By Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo
Playing at the 60,000 capacity Stade Olympique de Rades inTunis is hell but the current generation of Hearts of Oak players have their destiny in their hands to make a name for themselves against the Tunisian giants Esperance Sportive de Tunis (EST) at 18.00hrs on Sunday.
The unsung Phobian squad flew to Tunisia well psyched for their toughest assignement yet following pieces of advice from some members of the all-conquering Hearts’ team of 2000 (nicknamed 64 Battalion), as well as a timely warning from their compatriots Francis Coffie and Augustine Okrah who ply their trade with Sudanese side, El Merreikh, who booted out the Tunisians from the CAF Champions League early this month.
Going down memory lane, Coach Cecil Jones Attuquayefio’s star-studded Hearts squad stormed the same arena in 2000 to break Esperance’s home invincibility with a shocking 2-1 away win, which prepared the grounds for that historic Champions League triumph following a 3-1 thrashing of the Tunisians in Accra. Since then the two sides have avoided each other until now.
Fortunately, Hearts go into the game with an enticing GH¢1,000 bonus offer from Budget Cash and Carry and another GH¢500 bonus from management beckoning them.
Added to that is the return of trusted skipper Robin Gnagne and Isaac Oduro, both of whom missed the last outing against Djoliba AC of Mali in Accra a fortnight ago, giving Hearts some depth in defence against an unstable Esperance side which lost 0-1 to rivals Club Africain in the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1 last Tuesday.
Esperance’s Camerounian striker, Yannick N’Djeng, Ahmed Akaichi, Hocine Ragued, Oussama Darragi and Ghanaian-born Harrison Afful are the players Coach Addo has to keep an eye on, while unleashing Gilbert Fiamenyo, Paul Acquah, Ashittey Ollenu, Richard Yamoah, Eric Kumi and Isaac Mensah on the homesters in a typical fashion.
The match will be handled by Egyptian referee Ghead Zaglol Grisha, Waleed Ahmed Ali of Sudan and Berhe O’Michael of Eritrea.
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