Ten years of Togbe Afede’s reign in Hearts’ 110 years

Accra,- The rainbow coloured team, Accra Hearts of Oak, nicknamed “Phobia” was on this day formed in 1911, making it the oldest existing club in Ghana and the third in Africa.

The Phobians with the colours; red, yellow, and blue play their home matches at the 40,000 capacity Accra Sports Stadium, and they are regarded as one of the clubs with a very large following in Ghana.

History

Accra Hearts of Oak was formed 110 years ago when a group of young men from Ussher Town in Accra came together to form a football club to challenge the only other team in Accra at the time, the Invisibles.

The Phobians major achievement at the time came when the Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Gordon Guggisberg introduced the Accra Football League in 1922.

Hearts won the first title and went on to win six of the 12 championships contested in that league.

In 1956, Ghana’s football league was established with Hearts of Oak joining the elite competition with Asante Kotoko becoming their perennial rivals and Accra Great Olympics, their City rivals.

In the past, Hearts of Oak with another nickname as “The Continental Club Masters” for conquering Africa in 2000-2001 was seen more as a community club and managed with support and contributions from club members, and individuals until shares were floated with Togbe Afede XIV becoming the majority shareholder and Board Chairman of the club.

Prior to this, Hearts had won 21 Ghana Premier League titles, 11 FA Cup, Five Ghana Super Cup, One CAF Champions league, One CAF Confederation Cup, and One CAF Super Cup and is regarded as one of the most successful clubs in the country.

Transition

With the floatation of the shares, Hearts assumed the status of a more corporate organisation than a community club, as the former National House of Chiefs’ President took over in October 2011, following his position as the majority shareholder.

However, this transition has not been smooth but characterized by underperformance, poor player recruitment, absence from continental competitions, agitations, and protests from supporters who had to endure the bitterness of going many years without any silverware.

It would be noted that Hearts had endured the highest turnover of coaches as no coach has lasted more than two years at the club as compared to the era before his takeover.

On two occasions supporters had to stage protests over the sack of coaches and the departure of David Duncan, who was seen to be performing until his sudden sack as well as that of Kosta Papic comes fresh to the mind, not forgetting attempts by previous management to take back the club with calls for reopening of the shares for purchase.

It would also be noted that Hearts for the first time in their history came the closest to relegation about four years ago, but for the intervention of some previous management members.

In sum, the club had undergone very painful and difficult conditions since the floatation of shares and take over by Togbe Afede, however, the unrelenting majority shareholder persisted.

In his reign, the ‘Continental Club Masters’ have seen not less than fifteen different head coaches hired and fired.

When he became the majority shareholder of the club, Serbian tactician, Nebojsa Vucicevic was the head coach of Hearts of Oak but was shown the exit in March 2012 as the Togbe Afede-led board hired Charles Kwablan Akonnor to replace the expatriate coach.

Akonnor, however, lasted just seven months.

Former Ashantigold trainer David Duncan was appointed to fill the gap but was also booted out after some poor results in the team in less than a year.

The likes of Mohammed Polo, Hebert Addo, and Kenichi Yatsuhashi, Nii Odoom, Kosta Papic at a point were given the coaching job to reform the team but did not go beyond two years at the helm of affairs.

The Breakthrough

The painful and difficult moments spanning over ten years, eventually turned into smiles, as the breakthrough came in the 2020/21 season when the team broke the jinx to win the Ghana Premier League, MTN FA Cup and automatically becoming the Super Cup champions per the Ghana Football Association’s regulations.

The club seems to have regained its past glory as it became unstoppable under the tutelage of young Coach Samuel Boadu. It was indeed the moments of restored glory for Hearts and they were just unstoppable on the local scene.

As to whether the restored glory would be sustained remained unanswered as the Ghana Premier League enters the third week and the continental campaign is still not over.

Rude awakening

The continental club masters were given a rude awakening in their attempt to make an impact in the Confederation of Africa Football Inter-Club Competition.

They were not just eliminated but given a severe beating by losing 6-1 to Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco in the second phase of the qualifiers and had to drop to the second tier of the competition.

The Vision

Despite the challenges under the reign of the Asogli King, Hearts seem to have developed an ambitious vision and this was announced after they successfully won the last league trophy together with the MTN FA Cup.

The Togbe Afede XIV-led Board wants to give the club one of the best sports infrastructures not only in Ghana but on the continent, hence the ‘Pobiman project would be one of the best when completed.

It would have bungalows for staff, dormitories for the youth clubs (Royal Oak and Auroras), facilities for the senior team, a dining hall with over 100 occupants.

It would also house an administration block made of classrooms and a medical unit, a gym, changing rooms, and an Olympic-size swimming pool which is under construction as well as football pitches with three having natural and one artificial.

The club has also initiated the Common Value Alliance (CVA) with TSG Hoffenheim and FC Cincinnati, which provides the club opportunity to share knowledge in the administration of its activities.

According to the majority shareholder, plans were far advanced to construct a befitting and modern secretariat for the club with a well-resourced commercial.

The ambitious plans are to make Hearts a model club and put it at the level of African greats likes Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt.

Hearts has definitely come afar, despite the challenges and deserves a glorious birthday.

Source: Ghana News Agency

hammad

hammad

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