player of the year, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku is painting a whole different picture for Northern football. Away from that, they have quite a number of precious gems playing in the Premier League.
Meanwhile some players from that sector have been immense in the League. Ibrahim Moro has been an exceptional defender for the Kotoko franchise, Salifu Ibahim had a successful stint at Eleven Wonders which later caught the eye of Accra giants, Hearts of Oak. Fatawu Mohammed is also up there in the ranks, Nuru Sulley, Patrick Razak, Abdul Bashiru, Umar Bashiru who has also been a brilliant playmaker for Karela United, Yussif Mubarik, Abdul Latif Nabila and Sadiq Alahassan have all proven their vibrance in the league. All these players are representing the northern sector remarkably in their various premier league outfits. However, the Northern drought of Premier league football seem to be running deeper than perceived.
This has seen financial constraints on football up north. The Division1 clubs barely get the support from stakeholders of the game to bolster their team. Top flight football is literally dead in the North currently.
The Structural Depriciation of the “Northern Pride” – Real Tamale United.
Since 1976 after its birth, Real Tamale United had grown to be a formidable force in the Ghana Premier League for the North. They were the talisman of the North when it came to football hence were given the mantra name “Pride of the North”. Though they witnessed a relegation-free- chain of football seasons, they couldn’t compliment it with a GPL title. They were the first Northern team to play in the CAF Champions league, three (3) times. That was quite a setback for them considering the ardent name they had carved out for themselves. Tamale would and still fancy a GPL title but these hopes were dwindled after Real Tamale United were relegated in the 2010/2011 season. They finished 11th in the previous season.
A record as this would make one wonder if a Premier league title would be in hindsight for them and even if they weren’t relegated, would they have secured a GPL title? After their shocking relegation in 2011, Tamale was shattered but they gave a quick response and made a statement by returning the next season (2013). The excitement for the return was immediately dipped for the Northern fans as gloomy days set in. Real Tamale United’s doom begun and it won’t improve in the next 8 years.
Victims of Circumstances -WA ALL STARS
Wa All Stars also did a remarkable job representing the North. Their lights shone in the North-Western side as they went all the way to clinch a Ghana Premier league title cementing their name as one of the minatory teams in the league. Seeing a team of their caliber and how they fell as a victim of circumstance was disheartening. Initiated to the top flight league in 2007 after their formation in 2006 by Kwesi Nyantakyi, the Western stars were a force to reckon with. They made a statement in the 2007/2008 season by securing the seventh position on the Premier League log. That was an extraordinary feat for a club who were taking baby steps in the game. Their historical footprint was set in the right trajectory in the Premier League and it will gift them the best feat going forward. It was clear this team was laced with the “winning mentality” and they gave electrifying performances week-in, week-out for their fans. They were clear favorites in the North as compared to their Northern Compatriots-Real Tamale United (RTU). Unlike RTU, WA All Stars marked a consistent presence in the national showpiece without facing relegation. The team complemented their scintillating performances with a Ghana Premier League title in 2016 after they drudged Aduana Stars on 14th September 2016. The fairytale of the North-Western stars could have continued had the “Number 12” expose not expose their owner; Kwesi Nyantakyi in 2018. This was a team who were patriotic in proxying the North but unfortunately for their fans, they were rebranded into Accra-based team Legon Cities in 2019. Legon Cities struggled to be grounded firmly in the Premier League but seem to be finding their rhythm as a team after augmenting their squad.
“Late To The Party”
Unlike their Southern brothers, football in the north was still at its developing stages hence the underrepresentation of the Northern teams. In 1976, Real Tamale United was formed and it took a whooping gap of 30 years to create another team-WA All Stars. In as much as they boast of some of the best players in the country, they were late to the party and that has cost their level of representation. The southern based teams have secured the most number of slots in the league. The early stages of the league saw 8 teams go head to head and as the showpiece gathered more interest, the number of participating teams also increased. The North had only one avatar competing amongst the elite. That amount of pressure on RTU was a burden they weren’t fancying yet an honor to make the North Proud. Investors in the footballing game in Ghana were focused on creating Southern-based teams since growth and excitement were present there. Failure to recognize potential in the North by investors really affected their growth in the Premier league.
Real Tamale United’s Supremacy Duly Broken
The narrative however is gradually changing as Hon. Haruna Idrisu, the minority leader in Parliament formed a budding club in the North called Steadfast FC. Tamale Cities are also up there in the ranks as Premier League prospects. One of these teams look poised to qualify into the Premier league despite imminent threats from Berekum Arsenal. However, eyes are feasted more on RTU as they’re the paradigm of club football in the North. Bringing Premier League football back into the hearts of the Northerners will usher the GPL into another great era. Football will be for the nation and not just a game for the southern hemisphere teams. The benefits when a Northern Club makes it to the top flight will utterly fuel development of club football in Ghana.
Tamale City FC are being coached by Former Black Stars player, Hamza Mohammed and currently sit 5th on the Division One league log with 31 points.
Real Tamale United are second with thirty-one points (31) on the log being coached by another Black Stars veteran, Ibrahim Tanko. Steadfast United are the underdogs pulling an upset in the Division 1 League and are determined to secure a slot in the Premier League. They are coached by Former Black Star player, Mohammed Gargo. They are currently first on the league log and qualifying will be synonymous to a fairytale. They have a precious gem like Fatawu Issahaku who has made a statement on a continental level during the just ended U-20 AFCON.
There are still over 10 games left to play and a playoff coming up as well. Results can go in anyone’s favor but the Northern teams are prowling fastidiously for Premier league football and the stakes are on them to secure the coveted slot.