Hearts the ultimate loser as Polo underwhelms

By Fiifi Anaman   Follow @@fiifianaman https://twitter.com/@fiifianaman

Hearts of Oak coach Mohammed Polo, taking an advantage of a stoppage, gathered his players on the touchline and gave them a passionate talk, his furiously animated gesticulations suggesting that they shouldn’t give up. That they should fight on. Hearts at that point were two nil down in their Premier League fixture against Wa All Stars right in front of their home fans.

It didn’t work. The players went back unto the pitch and only continued to capitulate. They continued to struggle, looking desperately vapid and helpless. Amateurish and apathetic. They were lost. A third goal followed, and at this point, Polo stood motionless on the touchline, his hands akimbo, staring at the happenings on the pitch with a soulless gaze. Behind him, fans cursed loudly, some going to the extent of throwing objects at him.

And so it happened. Hearts lost their third game against Wa All Stars in their last four meetings. It was also their second league loss on the trot. Almost three weeks had elapsed between their last loss and this one, but the awareness of the continuity amongst the Hearts fans who had to endure 90 minutes of frustration was palpable.

Two games, two losses, six goals conceded, none scored. Never in its history had Hearts ever lost by six goals to nothing over two legs to any club in the league, much less to a club they are 95 years older than. “Hearts being being used by Wa All Stars to mop the floor,” a commentator aptly remarked. It was a forgettable afternoon, a black Wednesday.

Outside the stadium, Hearts fans let go. They let go of all their frustration. All the hurt. The cup was full, and it was time to let it all out. Board member Dr Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe, who many believe lead the decision to sack former coach Duncan, almost got mobbed by angry fans but for the security that escorted him. Owner Togbe Afede wasn’t spared too. It was a scene of deep significance; the story of a club in turmoil.

Polo was expectedly jeered, rained with the most discouraging of insults. If he thought his legendary status would ever insulate him from the wrath of fans, he had to revise his expectations in this crushingly low moment in his career. The humiliation that stared him in the face was as engulfing as it was inescapable. “Back at the club house, he sat on the bare floor,” a source revealed. “He looked so dejected. Like he had lost his wife. It was so, so sad.”

The unexpected sacking of former coach David Duncan early in December last year was always going to be a difficult set-back to recover from. But there was a feeling amongst the top brass that it would be one of those things; a difficult immediate aftermath to be endured but peace and calm marked by an unconscious acceptance to be achieved in the long term. But they knew a long term acceptance would only materialize if immediate results were good enough to sustain their title chase, which by their decision, they had disrupted.

The people who made the decision were torn between swallowing their pride or risking a major crisis; and they chose to go for the latter. “No one is bigger than Hearts of Oak,” Dr Tamakloe sternly warned weeks ago, insinuating clearly that for them, the board, Duncan had grown wings that they needed to clip to keep Hearts intact from the domineering control of an alpha male who was clearly enjoying the support of the fans.

The board’s claims have been heavily doubted; many believe Duncan had been the victim of an over controlling board. And that, coupled with Duncan’s achievement of stabilizing the club after their early season crisis last season, won him the support of the fans.

When Polo was unveiled, he seemed remarkably aware of how delicate the situation was http://allsports.com.gh/2013/11/29/feature-polo-already-hitting-the-right-notes-ahead-of-first-test/ ; he knew though Hearts fans love him for being a legend, he had been thrown into a den. He knew he was about to face the task of getting himself accepted by fans who had vowed to resist anyone who wasn’t Duncan. And the only way he stood the slightest chance of suppressing the imminent revolt was to get things right on the pitch and fast.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. After five long games, he seems to have failed in his quest to buy himself the time and support that he needs badly. Between losing two league games out of four, and now being seven points off leaders Asante Kotoko, he has also overseen Heart’s elimination from the FA Cup after just a single game. It has been an agonizing leap from frying pan to fire for him and the very board that fixed him there.

These are trying times for the “Dribbling magician”. He had lobbied 16 long years to get another chance to manage his beloved club after two previous spells, and he had vowed at his unveiling that he would do everything to make the most of the opportunity.

But though he has done everything within his power to merit a permanent deal (the deal he is on is a six-month, stop-gap contract), he is working against a consuming tide of impatient, dissatisfied and hurting fans who will only accept any other thing apart from Duncan if only that thing is results. And there are the players too, most of whom formed close bonds with the former boss and can afford to sabotage Polo at the risk of their own competence because of the mood at the club.

“Is it my crime for taking this job,” he questioned emotionally at the post-match press conference.

In all of this, from the fans’ bitterness and the board’s stubbornness in not kowtowing to their demands of a fairytale reunion with Duncan, through to Polo getting his golden opportunity crushed by being in the middle of this mess, one thing that has been missed is that it is the club that remains the ultimate loser. In as much as the fans accuse the board of failing to swallow its pride, the fans are in effect failing to swallow theirs too. And something has to give for Hearts to get its acts back together.

In failing to offer unconditional support to the club through these turbulent times, the underlying truth, though harsh, is that the embittered fans and players are spectacularly letting the club they love down.

Polo’s anguish is ultimately Hearts’ anguish, his slump into the abyss of mediocrity theirs too. Whether being done consciously or unconsciously, starving Polo of support is tantamount to starving the club they profess to love so much of support too.

It is understandable that Hearts fans, along with some players, are embittered; understandable that they are frustrated. But turning their back on Polo is essentially turning their back on Hearts of Oak, and maybe it’s about time they threw their support behind the man for the greater good of the club.

Maybe it is high time Hearts fans saw the bigger picture.

Talking Points:
Heart of Lions’ transition has been unreal. From the brink of relegation last season, the Kpando-based club have had a magical season thus far, and Wednesday saw them beat Liberty Professionals 2-0 at home to move up to second place, seven points behind Kotoko (whom they have also beaten already this season). Coach Yusif Abubakar seems to be working his magic at the club, building a resilient team that has balanced experience (in the likes of captain Nana Egyir, midfield dynamo Edmund Owusu Ansah and prolific marksman Sam Ayew Yeboah) with an emerging young breed of hungry professionals (the likes of Isaac Osae). Lions welcome Wa All Stars in their next fixture, which should be very interesting.

There’s a goal that was scored in Bechem by Bechem United Star playmaker Augustine Okrah, which a trusted colleague of mine says was so stunning that it could be easily considered a strong contender for goal of the season. But alas, we will probably never get to see it, because that is just how the Ghana Premier League is. The games are all played simultaneously, if not slightly delayed, and the one that you don’t see on TV, or aren’t there to see at the stadium, will probably remain unseen forever and ever. Amen?

Dooooooooo! Yep, Hasaacas have got their groove on. Well, they didn’t win on Wednesday, but they are doing really well. They are a newly promoted side that are in fifth place now, and have lost only once in their last eight games. This was of course, after failing to win a single game in their first six fixtures, causing a lot of pundits to write them off. But how well they have recovered! At this rate, they might probably finish in the top four, which will be an amazing achievement after spending three seasons in the ‘wilderness.’ Okay, one more time. DOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

New Edubiase also one-goal-project’d Aduana Stars at home in Bekwai. Edubiase were not going to lose anyway; for those of you who aren’t aware, they are red-eyed monsters at home. They’ve only lost once there this season (against Hearts) and last season, they won 10 of their 15 home matches, joint second highest number of home matches recorded alongside Dwarfs and Hearts of Oak. They have also not lost in their last five league games too. Well, three of them have been draws but still, good on the ‘Yenko Nkoaa’ boys.

And oh, it took some getting used to referring to the league as “First Capital Plus Premier League”, but it’s a relief that the league can finally have a sponsor to call its own. $10 million across five seasons; not bad from a wholly-owned Ghanaian Bank that only got their license late last year after three to four years as a savings and loans company. But chale, 25% of the dough will go to the deal broker, Uniex. That’s an eye-popping amount, but that’s what we get for depending on middlemen. Fair play to Uniex though, we can’t begrudge them. Let us allow them to chop the money because they have earned it. Anaa? Hehe.

Hearts of Oak 0-3 Wa All Stars [Samuel Boateng, Abdul Ganiyu, Paul Asare De Vries]

Bechem United 2-0 King Faisal [Noah Martey, Augustine Okrah]

Heart of Lions 2-0 Liberty Professionals [Kojo Poku, Isaac Quansah]

Hasaacas 0-0 Amidaus Professionals
New Edubiase 1-0 Aduana Stars [Nuhu Fusseini]
GPL Table here http://allsports.com.gh/gpl-table/
*Asante Kotoko, Berekum Chelsea, Ebusua Dwarfs and Medeama SC all didn’t feature in their matches due to their impending assignments in the CAF Champions League (former duo) and Confederations  Cup (latter duo).

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