…and when Ishmael Addo grabbed the 3rd goal for Accra Hearts of Oak on the 91st minute mark against Esperance that fateful Sunday, 19th December 2000, the whole Accra Sports Stadium went agog and almost everyone could hear the club’s signature song reverberating down the entire capital:
Hearts eleven is a mighty team /3/
Arose arose arose
Be quiet and don’t be silly
We are the famous Hearts of Oak
We never say die
Hearts of Oak finally wins the coveted CAF Champions League they’ve always longed for after two failed attempts in 1977 and 1979 and the wild, spontaneous jubilations the erupted all over the country is something that would need a whole session to describe.
It’s a ‘footballing shame’ that the luminous Hearts of Oak set-up of the late 70s were never able to scoop the Champions League under the astute leadership of Tommy Thompson.
They boasted of the ‘Fearsome Fivesome’ made up of Mohammed Ahmed Polo, Mama Acquah, Peter Lamptey, Robert Hammond and Anas Seidu who set the stage ablaze in the Ghana Premier League and on the continent.
Their remarkable last-gasp 3-0 victory over Zambian giants Mufulira Wanderers in the second leg of their CAF Champions League semi final clash after suffering a 5-2 humiliation in the earlier fixture is what we still refer to as “The Miracle of El-Wak.”
Formed on the 11th of November, 1911, Hearts of Oak is the oldest Club in Ghana and have gone on to chalk a lot of firsts including being the first club to win the Ghana Premier League, the first Ghanaian Club to win the CAF Confederation Cup.
Despite having been in existence for a quite a long while, Hearts had their most successful spell in the late 1990s and early 2000s where they won the Ghana Premier League on 6 consecutive occasions, the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.
That period saw the emergence of local stars like Emmanuel Osei Kuffour, Ishmael Addo, Charles Taylor, Adjah Tetteh, Sammy Adjei, Joe Ansah, Edmund Copson and Jacob Nettey who became household names and reference points.
The squad that won the maiden edition of CAF Confederation Cup in 2005 deserve some plaudits especially as they had to achieve that feat at the expense of their avowed rivals, Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
The club can never forget the exploits of Bernard Don Bortey, Amankwah Mireku, Dan Quaye, Louis Agyeman and Daniel Coleman among others.
One other group of players who exuded exuberance and mesmerized the local football circles with their skill and intricate passing pattern was the ‘Musical Youth’ of the mid 1980s. The late Shamo Quaye, Paul Adjodah, Ablade Kumah, Joe Addo and Eben Dugbatey were some of the linchpins of the rejuvenated Hearts of Oak under the chairmanship of Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe.
The achievements of Hearts cannot be under-estimated.as they have won the Ghana League 19 times as well as winning the FA Cup a record 10 times.
For a club to survive 105 years is by no measure a mean achievement but over the years, the great oak tree has become so crooked that if care is not taken, it will break off.
Fans of the club are extremely devastated and rightly so because since 2009, they haven’t won any notable domestic trophy aside the President’s Cup.
The Club is sharply divided between former management members of the club and those of the current dispensation.
It’s a fact that since Togbe Afede XIV took over the reins of the club as the Board Chairman and subsequently, the majority shareholder, the club has struggled to chalk successes on the field. How the club was able to survive relegation two seasons ago could only be attributed to a miracle and the late involvement of some former directors of the club including Harry Zakkour, Isaac Tetteh, Alhaji Hearts and Ernest Thompson. Interestingly, Hearts got 40 points, same points that got Great Olympics relegated.
Supporters of the club are dreading thoughts of losing the bragging rights to their arch-rivals Asante Kotoko who have won league titles and the FA Cup in the period of Hearts’ slump. Sponsors have eluded the club just as trophies have in the last seven or so years. A club in the stature of Hearts should have a landmark sponsorship deal.
Recently, the club has announced a kit sponsorship deal. It’s important that the club is able to amass enough money from this deal through shirt sales otherwise it renders the deal useless, to say the least.
The late E.K Afranie once said that the success of a team is reliant on four key cardinal points- The Management, Technical team, Playing Body and the Supporters.
If there’s any club with the most unstable technical team, it should be Hearts of Oak. As of today, the club is without a substantive head coach though there is an assistant. Moreover, new players are being signed on without the input of a head coach which is pretty much not the standard practice anywhere.
Since Togbe Afede took charge of the team, he’s injected so much money into the club, especially in the area of player recruitment but there’s been nothing to show for it except jettisoning a chunk of the players at the end of every league season.
As things stand now, there’s a sharp division in the rank and file of the club’s supporters. Wranglings, disaffection, apathy and the feeling of rejection is what has engulfed the biggest cardinal point of the club.
In all honesty, a club which is 105 years old should be matched to its peers but in Hearts’ case, it will be a disaster to attempt a comparison with Al Ahly, Zamalek, Esperance, TP Mazembe and Etoile du Sahel among others.
Moving forward, the current board and management of the club must devise means of bringing all stakeholders of the club together, especially the supporters who last season, exhibited that if things are done right, they would throng the stadium and patronize their games. The board must listen to the genuine concerns of the aggrieved supporters and patch up every bruised person.
For a club like Hearts to struggle for a training pitch is preposterous and unacceptable and the plan of the current board to improve the facilities and infrastructure of the club especially the Pobiman project which is expected to have a club house and training pitches is highly commendable.
The Board, management, technical team, playing body and supporters of Accra Hearts of Oak have the onus of making the club great again.
Let’s all rise up and make Accra Hearts of Oak GREAT AGAIN.