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Accra Hearts of Oak’ Century

Mon, 7 Nov 2011 Source: Gomez, Ato P K

Part 2 of the Hearts of Oak Story

Participation in CAF Club Competitions: The CAF Cup of Champions Clubs (1964 to 1996)

Continuing the Accra Hearts of Oak story, we look at the club’s participation in the African Cup of Champions Clubs

The African Cup of Champions Clubs (CCC) was the Confederation of African Football’s ?rst international club

football competition. An important ?gure behind its birth was Ghana’s ?rst president, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah after

whom the trophy, the Osagyefo Cup, was also named.

The ?rst edition kicked off on the 5th of April, 1964 with 14 teams. These were split into four groups: North, Central

and East Africa; Central Africa; West Africa [A] and West Africa [B]. Group winners quali?ed to take part in the semi-

?nals and ?nal, held in Ghana in late January/early February 1965.

Ghana’s representative was Real Republikans, who won the West Africa [B] group. In their semi-?nal match played in

Accra, Real Republikans lost to Oryx of Cameroon by two goals to one, who then went on to defeat Stade Malien by

the same margin in the ?nal to lift the Osagyefo Cup.

There was no competition in 1965, but the action resumed in April, 1966 with the ?rst round of matches. A two-legged

‘home and away’ format was adopted for all matches, including the ?nal. Thirteen teams entered the competition and

Ghana’s representative this time was Kumasi Asante Kotoko.

The contest also saw another Malian team, AS Real Bamako take on Stade d’Abidjan of the Côte d'Ivoire in the twolegged ?nals played in December. Real Bamako won the home leg 3-1 but it seemed they couldn’t hold their nerves in

the away game in Abidjan as the Ivorians went on to win 4-1 to take the title 5-4 on aggregate. Asante Kotoko were

eliminated at the quarter-?nal stage by the eventual winners, Stade d’Abidjan.

Between 1967 and 1971, Ghana’s representatives were Kumasi Asante Kotoko (1967: runners-up, 1969: semi-?nals,

1970: winners and 1971: runners-up); Cape Coast Dwarfs (1968: ?rst round) and Accra Great Olympics (1971: semi-

?nals). Ghana had two representatives in 1971 as Asante Kotoko was defending the trophy they won in 1970.

Forty year ago in 1971, Hearts of Oak won the GAFA League. Here are a few interesting facts: it was Hearts of Oak’s

60th anniversary and the club won the league by 60 points. Signi?cantly, Hearts of Oak had last won the league title

nine years previously in 1962, and the margin of the 1971 win ahead of Brong Ahafo United was nine points.

So, ?nally, in 1972, Accra Hearts of Oak SC made its historic debut in the African Cup of Champions Clubs. Twentysix clubs had entered the competition that year. Hearts of Oak’s ?rst opponents were to be Kenya’s Abaluhya United

(later renamed AFC Leopards), a club which had played and lost to Hearts of Oak’s city rivals, Great Olympics, during

the latter’s ?rst CCC outing in 1971.

However, Abaluhya United withdrew from the competition before the ?rst leg, so Hearts of Oak had a walk-over into

the second round where their opponents were WNDC Ibadan of Nigeria, and their ?rst proper match. The ?rst leg

?nished 1-0 to WNDC in Ibadan and in the second leg, Hearts won 3-0 to advance 3-1 on aggregate to the quarter-

?nals, where they met Kabwe Warriors of Zambia.

In what was one of the highest scoring matches in the competition’s history, Hearts won the ?rst leg 7-2 at home and

lost the return leg 2-1 away to win the tie 8-4 on aggregate. So, like their city rivals, Great Olympics, Hearts of Oak

reached the semi-?nals at the ?rst attempt.

Simba FC of Uganda was the team waiting for Hearts in their next hurdle. Playing the ?rst leg in Accra, Simba forced a

draw, before winning the second leg in Kampala to eliminate Hearts and progress to the ?nal. Again, like Olympics,

Hearts went out narrowly and on identical results in their home and away matches.

Hearts of Oak’s next outing was in the 1974 CCC, after winning the 1973 League ahead of Kumasi Cornerstone. As in

1972, twenty-six teams entered the competition. After drawing a bye in the ?rst round, Hearts of Oak were drawn

against Olympique Real of the Central African Republic and progressed on a 9-4 aggregate, one goal better than their

previous highest aggregate.

In the quarter-?nals, Hearts of Oak faced another Simba, this time Simba SC of Tanzania. The ?rst leg in Accra ended in

defeat for Hearts of Oak while the return leg ?nished in a goal-less draw, resulting in Hearts of Oak’s elimination.

The 1977 African Cup of Champions Clubs saw three more teams entering since Hearts of Oak’s last outing in 1974, to

bring the total participating clubs to twenty-nine.

Their third appearance in the CCC, it also proved to be Hearts of Oak’s best outing yet. Not only did Hearts of Oak

progress all the way to the ?nal, where they lost to Ha?a FC of Conakry, but the matches with Mufulira Wanderers of

Zambia in the semi-?nals turned out to be one of the most memorable encounters in the club’s history.

The ?rst leg in Zambia ended with Hearts of Oak losing the match 5-2 and, with it, a daunting task ahead of the club in

the second leg. Having scored two goals in the away leg, Hearts of Oak knew a 3-0 margin without conceding more

than two goals will see the team through. In the end, Hearts of Oak put up an amazing performance to win the match 3-0 and to set up the encounters with Ha?a

FC. The “Miracle of El-Wak”, was how the media described Hearts of Oak’s feat and which, indeed, echoed the

sentiments of the whole of Ghana, Hearts of Oak’s supporters or otherwise.

The journey to the ?nal involved trips to Liberia, Senegal and Egypt. St Joseph’s Warriors of Liberia were the ?rst

round opponents, while the second round opponents were ASC Diaraf of Senegal. Then it was the mighty Al-Ahly of

Egypt in the quarter ?nals who were dispatched by Hearts of Oak to set up the classic with Mufulira Wanderers.

After missing out in 1978 (Sekondi Hasaacas won the 1977 Ghana League), Hearts of Oak was back for the 15th

edition of the continental competition in 1979 as one of twenty-eight teams.

Mighty Blackpool of Sierra Leone provided the ?rst round oppostion but they were not mighty enough to cut down

the Mighty Oak Tree. Blackpool, though to be fair, only went out on penalties 4-2 after both teams had recorded a

similar score win apiece. Another West African team, Real Banjul of The Gambia, were the second round opponents and

a 3-1 aggregate win ensured Hearts of Oak’s progression to the quarter ?nals.

Yet again, lying in wait was a West African team and a chance to make up for the disappointment of two years earlier.

This time, Hearts of Oak made sure they were better prepared as, despite losing in Conakry, they beat Ha?a in the return

leg to advance.

The West African (ECOWAS) pattern was completed at the semi-?nal stage when US Gorée of Senegal provided the

opposition. As it turned out, this was to be the least problematic, scorewise, as Hearts of Oak won both encounters

comfortably to progress to the ?nal.

The stage was then set for the ?nal, where the opponents came from the ‘edge of West Africa’, Cameroon. Union Douala

stood in Hearts of Oak’s path to ultimate continental glory.

The encounters themselves, unlike two years previously against Ha?a Conakry, were much closer. Each team won its

home match to send the contest to a penalty shoot-out in Yaoundé which Union won 5-3 to secure their ?rst CAF

champions clubs trophy.

Between 1980 and 1991, Hearts of Oak made four ACCC appearances, going out in the quarter-?nals (1980), second

round (1985), quarter-?nals (1986) and ?rst round (1991).

After the disappointment of the previous year, Hearts of Oak was back among thirty-one teams. First round matches

were against Anges ABC of Gabon and a 5-4 aggregate win saw Hearts of Oak through to the next round where they

faced and defeated Djoliba AC of Mali to progress. Hearts of Oak then met AS Bilima of Zaire in the quarter-?nals.

Unfortunately, Hearts of Oak lost both legs to go out 4-1 on aggregate.

Five years later in 1985, Hearts of Oak were back as one of thirty-seven teams in the 21st edition of the CCC, which

involved six rounds of two legged matches. Hearts of Oak’s participation that year only lasted as far as the second

round where US Gorée of Senegal avenged their 1979 defeat. Earlier in the ?rst round, Hearts of Oak had encountered

Lions de l'Atakory of Benin, and won both legs.

The following year in 1986, Hearts of Oak was back as one of thirty-eight teams. In the ?rst round, Hearts of Oak was

drawn against Wallidan of Gambia, going through to the next round 2-1 on aggregate. Second round opponents were

Horoya AC of Guinea-Conakry, whom Hearts of Oak overcame to progress to the next stage.

Another visit to Zambia for the ?rst leg of a quarter-?nal meeting with Nkana Red Devils was Hearts of Oak’s reward.

After winning the ?rst leg at home, the Red Devils managed to hold on to draw the return leg in Accra to progress at

the expense of Hearts of Oak.

It was to be another ?ve years in 1991 before Hearts of Oak was back among thirty-eight teams to battle for honours.

This was, perhaps, Hearts of Oak’s most disappointing CCC outing to date as the team went out after just one round.

Having won the ?rst leg encounter in Accra, Hearts of Oak lost the return match in Angola, and with the aggregate at

5-5, the Angolans went through on the basis of having scored more away goals than Hearts of Oak.

In all, Hearts of Oak made eight appearances in the African Cup of Champions Clubs. They ?nished runners-up twice,

lost once in the semi-?nals, three times in the quarter-?nals and went out once at the second and ?rst round stages in

1980 and 1991 respectively.

It was to be another seven years in 1998 before the club returned to the premier continental club competition and a

new era in the club’s history.

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Ato P K Gomez

atopaak@gmail.com

Source: Gomez, Ato P K