Accra Hearts of Oak is undoubtedly a big club in Ghana and Africa but having to go over a decade without a silverware does not paint a good picture about the oldest club in Ghana. Founded on November 11, 1911, The Phobians as the club is known, shocked the whole world by winning the Ghana Premier League for six consecutive times between 1996 and 2002. The 109-year-old club went on to win the league titles in 2004-05, 2006-07 seasons after failures in the 2002/3 editions before their last ever trophy in 2009. The domestic league trophy has eluded the Phobians since then and it has been 12-years now.
In between those trophy laden years on the domestic front, their continental campaign cannot be left out of the equation. Hearts of Oak defied the odds to claim the coveted CAF Champions League trophy in 2000 after shocking Tunisia club, Esperance De Tunis. Hearts of Oak forwards Ishmael Addo and Emmanuel Osei Kuffour stunned the Tunisia fans when they scored each to produce a 2-1 away win at the El Menzah Stadium in Tunis in the first leg. With a huge advantage coming into the second leg at the Accra Sports Stadium, Ishamael Addo and Emmanuel Osei Kuffuor’s double ensured Hearts of Oak won 3-1 with Hassan Gabsi pulling a goal for Esperance. In a 5-2 aggregate score line, Hearts of Oak won their first continental trophy.
In 2001, the 20-time Ghana Premier League Champions yet again produced a shocker when they beat a star-studded Zamalek of Egypt at the Kumasi Sports Stadium in the CAF Super Cup. Zamalek had won the CAF Confederation Cup and were coming into the game with hugely talented and experienced players. However, Charles Taylor and Emmanuel Osei Kuffour goals silenced the Egypt club before a 25,000 fans at the Kumasi Sports Stadium to win the trophy.
Three years later, the Phobians won the Ghana Premier League and went on to claim the maiden CAF Confederation Cup title which was termed the virgin cup under late coach, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. Hearts of Oak defeated bitterest rivals, Asante Kotoko 8-7 on penalties after the two legs produced a 2-2 aggregate score line to claim the title for the first time. The Phobians, who now have a CAF Champions League, Confederation Cup and a Super Cup title, are equally the record Ghana FA Cup holders with 10 titles.
Life after all these trophy rich moments has not been easy for the club termed the millennium champions. The Ghana Premier League has eluded them for the last 12-years after winning their last in 2009. The last time they appeared in the FA Cup Finals was in 2017 where they lost 3-1 to Kotoko in the finals in Tamale.
Fast forward to the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League season, nobody really gave Hearts of Oak a dog’s chance to go closer to the league. With three matches to end the season, the Phobians sit top of the table with 59 points from 31 matches, three better than their rivals, Kotoko. The road traversed by the Phobians to regain their form has never been smooth. It ranges from sacking of coaches to reshuffling management members. Highest shareholder, Togbe Afede XIV has had to dig deep financially to keep the club afloat but for several years, getting closer to the league title has proved difficult. The club could not win major trophies under coaches like, Serbians, Nebosa Vucicevic and Kosta Papic who later left the club, Japanese American, Kenichi Yatsuhashie, top Ghanaian coaches, Charles Akonnor and David Duncan plus a host of other coaches. The Phobians dispensed with the service of English trained, Kim Grant in the 2018/19 season with youth team coach, Edward Odoom taking charge. He was replaced by Kosta Papic on his second return but later left.
Hearts of Oak combed the nook and cranny of the country for a substantive coach which they settled on Samuel Boadu. The 35-year-old resigned from Medeama SC and within days he was joining Hearts of Oak in a 3-year deal. The young tactician has been able to transform his side into title contenders. With the club going 10-games without a defeat, question have begun rolling out whether Hearts of Oak slept in their search for a good or it was a matter of time? With the array of coaches who passed through the club in the past ten years, how couldn’t the Phobians win at least an FA Cup? Did coach Samuel Boadu take too long before coming to Hearts of Oak or he just came at the righ time? Until the last three games of the 2020/21 league games are cleared, Samuel Boadu’s exploits will not be complete without the league title.