Soccer News of Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Source: Graphic Sports
ACCRA Hearts of Oak face a long, expensive and difficult journey to the round-robin stage of the African Champions League competition as they turn to Angola to face Atletico Sports Aviacao on Sunday.
The Angolans stand between Hearts and the money zone of the competition. And even before the Phobians could have a share of the Champions League jackpot, the club faces a headache of raising THE resources to honour the Luanda trip.
With their creditors already knocking hard on their doors, debt-ridden Hearts must dig deep into their bank reserves for at least $35,000 to pay for their return flight to Angola. In all Hearts require about ?600 million to cater for their expenses for the round trip.
Yesterday, the club’s management met the Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Mr Joe Aggrey, to explore the possibility of obtaining state sponsorship for the trip.
The club’s Chief Executive, Mr Thomas Okine, confirmed to the Graphic Sports that Hearts put in an official request for the use of an air force aircraft to fly direct to Luanda at the state’s expense.
Sources at the ministry also indicated that the 2000 African champions even requested that the state bails them out by paying the per diem allowance of the contigent.
Mr Okine who sounded very worried was unsure whether their request would receive a favourable response, or even the exact date of the team’s departure by commercial airline. Tomorrow or Friday looks the earliest days the team could fly out by South African Airways.
Hearts’ financial woes have been exacerbated by the unavailability of a direct flight between Accra and Luanda. As a result, they must fly by commercial airline to South Africa enroute to Angola.
Hearts dismissed their first opponents, AS Douanes, with relative ease on a 4-1 aggregate victory and now face the Angolans for the ticket to the quarter-finals of the continent’s flagship club tournament.
The Angolan hurdle could be more difficult to scale as Aviacao are expected to present Hearts a stiffer opposition in Luanda than the Togolese champions did in Lome before they lost 3-1.
Angolan clubs have been impressive in continental competitions in recent years and Aviacao thus carry into Sunday’s match a proud reputation.
Hearts may have a higher pedigree in African football but their form has been indifferent, as depicted in their 1-1 draw with Liberty Professionals in last Saturday’s league clash.
A pale shadow of their once dreaded form which enabled them conquer Africa and maintain a six-year stranglehold on Ghana football, Hearts’ coach, Herbert Addo, puts on a brave face in the belief that Luanda will be a fertile ground for his team to end their scoring drought.
Two weeks ago he was in a similar upbeat mood even after Hearts struggled to beat Douanes at home. He was vindicated when his charges turned the heat on the Togolese champions in Lome.
The possibility of Hearts strikers Emmanuel Osei Kuffour and Wisdom Abbey to again rescue the Phobians in an unfamiliar territory faces a big test.
Luanda is so far away from Accra that the Ghanaians are unlikely to enjoy the massive support of their fans as they did in the Lome encounter.
The Angolan champions, like Hearts, put up a gutsy second leg performance away to defeat Uganda’s SC Villa 2-0 in Kampala, having lost the first leg 1-2 at home.
Villa’s victory in Luanda suggests that the southern African city looks a fertile ground for Hearts to re-enact their away process.
Earning a vital point against Aviacao is not beyond Hearts’ reach, but they will need to invoke their never say die fighting spirit and also parade a very sharp attack since they will encounter a strong opposition.
Aviacao, who are handled by Portuguese coach Benedito Pedreto, are enjoying a good run of form in the Girabola (the Angolan League).
Last Saturday when Hearts struggled to hold Liberty, Aviacao ran riot against city rivals, Benfica de Luanda, with a 5-1 victory to move to second position behind leaders Petro Atletico.
Last year, they won the Angolan championship for the first time in 24 years, beating off a challenge by Primeiro de Agosto and Petro Athletico.
Having played 11 league matches so far, the Angolans are definitely in a better competitive shape than the Phobians who have had only 90 minutes of league action.
Coach Addo does not have any injury worries t the moment and can count on the players who made the nation proud in Lome last month.
Apart form goalkeeper Sammy Adjei who missed last Saturday’s match with a slight injury, Hearts have their full arsenal ready and fired uu to turn the heat at Aviacao on their home territory.