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The Hearts Of Oak dilemma: A never ending vicious cycle

Its February 9, 2024, and the city of Accra is swamped with activities, as usual. Hooting car horns, children pelting down across the streets in town, strident sounds from market vendors across the city, with the sweltering sun to make do for what should be a cozy weekend.

In the midst of the all-compelling and arduous daily living in the country’s capital, Accra, which all but falls in line with Herbert Spencer’s (one of the founding Sociological father’s) survival of the fittest theory, the city’s catalyst for entertainment, Hearts of Oak, are in the headlines for the upteenth time.

After the Phobians management had reached an impasse for months on who to fill the vacant managerial role of the hounded-out Martinus Koopman, the timing of the appointment of new manager, Aboubakar Ouattara, could have been one of the best in recent years, with Lover’s day (Feb 14) some few days away.

What had been a relatively dull-dished and uninspiring love story served from the management to the fans over the years seemed to have been rekindled perfectly with the appointment of a proven winner to the storied club.

The influx of coaches from the length and breadth of the globe has proven costly, with the cacophony of sounds ushered down to the eardrums of the players, difficult for them to grasp and execute; to say the least.

With Kenichi Yatsuhashi (Japan), Nebojša Vučićevic (Serbia), Sergio Traguil (Portugal), Kosta Papić (Serbia), Mohammed Polo (Ghana), Frank Nuttall (Scotland), Ernst Middendord (German), Herbert Addo (Ghana), Charles Akonnor (Ghana), Yusif Abubakar (Ghana), Samuel Boadu (Ghana), Achibald Lamptey (Ghana), Cecil Jones Attuquayefio (Ghana), Paa Kwesi Fabin (Ghana), Kim Grant (England), Eyal Lahman (Israel), and David Duncan (Ghana), being among the flurry of coaches who have been at the helm since the turn of the millennium.

For a club with the magnitude and stature of Hearts of Oak – with a huge nation wide following and a continental presence – a persitent desire to win trophies is entretched within the supporters, with the club having in excess of 50 major trophies in its illustrious history.

However, prior to Samuel Boadu steering the side to its first domestic glory in 12 years in the 2020/21 campaign, the brewing narrative of habitually falling short seemed to be the case and newly found culture, which is in stark contrast to the Never say die spirit, mental fortitude and resilience of the club.

In the 2014/15 season, Hearts of Oak escaped relegation by the teeth, with the Phobians finishing level on points (40) with the relegated Hearts of Lions and Accra Great Olympics.

Much criticisms have been leveled towards the hierarchy of the club, leading to the management adhering to the displeasure of fans to disband the old managing board to form another.

However, Hearts of Oak (12th) are still lurking around the drop zone, pulling clear with 5 points, albeit Great Olympics (16th) have a game in hand.

For Aboubakar Ouattara, there seems to be a seismic shock in the operations of the club:

But the people are bringing this team to a lower level, that one I can never accept it. We are going to try to bring Hearts of Oak back….at the past times, to reputable level, he said.
In his endeavour to elevate Hearts of Oak back to a prestigious status, Outtara encounters his most challenging assignment yet, as arch-rivals Asante Kotoko – who have faced their own challenges – are poised to clash with the Phobians on Sunday.

The seemingly frustrated figure of Aboubakar Ouattara pretty much underscores the impending issues at Hearts of Oak, with the team’s last poor showing against Aduana giving a vivid perspective.

Disappointed completely. The key players come out for nothing. All the plans are down, very difficult. But this boys, I can’t understand them; today you’re good, tomorrow you’re bad. I don’t understand what happened, he said.

Ouattara’s vehement expressions and refusal to be withheld in his post-match conference summarizes the situation at Hearts of Oak; chaotic.

After a stodgy start to the season under Martinus Koopman – where the rainbow club managed to pick up 2 wins from their first 10 games – Hearts of Oak’s campaign has further sprawled into a forgettable one.

Ouattara, whose appointment was seen as a long-term fix for the short-term fixes, has a win percentage of 38.46% after 13 games, which is seen an improvement on Koopman’s 20% after the first 10 league games.

The former CAF champions League winner, as a Technical Director at TP Mazemble and Wydad Casablanca, faces a herculean task in over turning the fortunes of his current club, with goalscoring the achilles heel for his side.

Hamza Isaah, a beacon of light in a gloomy campaign, emerged from the youth set-up (Auroras) before the commencement of the season, and has contributed tremendously with 12 league goals.

Despite Issah’s brilliance in scoring 40% of Hearts’ league goals, the disgruntlement of the ardent supporters has to do with the inadequacy of the team to compete for silverware on the domestic front.

The appointment of Aboubakar Ouattara was followed with a rousing reception as the managerial change was seen as a significant step, in the right direction, in helping and improving the team to compete at the highest level.

However, the Ivorian manager, who has won many laurels with past clubs Wydad and Tp Mazembe, has struggled for results at Hearts of Oak and will need something extraordinary to overturn the club’s woes.

To worsen the plight for the Phobians, a 250.4km grueling ride awaits them as they travel to take on sworn rivals Asante Kotoko, who are equally under immense pressure, leading to under-fire manager Prosper Ogum coming under severe scrutiny, despite steering the side to domestic glory in the 2021/22 season — first in 8 years.

The stakes don’t get higher than this: Hearts of Oak, looking to finish the season with a flourish and overcome a general problem at the club with constant managerial shake-ups, against Asante Kotoko, who have a monarch to appease with every passing performance.

For one team, certainly, a win will do. For the other, avoiding defeat in itself is quite inexplicable. A hands-in-heart moment as Hearts of Oak look to recapture that brisk on-field display from the 90’s, with a thrilling spectacle awaiting the rainbow club, who will aspire to be uniquely unpredictable as their flag, against Kotoko.

But the big question remains, will Hearts of Oak – observing the solemn ban on noise making in Accra – make the most of an expectant, raucous Kumasi Baba Yara Sports Stadium to sing to the roofs and overturn their slew form and underwhelming performances as a club?

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Andrews Bamfo

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