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Black History Month: The Hearts of Africa

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Ghana’s most famous team has always tried to be the heartbeat of the country.

Ghanaian Hearts of Oak defenders Daniel Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

In Africa, there are a lot of clubs that have plenty of history. They may not get the shine of the teams in Europe or South America, but they have some teams that have been considered among the best in the world. In Ghana, the heart of the capital city of Accra is a team that carries the name with them.

Accra Hearts of Oak was founded in 1911 when some young men from a section of Accra called Ussher Town came together to form a soccer club to challenge the only other team in Accra at the time, The Invincibles. The first major achievement came when the governor of the Gold Coast founded what was then called the Accra Football League in 1922. Hearts won the first title in the league and went on to win 6 of the 12 championships contested in that league. In 1956, Ghana’s football pyramid became organized, with Hearts of Oak joining the Ghanaian top flight (now the Ghana Premier League). It’s then that they became the heartbeat of this soccer crazy nation.

One thing that made them instantly recognizable have been their home jerseys. Established in 1917, Hearts of Oak employ a rainbow set of colors. Hearts have always had vibrant home jerseys that were predominantly red but also have yellow and blue stripes down the front.

2017-2018 Accra Hearts of Oak home jersey

They have often carried those colors to their away jersey, with it being predominantly white with the red, yellow, and blue showing as a sash or a wavy pattern.

Accra Hearts of Oak away jersey

In 2019, Hearts unveiled their most distinctive pattern yet for their home jersey, employing the yellow, blue, and even a bit of purple for this incredible design that is beloved by fans.

2019-2020 Accra Hearts of Oak home jersey

https://mic.kwayisi.org/writings/hearts.html

Hearts has grown to become Ghana’s dominant club, and they’re affectionately known as Phobia. They have a longstanding rivalry with Asante Kotoko, who play in Ghana’s second largest city, Kumasi. Hearts of Oak also carries a rivalry with Great Olympics, a club also based in Accra whom they share a stadium, the 40,000-seat Accra Sports Stadium.

Accra Hearts of Oak’s won quite a bit in the Ghana Premier League, but their best season was 2000-01. Then, the team won the Ghana Premier League, the FA Cup, and proceeded to win the CAF Champions League. It was the first time they had won the Champions League (they had been runners-up in 1977 and 1979), where they only lost one match throughout the entire competition. In the two-legged final, they beat Espérance Sportive de Tunis on the road, which snapped a 41-year unbeaten home record for the Tunisian club.

After winning the Champions League, Hearts followed that up by winning the African Super Cup in 2001 along with another league title. At one point, CNN ranked Hearts of Oak the 8th best club in the entire world. The world was starting to see that Africa had some strong soccer teams that could compete with the rest of the world. Hearts eventually won the CAF Confederation Cup, their secondary continental club competition, in 2004. It was the first year of the competition. They beat arch rivals Asante Kotoko in the final, becoming the first African team to win both continental club competitions.

Their trophy case is rivaled by very few on the African continent. They’ve won the Ghana Premier League 20 times (just 4 behind rivals Asante Kotoko), the Ghanaian FA Cup 10 times (most all time), and the Ghana Super Cup twice. In 2000, CAF listed Hearts of Oak as the 7th best African team in the 20th century.

Accra Hearts of Oak has been a team who has played their way into the conversation as Africa’s most famous team. Their jerseys may help them stand out from the crowd, but it’s their play that has propelled them to represent Ghana as their heartbeat to Africa and the world.

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For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.