Voradep, the road To Dakar And The Maradona That Never Was
From the research desk of Soccertime Africa
From all the dramatic moments we can recall about our national football league in the 90s, none defied the predictions of followers of the game like the journey of an unfancied club from the Volta Region. From relegation candidates to FA cup champions in 1992, thereby earning the right to represent Ghana in the 1993 then Africa Cup Winners Cup Competition, the story of Ho Voradep is one that will always be recalled.
The team had emerged as the new bogey boys of Ghana football and had endured a topsy turvy season in 1992. The expectation was high and rightly so that a team full of young exciting talents will improve upon the feat attained by the squad of 1990 who defeated Accra Hearts of Oak in front of their home fans and accounted for Kotoko in Kumasi on the way to a memorable top 6 finish. It was not going to be an easy feat to replicate.
Key players such as midfield dynamo Adjety Lee had departed to big spenders Goldfields and the likes of Abu Manaf had moved on to Okwawu United. The mantle fell on a group of new recruits who would leave their footprints in Ghanaian football folklore by the end of the 1993 season.
Kofi Shabashi a young attacking midfielder who was part of the squad met up with Soccertime and recalled the memories.
“Education was my goal but there were obvious challenges”, he quipped. “I was convinced by then CEO of Voradep Prof Mawuse Dake to opt for Mawuli Secondary school in Ho instead of my first choice of Presec Legon so I could play for Voradep and continue my education at the club’s expense. I jumped at this opportunity. The squad I met in Ho was very young. We had a couple of experienced players as well. We really enjoyed our football. We had talents like Togolese import Amenudzi Olympio, Seth Dogbe, Seth Cudjoe, Yakubu Abubakar. We really wanted to succeed.”
The 1992 season however was mixed. The club got relegated but not before winning the FA cup to set up a champion of champions clash against Kumasi Asante Kotoko. In a highly competitive game, Kotoko had Maxwell Konadu to thank for an extra time header that levelled the scores at 2:2. Penalties would decide the game.
Voradep won the penalty shootout and confirmed themselves as the ultimate champions of Ghana football for the season and by so driving away the 23-seater bus Ghamot Ghana Limited, sponsors of the match had made available for the winner.
With relegation from the league all but confirmed, it came as a surprise when the Professor Mawuse Dake led management confirmed participation in the Africa Cup Winners Cup. Kofi Shabashi sums up the mood. “Management were determined to make history as the first to bring the Africa club competition to Ho. The motivation was not money but the love of the game. For us the players, nothing could compare to the feeling of playing in a CAF competition.”
When the CAF draws were released, Voradep was drawn against Senegalese Cup winners US Goree. For the teeming local fans of Voradep, this was something they could not have imagined. The dream of seeing their darling club pitching strength against opponents on the African continent was almost home.
Not since the visit of Asante Kotoko on the opening day of the 1991 league season had Ho been thrown into such a frenzied atmosphere. Match day arrived and Voradep, impressively kitted in their traditional white and green lined up against a US Goree team littered with six footers.
In what was a tough match in front of a packed crowd, Voradep struggled to create chances and were undone by the sending off of Amenudzi Olympio. The match ended scoreless leaving Voradep pondering about what their fortunes might be in Dakar in a fortnight. After a two-week period of intensive preparation, Proff Dake led a young and motivated team to Dakar Senegal, their fate squarely in the hands.
“We wanted to qualify and we were prepared to die for the fans and secure qualification, Kofi said to Soccertime. We really wanted to qualify, he said emotionally.”
But it was not to be. Voradep conceded late in the game and crashed out of the competition. For the fans who stayed glued to radio via GBC 2, it was heartbreak.
For Kofi and his team mates, it was the end of the road. They came close to the next stage but yet a bit far. It was time to put things into perspective and decide on the way forward, he told Soccertime.
“I wanted to go back to school and finish my A levels. I love football but I could not focus because of my goal to attain University education”.
Kofi successfully passed his A levels and proceeded to the university of Ghana where he obtained a major in political science. He currently works with the Ghana Revenue Authority. Football remains his first love and not a day passes without him debating friends over tactics, formation and playing philosophy. For the teeming fans of Voradep who adored his playing style, he remains the Maradona that never was.
Today, what remains of Voradep is a decrepit camping base reminiscent of the state of most traditional clubs of the 80’s and early 90s.
Soccertime Africa is a football research, advocacy and marketing firm.