Hearts of Oak’s year of return to Africa a reminder of the timeless glory days(Pulse Contributor’s Opinion )

Perhaps the country in the early 2000s was a safe haven then, a pure place, irreproachable and incorruptible by the harsh realities of the impure outside world. Perhaps as the streets and towns and cities bustled with daily human activities, a sense of pure happiness, too, floated quietly in the grey atmosphere.

hearts of oak

Perhaps, on that fated cold eve of 2nd December 2000, where Hearts’s 3-1 (Agg 5-2) second-leg thrashing of Es Tunis at the Ohene Djan Stadium in front of 45,000 roaring fans sealed its first ever CAF Champions League title, many overjoyed men thronged drinking spots to bask in the afterglow of victory. Delighted and shirtless children danced frantically in the busy streets to loud music. Wives prepared the best meals for their husbands. A historic win for a club with rich, unshakeable history.

For the younger generation of the modern age, Hearts of Oak’s most successful period in Africa exists largely in vague, recycled words boldly spoken and written, in brief 144 pixel YouTube clips bereft of life. We are told heartwarming tales of Hearts of Oak’s freakish dominance in the early 2000s. We surf online and skim through heavily-worded articles in an attempt to understand this anomalous feat: how it happened, what it meant, the general public mood then. We binge on over a dozen YouTube videos in search of meaning, of truth, of trying to imagine a cheerful past long predating the Covid-19 era.

The turn of the century birthed a formidable Hearts of Oak side which even to date remains utterly peerless. How can any side match that treble-winning team? Winning the 2000 edition of the CAF champions league deserves massive plaudits, but clinching this continental cup alongside the Ghana Premier League and the FA Cup is … erm, quite something else: a rare feat, a thing of pure, absolute class.

Thus, after doing the continental treble in 2000, setting themselves apart as the only West African club side to ever conjure such miracle, Hearts of Oak were ranked as the 8th best team in the world (you might want to read that last bit again). These were the days where the Phobians could turn water into wine, stone into bread, where everything they touched sparkled and glittered and transformed into gold.

Five years on, in the January of 2005 precisely, Hearts went on to win the 2004 CAF Confederations Cup by defeating arch-rivals and two-time CAF Champions League winners, Asante Kotoko, 8-7 on penalties after the tw0-legged tie ended 2-2. In the wake of this tense yet bloodless final played at a packed Baba Yara Sports Stadium, discussions and debates largely centred on Kotoko’s coach then, Hans Dieter-Schmidt, who made a shocking decision by subbing off Charles Taylor, Kotoko’s best performer on the day. Word quickly spread and rumours eased into the public domain that Hearts had cast a sort of dark spell on the German tactician, that his hair had been used for rituals after going for a shave at a saloon.

This, after all, was yet again another hilarious illustration of a country which largely trusts not so much the science and art but the myths and superstitions, the abiding believe that things do happen in the invisible spiritual realm before they actually manifest before the naked human eye. And so over a decade down the line, here we are, waiting in feverish anticipating for the Preliminary round of the CAF Champions League to commence.

Hearts of Oak’s first assignment will be Club Industriel de Kamsar. A club whose brittle pedigree in this competition pales into insignificance when pitted against the Phobian’s. CI Kamsar finished second in the Guinea League and have secured qualification by virtue of CAF allocating 2 slots to Guinea for being one of the twelve countries part of the highest ranked associations according to a 5-year ranking metric.

As Hearts begin their Africa journey, we will see not just the best club in Ghana playing against another club from a different country, but Ghana in Hearts of Oak colours competing against Africa, competing against the world, even the universe. Doubtless, there would be any setbacks similar to the one of 2010 where financial constraints brought to a screeching halt the club’s thirst to play in Africa. Hearts went on to relinquish their spot to arch-rivals Asante Kotoko in the 2010 CAF Champions League.

This time, conversely, things will go according to plan. To closely observe this Hearts of Oak side is to realise they remain larger than life: they are a team stuffed with a band of ambitious footballers who are yet to discover their own personal limitations, a team with the appetite for chasing records, history, truth, eternal salvation. After doing the domestic double – the Ghana Premier League and FA Cup - euphoria has returned, optimism has begun to spread like wildfire, a collective thirst for another major piece of silverware continues to build among Hearts of Oak’s fervent supporters. Maybe the CAF Champions League will return, maybe another treble doesn’t sound so much like wishful thinking. But until the bones are rotten, this team may never say die!

Contributor: Bright Antwi

Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf


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