On this day 11 November 1911 (Exactly 109 years ago today) Accra Hearts of Oak was born at Ussher Town 110 years ago today.
Football was introduced into Ghana at the turn of the 20th century. In 1910, the first football club was formed in Accra.
The name chosen was The Invincibles and the club comprised mainly young men from the James Town area.
The need for a rival club was soon evident and the response to this was the birth of what now stands as the oldest surviving club and still one of the most outstanding clubs in the country’s history, Accra Hearts of Oak.
Hearts of Oak actually began in the middle of 1910 when young men from Ussher Town started practicing with a tennis ball.
Towards the end of the year, a young man from Saltpond, where the game had been played earlier, came to Accra and took up the training of the players. His name was Akom Duncan. By 1911, Hearts of Oak, with Mr Akom Duncan as their captain, were ready to take on the Invincibles.
The most memorable date for Hearts of Oak, in this period, was November 11, 1911 which has become the anniversary of the formation of the club. This was the date on which Hearts of Oak out-doored with jerseys and formally bound themselves into the giant club it was to be.
The outdooring ceremony was conducted with tradition. All the players met at the home of a Captain Mark Nettey at Ussher Town. From there, they moved to the Korle Lagoon at the Old Fadama Railway Crossing, bathed in the Lagoon for some minutes and then put on the jerseys.
All dressed up in their jerseys, they marched to an open space nearby (where now the Royal Cinema stands) and put up two posts. Hearts not only had their jerseys but also a park on which to train and play.
No officers were elected for the club. All the members were players and they all accepted the leadership of Akom Duncan.
Some of the players were William A. Simeon-Okraku, C.B Nettey who was to become chairman of the Accra Football Association later, J.T.O Ankrah, father of the first West African Commonwealth boxing champion and later national amateur boxing coach, Roy Ankrah, J.A Aryee, Dodoo Annang, Darku Abbey, Mark Nettey, Amponsah Solomon, Kwashie Solomon, W.W. Bruce-Tagoe, T.F. Bruce-Tagoe, William Ocran, Yao Foli Wilson, J.D Kwaku Botwe, Peter Malm, Quarshie Coker, Adolf Simeon-Okraku, Alfred Simeon-Okraku and teacher F.D. Amoo.
Matches were played regularly between Hearts of Oak and the Invincibles, with each side winning in turns. The interest generated by these matches inspired the formation of several other clubs in the succeeding months.
Football was expanding in Accra and the competition had become all the keener. Hearts of Oak acquired a new park, at the spot where the headquarters of the Electricity Corporation of Ghana stands.
The club found a Patron in the late Hanson Sackey, an auctioneer who was the father figure of the club in the formative years.
In 1914, Capt. Nettey was appointed the first secretary. These appointments gave the club a functional structure which other clubs lacked.
In 1917, Hearts decided to change its colours. Mr T.F. Bruce-Tagoe, popularly known as Teacher Bruce-Tagoe, designed the new rainbow colours (red, yellow and blue) and, with the approval of the executive, placed an order for the jerseys from Manchester.
When the jersey arrived, a match was arranged with Invincibles, the first club formed in Accra. It was played at the London Park, which is the present site of the James Town Police Station. Hearts won, 1-0.
But what attracted the crowd was not so much the manner of play as the bright jerseys of Hearts. This drew both spectators and some players of Invincibles to the Hearts camp after the match and thereafter, several players from other clubs began streaming into the club in the hope of wearing the bright jerseys.
Hearts proceeded to elect their first chairman, the late S.Q. Nelson, an engineer, who had played football in Nigeria.
Shortly after the outdooring of the new jerseys, a match was arranged with Steadfast who were later to become the closest rival of Hearts in the city.
The excitement created by this match was great and on the eve of the match, word spread around that Standfast had obtained some miracle which would make any Hearts player attempting to score a goal go blind. Such stories were not to be taken lightly in those days and some Hearts players were evidently reluctant to shoot at goal.
The exception was a young boy who had returned from Nigeria and was attending the Government Boys School in Accra. This young school boy found his way into the team as a result of the reluctance of some senior players to risk going blind. As soon as the team entered the field, he walked to the goalkeeper and told him: “Now let’s see if I will see you in the goal or not.”
That schoolboy was Okoe Tetteh. He proceeded to score two goals – the only goals of the match – and Hearts won without having any blind men to care for.
Hearts of Oak marks 110th anniversary today: Find out how the club was formed