'Chelsea, Chelsea - it's gonna be a blue day' ...what?... not that Chelsea you say? Things are never that straight forward on IBWM & what's more, they never will be. Tell us more Josh Clarke.
4 wins in their last 6 outings have seen Chelsea romp to the top of the Premier League.
Hang on a minute…
This isn't the English Premier League, and it's certainly not Roman Abramovich’s west London outfit.
In 2004 Emmanuel Kyeremeh and Obed Nana Nketiah decided a change of direction was needed at Semereka FC, the football club they’d founded in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. Perhaps inspired by the unorthodox combination of an irrational love for The Blues and an overtly literal understanding of the maxim ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, Berekum Chelsea Football Club was born.
Kyeremeh and Nketiah decided that in naming the team Berekum Chelsea FC, not only would they underline their devotion to the Stamford Bridge side but they’d also (somewhat cynically) capitalise on the popularity of the nation's footballing darling. Michael Essien’s success with Chelsea has generated a huge amount of interest and grown the ‘brand’ within Ghana substantially.
The similarities however, do not end in the idolising act of plagiarism. Sunday's 2-1 victory over All Stars has seen BCFC mirror their English namesake, leapfrogging to the top of Ghana's equivalent of the EPL - the Glo Premier League. Indeed, following Chelsea's shock 3-0 mauling at the hands of Sunderland at Stamford Bridge last week, their Ghanaian counterparts arguably boast a better record, as they remain undefeated at home this term with only a handful of games remaining. The club face lowly trio Asante Kototo, Liberty Professionals and Mighty Jets in their run-in and the odds are heavily in their favour that they’ll consolidate their most successful season thus far into their first ever title, in a manner recognisable to their English counterparts.
You could even say that they've taken this 'we want to be Chelsea' malarkey a bit too far. A relentless megalomania that many detractors would claim is at the very heart of the London club's somewhat negative public image (think sacking Ray Wilkins and the varied misdemeanours of John Terry) shines through in the flawed logic displayed on Berekum Chelsea's website:
‘Ghana is considered to be the centre of the world. Brong Ahafo Region is also considered to be in the centre of Ghana. It therefore implies that Brong Ahafo Region can be considered to be in the centre of the world.’
(The quote is probably just lost in a dodgy Ghanaian-to-English translation, but why let that ruin a good point)
Jokes aside, BCFC are on track to be challenging for the first time in the club's history for the domestic title. How then, have the club so successfully mimicked their muses?
When looking at the facts, two things stand out. Firstly, the nature of the investment and infrastructure being built into the club is long term and in stark contrast to the quick-fix, knee-jerk management usually associated with projects that are in their infancy and desperate to come to fruition. For example, the club's website tells of the purchase of 30 acres of land, which is to be 'gradually developed into a modern soccer village with standard facilities', including artificial pitches, gymnasium, class rooms and accommodation for players of all age groups. There also appears to be a balanced system at boardroom level which would guarantee effective spending of both the money brought in from the recent shirt deal signed with Puma, as well as the considerable chunk of capital they will be hoping to get for a high-end finish in the league, due to the competition's recent production and television broadcast rights deal with Optimum Media Prime. Clearly defined objectives underlined in the club's manifesto that place an emphasis on integrity and professionalism, indicate that BCFC are prepared to create a lasting legacy rather than a brief foray to the top of the table.
Secondly, the club have benefited greatly from appointing Orlando Wellington at the helm after his acrimonious split with fellow Premier League side Heart of Lions. Wellington is perhaps better known for presiding over the Black Satellites side that exceeded all expectations to win the U20 FIFA World Cup. If anyone could be considered as the go-to man for the future of Ghanaian football, then it has to be him - both in terms of specific player knowledge, as well as the best way to develop the internal structures of a domestic set-up. Wellington's involvement as occasional head coach of the Black Stars senior side further points towards both the regard with which he’s held in the hierarchy of Ghanaian football, and his tactically astute coaching.
Wellington left Heart of Lions following a dispute with the clubs directors about his double role as coach of club and country. This issue obviously mattered little to BCFC in their appointment of Wellington and it is easy to see why. Working on a first hand day-to-day basis with the young players at BCFC, whilst maintaining his influential capacity within the national set up, means that Wellington is ideally placed to hand those youngsters opportunities to progress themselves. The fact that five BCFC players were recently named in the provisional Ghana squad for the Championship of African Nations (a shoot-off from the African Cup of Nations, solely for players who play their domestic football in Africa) lends credibility to this argument.
Wellington's modest target of a top four finish this season shows a reassuring willingness to refuse to get carried away with the hype, yet is also a sign of the stability at the core of the club. Can it be a completely successful model of their Stamford Bridge counterparts and mirror their success? Only time will tell.
You can see more of Josh’s work at his excellent blog www.the39thgame.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @joshkclarke