The 62nd edition of the Ghana Football League season commences on 15th September 2023 with a Friday night fixture in Tamale. Accra Hearts of Oak travel to Tamale to take on Rela Tamale United (RTU), a side that push four past them in their last season in the BetPawa Premier League.
Friday’s meeting will be the 22nd between the two sides, and Hearts of Oak will be looking to pay-back the hosts and cause an upset against RTU. Coincidentally, both clubs recently unveiled new set of Jerseys, and will want to begin their 2023/2024 BetPawa premier league campaign on a high note.
The season promises to be exciting with clubs actively involved on the transfer market prior to a season where the selling and buying of players from club to club has been very prominent and teams exploring new coaching options.
Accra Hearts of Oak have been on some incredible form lately, hiting significant wins in their friendly matches. But the intensity of the season, the fixture schedule and road travel stress can sometimes add to the fatigue and performance, especially in a league where every club tries to make their home a fortress and disparity between clubs and margins are fine. Hearts of Oak have maintained their glorious status at times, but they have equally run into some trouble against opponents who prive to be a perennial problem, and the big test for Coach Koopman and his lads at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium on Friday night, 6:30pm (18:30GMT) Tamale.
The Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in Tamale, is one of the few venue’s where the Phobians find difficulty in taking the maximum three points. The last two games between both sides only backs our assertion, am and we will soon show you what the data says.
Real Tamale United – the Pride of the North
Real Tamale United was established in 1976 and gained promotion into the Ghana Premier League two years after its establishment. In 1978, the first taste of top-tier football saw them compete for the league, where they occupied the third position with 16 wins, 9 draws, and 9 losses in 34 games (accumulating 41 points). Per the rules of the tournament then, a win attracted 2 points and teams that draw a game were assigned a point. The 1978 RTU will never be forgotten for their free scoring nature. The team found delight in the then Poster boy, Mohammed Choo who brought smiles to the Tamale based club for his goal poaching abilities. He was eventually crowned the top scorer with 22 goals.
RTU have gone on to occupy second positions especially in the 1994/95 football season and third positions in the 1997 and 1999 football season with 51 points and 52 points respectively. Their brightest opportunity came in 1997 season when they lost the league on the final day to eventual winners Accra Hearts of Oak. This explains why games between the two is a big deal.
Real Tamale United had a marathon taste of premier football for 32. years before seeing demotion to the second tier of Ghana football competition. They were promoted in back to the Ghanaian Top-flight football league in the 2012 season and then saw demotion into the wilderness of Ghana Football upon return. It was also a low moment in RTU’s history, amassing only two points without a victory
Real Tamale United’s return to the Ghana premier league in the 2021/22 season was capped with a fantastic last day victory at the Accra Sports Stadium with the Tamale based club walloping the ‘Phobia’ boys Accra Hearts of Oak, which also helped them escape the drop last season.
The former African champions, Accra Hearts of Oak are into their 62nd football season in Ghana; they start as one of the most formidable teams ahead of the 2023/2024 Betpawa Premier League. The phobians are the only club to have won six consecutive league seasons from 1997 to 2002 football seasons.
The rainbow club are three titles shy from their archrivals, Kumasi Asante Kotoko – 24 titles.
Hearts of Oak have produced the goal king for three consecutive seasons. Ishmael Addo scored 19 goals in the first season, 21 in the second, 1 & 22 goals respectively for the team to have accumulated the most points in a single premier league season (78) during the 2002 football season.
Glorious Accra Hearts of Oak have also produced a top scorer for four consecutive seasons; from 1998 season to 2022 where both Charles Taylor and Don Bortey scored 18 goals each to crown their last of the six in a row league success.
In the premier league era, no team has managed to go unbeaten in a single season but for the Accra Hearts of Oak 2003 team led by the late Herbert Addo. Hebert’s Hearts went half season without a smell of defeat. In the 2022 season, the Accra based side pulled off 14 wins and pulled off a draw against Kumasi Asante Kotoko on matchday 15 at the then Kumasi Sports Stadium. That amazing winning streak was truncated by Real Tamale United when they defeated Hearts in week 19 by 2-1. The Phobians lost just twice, drawing three, and winning 25 games of which 14 was consecutive. Accra Hearts of Oak that year touched the rainbow in the sky and that recent form continued in the 2003 season. The longest unbeaten streak was Hearts’ 44 matches which was started on 14th August 2002 and ended in September 22, 2004 by Real Sportive 2-1, a late consolation from Wisdom Abbey in the 90th minute. Hearts unbeaten streak saw them won 30 matches and drawing 14 games.
Real Tamale United vs Hearts of Oak (H2H)
The 2023/24 season opener will either be a repeat or a revenge for RTU and Hearts of Oak respectively. RTU come into this game with the mind of causing double agony to the phobians given, they inflicted them with one of their heaviest defeats at the Accra Sports Stadium in the phobian’s all time history. A humiliating scoreline, 4-1 during the 2021/22 season and goingbon to complete the double over them; a 2-1 victory in the return leg. The blue and white team had a though season after gaining promotion back to Top-Flight football in the 2021/2022 Betpawa Premier League. They were winless in their first four games before beating Berekum Chelsea at Berekum, and narrowly escaped the drop. Real Tamale United were winless in the first two rounds before beating an Accra based side, Great Olympics to register their first victory of the season. Now, they meet a side that has struggled to win their first three games in the past two football seasons, Accra Hearts of Oak. They will try to capitalize on Hearts’ poor start amidst home advantage.
Accra Hearts of Oak come into this game as a more sharper side with a new outlook. The Rainbow club will be eager to free themselves from the painful defeat at the hands of RTU. Accra Hearts of Oak have seen enormous joy in this game with positive history on their side, but will have to pass the RTU test cone Friday on matchday one.
The last time both teams met on match day one, the phobians came out as victors with a 0-1 win in the year 2000. The phobians went on to win the league that season. Anytime they meet early, mostly within the first 7 games, Hearts usualy have the edge to win. Hearts-RTU meetings on match day 1 was more frequent in the 90’s.
The 1992/93 season was the only season the Tamale based club was able to get all three points versus Hearts of Oak. In 1998/1999, Hearts defeated RTU in week 6 on March 28 by 1-2 and repeated another sweet victory in 2003, storming to victory again at 0-1 on week three, of the 2003 football season.
RTU has signed a lot of players this season after their inspirational Captain, Nurudeen Mohammed Yussif signed for Kotoko. Key players Manf Umar and Sadat Mohammed have joined Maxwell Konadu’s Nsoatreman FC, with sensational goalscorer, Issah Kuka returning to his parent club, Hearts of Oak. The Tamale based club have also tried to bolster their squad but the attempt has not been all too succcesful. Despite loosing 11 players they have added seven new signings; the likes of Mohammed Iddrisu, Christian Gyan and striker Umar Ibson from Steadfast Academy, (scored 6 goals and made four assists in last year’s GFA Division 1 league). They look a bit more of a depleted side and might need a couple of games to build team chemistry and find their rhythm with the new boys. The technical team will also need to be apt in their decision making if RTU will have a decent season.
Accra Hearts of Oak has also brought in over 10 new players. Kashala Ramos, who is in a fantastic form in the pre-season, Martin Karikari, Rapheal Amponsah from Asekem, Leventus Arthur from Tamale City, former captain of Bechem United, Kofi Agbesima and Kelvin Osei Assibey from Techiman Eleven Wonders, and the return of the midfield dynamo, Abdul Aziz Nurudeen make Hearts a very strong team to beat this season both in defense and attack. Hearts have also lost some prominent stars; Caleb Amankwah (Top scorer for Hearts, 4), Konadu Yiadom, Barnieh Afriyieh, Benjamin York, etc. But much of the excitement about Hearts’ new look is seen in the partnership of Kashala Ramos, Don Linda, and Martin Karikari. The phobians seem to be unlocking the goal scoring fortunes, and have averagely scored 1.5 to 2 goals in each game. For Coach Koopman and Accra Hearts of Oak, the target is to win the league and compete in the CAF champions league with the likes of Al Ahly, Zamalek, Esperance Tunis, but to mention a few.
Petras Ali’s Prediction
It is going to be a tough match, but the form of Hearts in the pre-season can propel them to take good points from Tamale. They look favorites and despite the home advantage for Real Tamale United an upset is imminent in the matchday one clash.
Score Prediction: RTU 0 – 2 Hearts of Oak
Story by: Petras Anaab Ali (with contribution from Radio Univers Sports) | univers.ug.edu.gh