Formed six years ago, Accra Lions have exceeded expectations and will now be in the big league with the big boys this season.
Having climbed through the ranks of Ghana football, Accra Lions have barely put a foot wrong so far.
They eased their way in the Greater Accra Division Two Zone IV winning it in 2017. After earning promotion to Division One in 2018, the Lions pipped Tema Youth in Zone Three to earn their maiden promotion to the top flight.
Rainer Kraft’s men have enjoyed an impressive pre-season beating defending champions Hearts of Oak and then finishing third in the Division One League Super Cup.
Through no fault of theirs, Accra Lions find themselves in Zone Three, a zone that has struggled to impress in the Ghana Premier League upon promotion.
The Zone Three curse
Data was collected for the last 10 seasons to analyse the performances of recently promoted teams in the Ghana Premier League.
31 teams have been promoted since 2008/09 with the average seasons spent in the league after sitting at 2.6 seasons.
16 of the 31 teams promoted in the 10-year period were relegated in just their first season.
A further breakdown shows that 7 of the 16 teams who were relegated in their first season after promotion came from Zone Three.
This comes as no surprise when you further investigate the finishing positions of teams from their respective zones.
Teams promoted from Zone 3 have collectively finished lowest in their first season after promotion compared to Zone 1 and 2.
Zone 2 have finished highest in 9th and Zone 1 in 11th.
In the last 10 seasons, Berekum Chelsea from Zone 1 has lasted longest in the Ghana Premier League keeping their top-flight status on all 10 occasions. They finished 6th when they got promoted and qualified to the group stages of the CAF Champions League.
Another Zone 1 team, Aduana Stars has stayed up in all nine seasons since promotion. The Ogya Boys made history by winning the league at their first time of asking after securing promotion.
WAFA and Karela have impressed in the league for Zone Two as both clubs have fought their way into the top four teams in the country.
Karela led the league in 2020/21 during the first round as WAFA finished third for the first time in their history.
Inter Allies and Dreams had largely impressed for Zone Three but the former was relegated after a horrendous season in 2020/21. To make things worse for Zone Three, Liberty Professionals were relegated for the first time in 22 years.
Tough task, but doable
Accra Lions have undoubtedly had a very impressive run out so far. They narrowly beat Tema Youth to promotion to the Ghana Premier League.
However, they’re coming from a Zone that has failed to pull their weight in the league in recent times whenever they’re promoted.
There’s always an outlier in every data set and it could be the case that Accra Lions can be the dark horses this season.
The Lions showed their quality against Hearts of Oak coming from behind to beat the Phobians 3-2.
Kraft’s side showed their depth in the Super Cup when they managed to finish third despite resting key players.
Accra Lions scored 63 goals in Division One Zone Three, the highest goal tally in all three zones.
Their top scorer, Rauf Salifu, was the highest scorer in the Division with 21 goals.
The diversity of Kraft’s attack is what could be the gamechanger for the Accra-based club as aside Salifu, Frederick Akatuk contributed with 17 goals in attack with Oliver Amedor and Kelvin Kyei scoring 7 goals each.
The record of newly promoted teams from Zone Three to the Ghana Premier League in the last 10 seasons has been atrocious. However, with Accra Lions’ incredibly sharp attack, they could bring an end to what has been a tough spell for Zone Three.
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