Asante Kotoko can take inspiration from tragedy, says Polack
It will be a strange and emotional weekend for Asante Kotoko coach Steve Polack as the Porcupine Warriors take on Accra Hearts of Oak in the subdued posture fixture of the Ghana Premier League.
The Englishman is under no illusions of the scale of the match against Accra Hearts of Oak and what it means for Kotoko.
He's set to experience the fixture for the first time on Sunday, but it certainly won't be as he'd originally envisaged it.
Polack is still recovering from surgery after he injured his knee during an accident involving the Kotoko team bus last month.
Their equipment officer was killed, and players were left injured, badly disrupting their season.
Polack himself is not fully back in training and has been coaching the team from distance, passing on what he wants done through youth team coach Ernest Appau. It has left him frustrated, but he's confident the club can derive a great deal of inspiration from one of their most troubling times.
"It will be great to win for everyone," he tells KweséESPN. "After everything the club has gone through in the last few months this would really boost our spirits. I think there will be a few people outside the Kotoko family urging to win."
Kotoko have not played a competitive game since the July 12th accident when their bus ran into a stationary truck as they were returning to Kumasi from a league game. They lost that match 1-0.
A meeting against Hearts of Oak has always tested the record Ghanaian league winners. The circumstance makes an even bigger challenge but Polack, is convinced his side can succeed despite the adverse conditions.
"If you can't pick yourself up for this game on Sunday, then I don't know what you can be up for," Polack says. "It's a game that means a lot to the club already and then there is our situation.
"I reckon the opening minutes will be difficult but we will draw energy from everywhere and the emotions around the game.
"I have always told my players don't play the occasion, play the game so my hope is that they can focus more on the sporting challenge," he added. "A win is important for us to stay in touch with the top two."
Polack's desire to win is palpable in his statements.
He has been to Kotoko training sessions on clutches and still harbours the belief that the club can regain the league title they last won three seasons ago.
"I have always said one game at a time", he says of the team's title chances. "We have seven games left with 21 points at stake. If we win those two games we are in touch.
"I still think it is possible and we will hard for that. I will be happy to win the league or finish in the top three given everything that has happened."
The tragedy also puts a lot of things in perspective for Polack, but he says his recollection of the moment the bus crushed is scant.
"One minute I was talking to my team manager, I get a text message and then I checked. That's the last thing I remember.
"I remember waking back for a few seconds, then the next thing I realised I was in the back of a truck to a hospital.
"There was another player moaning before I was told we had an accident. I didn't know a lot of things but in a way it is good I didn't see what was happening because it has helped me cope better."
Now he hopes the victory over Hearts will complete that healing process.