How more hungry can the Northern Region get? It has been eight years of hunger. Sorry, starvation rather. RTU, the self proclaimed pride of the North (perhaps rightly so), exited the Ghana Premier League in disastrous fashion in 2013 and have since looked neither ready nor willing for readmission into the elite division. Not anymore; even the forest reserve neighbouring the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium will attest to a wind of change.
It is approaching 3pm Sunday (June 27, 2021) in Tamale and the city takes a special complexion. The above named stadium becomes the centre of the Earth and people file towards it in processions. Drum beating connives with horns of all kinds to cap memorable scenes. Soon, a record patronage for a Division One League game will adorn the seats cast in national colours.
What is the fuss about all this? RTU. RTU have a date with Bofoakwa Tano in a crucial match, towards the end of the season. There is more than three points at stake. A potential Premiership ticket is a string attached. The top of the table promises a photo finish. It is a battle against possibly the biggest threat to a long held dream that is headed for reality. Whoever the opposition is contends with tradition and culture in the form of a club.
Both clubs sold out a candidate for game of the season. Laced with tension and pressure, either side came in for errors, highly avoidable errors that will not show up on another day. Centre referee Philip Attah Forson must have a special place for this game in his book. Every whistle sound against the home side drew jeers that took eternity to wane. Impatient fans on the edges of their seats urging their boys to go for the jugular.
When Mustapha had possession on the left side of attack, close to goal, the air in the stadium sizzled with anticipation. Fans stood up in unison akin to sprouting plants after a downpour. Boy displayed remarkable intelligence to deceive the goalkeeper. He threw his body to his left, clearly indicating an assault on the far post and the keeper fell for it. He then stroke the ball home in the near post to throw the fans into frenzy.
For a spell, the hitherto anxiety and apprehension were replaced by joy and celebration. But wait; Bofo, as they are affectionately called, were a delight to watch. They passed the ball round admirably, building up from defence with all the confidence in the world, creating networks in the middle and showing intent in front of goal. They forced a few faint claps from the crowd, from those who shockingly acknowledged beautiful football on such a day.
RTU did what matters most in postmatch statistics – scoring. They held on to their lead after fifteen minutes of added time, occasioned by a long stoppage due to skirmishes created by fans, an unwholesome new normal that has eaten deep into our football fabric, sadly. So what next after Bofo? Four games remain until the end of the season. “Weyuna”, RTU’s affectionate name, have B.A United, Steadfast, Gbewaa and Unity FC to negotiate past.
Their next match sees them visit B.A, host the “Gangdu Boys” (Steadfast) in a derby, play Gbewaa away (another derby), before wrapping up the marathon at home against Unity. They have their work cut out for them to win all matches and not bother about what happens elsewhere. They sit atop the log with a point advantage over Bofo in second, who also have four games to play. RTU cannot afford a slip. They need all the friction they can muster going forward.
Coach Ibrahim Sayibu Tanko and his boys are on the cusp of making history. They have been able to bring back the love their own way. They have woken up the slumbering RTU. Long lost fans have rekindled their love for the club. It cannot be the case that they are going to bottle this. It took a fortune to be here. Failure has taken leave of their dictionary and lexicon. Like athletics, the final few moments have special significance. RTU may need to extend their head at the finish line. Hopefully they have a long neck.