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Tribute: Henry Atta Ameyaw paid his dues to Hearts of Oak

BY: Ashford Tettey-Oku

Henry Atta Ameyaw of Barefeet and Prestige Agency rose through the ranks from a supporter-benefactor until he was strategically appointed Chairman of the Welfare Sub-Committee in 1983 by the Seth Abadji administration to help prosecute the agenda of halting the systematic and freewheeling Asante Kotoko side that was on course to set a record 4 consecutive League Championship in Ghana (1980, 81, 82, 83).

Hearts had then not won the Division One League since 1979, and the venerable Dr J.E. Abbey had indicated to the Board that he would step down as Executive Chairman at the end of the 1982 season. The H.P. Nyemitei Board, in line with tradition and respect for public opinion, elevated Business Executive Seth Abadji, Patron of Odorkor Chapter 6 and Chairman of Auroras, the nursery team of the club, to the position.

To achieve this dream of restoring the club to winning ways, Abadji put together a very sound and solid management team which included stalwarts like Francis Doe Johnny, Alhaji Awudu Iddrissu, Elias Teye, Prof Rudolf Darko, Bob Mensah, J.P.B. Kumi (Barclays), C.O. Lamptey (Stanchart), S.Q. Barnor and A.S.A. Bekoe (Chief Directors of the Ministries of Finance/Trade respectively). Others were Dr O.G. Busia (representing Tertiary Institutions) and E.G. Awuku (Chapters). HE Prof. J.E.A. Mills was Special Advisor. Mst of these/personalities rose to become Patrons and Directors of the Club. Not only that, as the club’s contribution to the human capital of Ghana sports some, like their predecessors, became leading officials of both the Ghana FA and the National Sports Authority.

Working under this management were the various sub-committees, and this was where Henry, as he was simply called, did not only “mark time”, but proved his worth as a potential chairman of the club; great vision, excellent skills in man-management, communication, coordination and operations.

His committee with notable names like Kingsley Adjei, Obed Huhuabo, Paul Kunke, Prince Cubagee, Sylvester Mensah (who rose to become PLB Chair), among others, were the interface between the players and the management, and contributed largely to Hearts regaining the League title in 1984 with an Emmanuel Botchwey 53rd minute clincher in the decider against RTU in Accra on October 17.

At an annual congregation to take stock of the club’s splendid 1984 performance at the Baiden Powell Memorial Hall in Accra, chairman Abadji, in the course of his, speech stunned everybody with an announcement that he would not be available for an extension of his two-year tenure, and proceeded, there and then, to hand in a letter to the board chairman, H.P. Nyemitei. What an anti-climax, and WHO TAKES OVER?

There were three vice chairmen in Abadji’s cabinet. Surprisingly, all of them, and other members declined. After sleepless nights and amidst several consultations with the stakeholders, including, the Council of Patrons, Henry was appointed chairman of an Interim Management Committee by the board ahead of other candidates, to run the club, and prepare it for Africa. At Age 34, he was the youngest ever, if not one of the youngest Hearts of Oak chairmen.

Relative to modern days, Abramovich, Jose Bartomeu and Florentino Perez would have been envious of this young, handsome man with a tapestry of tapered flamboyance, great understanding of football, deep knowledge of the club’s traditions, strong belief in the club’s value system, and the humanity and humility that made him open and consultative on club issues.

Additionally, Henry maintained an excellent relationship with the sporting media as well as healthy rivalry with Kotoko’s officials, Antwi Gyamfi inclusive. Combining the above with experience, he took the stage by storm and introduced a lot of initiatives that included quality recruitment, a refresher course in Brazil for Coach Adjei Pele, among many others.

Indeed, with his mantra “only the best was good enough for Hearts”, almost all the entire squad were either with the Black Stars or Meteors. This led to the retention of the league in another decider over Kotoko in Kumasi, courtesy Joe Amoateng’s lone goal in Kumasi. In modern sporting terminology “he provided an assist to Abadji (1984) and scored a personal in (1985)”, to join the highly envious class of the very few Hearts Chairmen who ever won the League trophy, even perhaps, in their very first year. Bofoakwa was the only team that defeated Hearts that year.

Hearts of Oak since 1911 has been ran on gate fees paid by supporters, football fans, and largely the benevolence of a few individuals without counting the cost, and irrespective of the status as professional or amateur. It will continue to be so to for a very long time. This position was what Henry emphasised before the then Board when he had the foresight to recommend the appointment of the great Indian tycoon, Dino Moolchandani on to the Council of Patrons, a rare privilege also enjoyed subsequently by Korean Bok Nam Kim of Afko Fisheries.

Accepting the above proposal, the minutes of the Board meeting quoted Nana Asante Sekyi, Vice (Board) Chair, as “Hearts was formed by visionaries but belongs to everybody, indeed all of us. Your recommendation is hereby accepted. Mr Nyemitei would take up the matter with the Council President, General Ankrah. Thank you”.

Henry impacted positively my life and that of many others, who owe him a huge debt of gratitude. In my formative stage as a budding football administrator, I was so young to understand why one day he took me to Antwi Gyamfi and I.K. Edusei around Adabraka, and told them to accept and protect me any time he mandated me to represent him at some football meetings since he’s a rather busy person. Now I know.

Henry, you played your part. Fate didn’t grant you the honour and privilege to defend the league trophy you won in 1985, yet you moved on in life. Now may you plead with the Founders and distinguished Phobians like H.P. Nyemitei, Gen. Ankrah, J.K. Moffat, Nii Tetteh Kpeshi, Marc Coffie (Togbe Gobo Dake), Harry Sawyer, G.W. Amarteifio, Eddie Palmer, Nana Asante Sekyi, Bob Mensah (your body-body), George Osekere, Nana Wereko, Ampem, EG Awuku, Alhaji Hearts, S.K. Ampadu, Francis Doe and HE Prof. (President) J.E.A. Mills, and the host of other faithful departed to keep interceding for their club because it will still be a mighty and winning team.

Henry, may your gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

Tribute by Ashford Tettey-Oku