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Dawn memory lane: Hearts’ foray in African football began in 1972


Glorious Accra Hearts of Oak has chalked many successes in African club football including winning the converted CAF Champions League (2000) and the CAF Confederation Cup (2004) as well as the CAF Super Cup in 2001.

Dawn memory lane, the club has also come close to lifting the ultimate on a couple of occasions when we lost the African Club Champions Cup in 1977 and 1979.

We begin a series of tracking our foray into the African terrain beginning from the first journey back in the early 1970’s where the team made a huge impact in our debut campaign making it all the way to the semi-finals.

First attempt 1972

Our first participation in the elite African club competition was in 1972 and, this participation was secured after Hearts won the 1971 league title in Ghana with 60 points. We scored 66 goals and conceded 27 and won 26 of the games from the 37 matches played in the 1971 season.

Hearts were drawn to face Abaluhya United later renamed AFC Leopards of Kenya in the first round with the first leg encounter scheduled to be played in Accra on February 13, 1972, with the return fixture fixed for February 27, 1972, in Nairobi.

However, the Kenyan champions withdrew from the competition before the first leg allowing Hearts to move to the next stage of the competition when we came up against Western Nigeria Development Company (WNDC, Ibadan) of Nigeria in the second round.

Second Round (1/8th Finals)

First leg

The first leg tie, (Hearts’ first-ever African club game) was played on March 19, 1972, in Ibadan with WNDC, now Shooting Stars won 1-0 to take the advantage to into the return leg in Accra.

Second leg

Our home debut in Africa was a memorable one as we turned the scales to overcome the 0-1 deficit from the first leg. Hearts won 3-0 at the Accra Sports Stadium on April 9, 1972, to qualify to the quarter-final stage on a 3-1 aggregate.

Quarterfinal

At the quarter-final stage, Hearts came up against Kwabe Warriors of Zambia and secured a place in the last four of the competition after winning the two-legged encounter on an 8-4 aggregate.

First leg

The first leg encounter was played at the Accra Sports Stadium on October 2, 1972, and, Hearts were emphatic 7-2 winners, a result which all but confirmed our passage to the next round with the second leg still to come.

Second leg

On October 16, 1972, Hearts travelled to Lusaka for the return encounter, and, lost 1-2 in the Zambian capital to qualify on an 8-4 aggregate win over the local champions.

Semifinal

This stage proved to be a little too much for a Hearts side that was making its debut on the African scene and, it showed in the end as we bowed out to Simba FC of Uganda in a very close contest losing 2-1 on aggregate after two legs.

First leg

Hearts hosted the first leg at the Accra Sports Stadium on November 2, 1972, and drew 1-1 with the Ugandans in a very nervy encounter making the return fixture quite a difficult task for the Phobians.

Second leg

Simba FC who were and are still Uganda’s Army club, won the second leg 1-0 in Kampala to win the tie 2-1 on aggregate to book a place in the final where they lost a two-legged affair to Hafia Club of Guinea 7-4 on aggregate.

Our maiden voyage in Africa thus ended at the semi-final stage, but the lessons learnt would serve as a springboard on which we built later successes.