"11-11-11" is what organisers have dubbed the centenary celebrations of Ghana's oldest club, Accra Hearts of Oak. Founded in 1911, Hearts of Oak, also known as the Rainbow Club, has a lot to smile about in its century-old history, as the club recounts the many highpoints (and setbacks) expected of such a long experience. Several events have been planned to mark the occasion, including most significantly an Initial Public Offer (IPO) that would list the club's shares on the local bourse, the Ghana Stock Exchange.
In terms of football, Accra Hearts of Oak, has seen good times. As recently as the year 2000, the club won the prestigious Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League, as well as the Super Cup that year. In terms of local scene, Hearts has won the Ghanaian league 9 times, one less than rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko. In terms of the FA Cup, the numbers reverse between Hearts and Kotoko. As indicated above, Hearts floated shares to the general public, raising GHC2.5 million, after the club initially failed to raised that same amount in its first attempt. That failed attempt managed to raise only GHC700,000.
However, Sunday November 13 was the climax of the celebrations as Hearts played a friendly match against Enugu Stars of Nigeria. Unfortunately for Hearts, the Nigerian club got the better of its hosts by beating them by two goals to one. Despite the loss, many fans of Hearts sad they were happy with the performance of their team and were looking forward to next week's derby match against Kumasi Asante Kotoko, the biggest local match in Ghana.
Amid all the celebration fans, well-wishers and shareholders of Hearts of Oak need to realise that the local league in Ghana has gotten more competitive in recent years. Relatively young clubs like Aduana Stars and Bechem Chelsea have been loosening the stranglehold that Hearts and Kotoko used to have on the league title. A return to former glory for Hearts would require current managers and directors of Hearts of Oak spend more time in acquiring talented players who are capable of drawing huge crowds to local league matches, reversing the dwindling attendance witnessed over the past few years.
But over the past weekend the millions of fans of "Phobia" would be forgiven for forgetting all the clubs recent challenges and focusing on the joyous occasion of being 100 years old, Ghana's only existing century-old football club.