The subject of our Know Your Owner review this week is Ghana’s Asante Kotoko Sporting Club. They are the most successful club in Ghana and were ranked as the African club of the 20th century.

The club was formed in 1926 after the foundation to have a football team in Ashanti was laid by Mr. Kwasi Kumah and his good friend Mr. L Y Asamoah. They initially called their team Ashanti United Football Club but changed the name five years later to Kumasi Titanics as most of their players hailed from Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region. Another name change took place in 1934 when they were renamed Mighty Atoms before they finally settled on Kumasi Asante Kotoko Football Club in 1935 when the club was formally founded.

Permission to use the name Kotoko, meaning porcupine, the official symbol of the Ashanti nation, had to be obtained from the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II. The Asantehene is the absolute monarch of the Asante people and the historical Kingdom of Asante. The Asante royal house traces its line to the Oyoko Abohyen Dynasty of Nana Twum and the Bretuo Dynasty of Osei Tutu Opemsoo who formed the Empire of Asante in 1701 and was crowned Asantehene.

Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II

The emblem of the club bears the image of a porcupine, and they are thus nicknamed the Porcupine Warriors. Among other titles, the club have won a record 24 Ghana Premier League titles, 9 FA Cups, 3 Ghana Super Cups, 16 SWAG cups as well as two continental CAF Champions League trophies in 1970 and 1983.

In 1967, Kotoko were the victims of African football’s biggest injustice when they were beaten via a walkover by Tout Puissant Englebert now known as TP Mazembe. After a dubious penalty to Mazembe, who were playing at home, the teams could not be separated after extra time and referee chose to end the game through a coin toss. CAF intervened and a replay was ordered for December 27 in Cameroon but bizarrely, Asante Kotoko were not informed and thus were not present for the decider, subsequently losing by walkover.

The glory years have unfortunately come and gone for Kotoko who have not gone to the finals of a continental competition since 2004 when they were beaten finalists in the CAF Confed Cup. They have failed in CAF Champions League competition all through the last 22 years, exiting in the first or preliminary rounds no less than 8 times.

Asante Kotoko CAF Champions League winning side, 1983

The Asantehene who owns the club, and by extension the people of Ashanti, have had little to celebrate over the last ten years. These days, the Porcupine Warriors find domestic football much more of a challenge and they have not won a league title since the 2013/14 season.

Off the pitch the club is much more successful. Led by their current chairman and club financier, Dr. Kwame Kyei they have built up a considerable portfolio of sponsors including Hisense, Cedar Vite, Star Assurance, Ceek VR, Star Life and GOIL Energy of which was once headed by Dr Kyei. In Dr Kyei they have a respected businessman who is also a lifelong Asante Kotoko fan. He hails from Agona wiamoase in the Ashanti Region but grew up in the capital city of Ghana, Accra.

Asante Kotoko Chairman, Dr Kwame Kyei

He began his professional life at BOST where he worked as a transporter in the haulage of Petroleum product for three years. From there he established a retail outlet and rose to become the national leader in the supply of oil and other petroleum products to the Ghana Oil Company (GOIL). In 2002 he was granted an Oil Marketing License by the National Petroleum Authority leading to the establishment of Unity Oil Company Ltd which he runs to this day.

Dr Kyei is the CEO of a number of business including Unity Oil Company Limited, Light FM, Light TV, Vision1 FM, Sports Hotel and the Sport Recreational Centre and many other subsidiaries. Unity Oil is his largest revenue generator and one of the country’s largest employers with 9 branches across the country with a staff complement numbering in the thousands.

Asantehene Otumfuo-Osei-Tutu-II-Asantehene-Kotoko

His involvement in football administration began in 2016 when he was named as a new executive chairman of Asante Kotoko by His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei II. He has invested millions Ghanaian Cedi’s in the club and under his leadership, the club won the MTN FA Cup. Not one to be satisfied until the club return to the summit of Ghanaian football and becomes competitive on the continent, Kyei threatened to quit the club in 2017 following a disappointing cup exit. “I cannot bear the insults. I’ve a family to protect. I prefer to dissolve the team or leave the club”, Dr Kyei was quoted as saying.

He stayed on and in 2020, a new board was appointed by the Asantehene to assist with strategic matters. A statement from His Majesty read, ”Dr. Kwame Kyei, Chairman of Unity Oil Group is retained as Chairman of the Board in recognition of the fact that he has single-handedly financed the club’s operations over the past three years. However, he will now work in a corporate setting with a Board carefully chosen to blend continuity with a combination of corporate dynamism and integrity, financial prudence and professional expertise.”

That concludes the Know Your Owner review for this week. If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you back here next week as we get to know another African club.

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