Bashir Hayford: The Hope of Lions

Coach Bashir Hayford's tactical nous has helped Heart of Lions edge closer to GPL survival

Destiny Sunday. You might choose to call it.

It was at the Nsenkyire Sports Complex on Sunday, December 10, 2023.

Heart of Lions had made over 580 km journey to Samreboi for a contest against Samartex with hope, despite a campaign in the Ghana Premier League which had the Lions losing its den.

The atmosphere was off the roof and the tension in every Lion was palpable. Fans filled every seat to suffocate these Lions to death in this crucial fixture.

It was a partisan crowd, but Heart of Lions saw off a first 45 minutes unscathed. On the pitch, players dropped sweat from every strand of their hair. Over 500 km away, monitoring proceedings on the radio, aficionados wondered if this could really be the day.

The day to avoid another defeat.

But it wasn't.

The clock ticked minute 47, and a dramatic moment unfolded. Hearts of Lions' goalkeeper, Thomas Osae, had expertly caught a cross but lost his grip just moments later.

The ball dropped, bounced, and seemed to hang in the air before Osae quickly regained control, pulling off what appeared to be a flawless save.

But football can be cruelly unpredictable. As Osae attempted to throw the ball to knee level for a swift kick to initiate a counterattack, he miscalculated disastrously, missing the ball entirely, stumbled, and fell, and scrambled to recover.

His goal post exposed.

In a heartbeat, Samartex's Emmanuel Mamah pounced, scoring effortlessly. The home fans roared, but for lovers of this club, it was a moment of disbelief.

The nightmare continued. With just 15 minutes remaining, Evans Osei-Wusu swiftly capitalised on a loose ball near the goal box area, doubling the home side's lead - a crucial move that clinched the victory and secured three points for the day.

The loss deepened Hearts of Lions' misery, extending their winless streak to 13 matches and anchoring them at the bottom of the league table.

Despair seeped into every corner of the club. The team's spirits were crushed, and the fans' hope seemed all but extinguished.

In the aftermath of this string of poor outcomes, management made a tough decision - parting ways with Salifu Fatawu, the man who brought  them here and led them to this stage of anguish.

Into this void of uncertainty stepped Bashir Hayford, a maverick and seasoned coach.

"As an experienced coach, you need not panic in any situation of a team. You must make sure you do your best," Bashir told JoySports in an exclusive interview.

"Many people advised me not to [take the job]. I accepted it on the basis of trying to prove a point that no condition is totally disoriented, you can resurrect some issues."

Bashir Hayford spoke to JoySports' Mubarak Haruna at the Alajo Park

Bashir's arrival breathed new life into the club.

The players began to show a revived fighting spirit, their performances on the pitch improving noticeably. They scored more, defended better, and began to collect points.

Under Bashir's leadership, they notched seven victories and three draws in 16 matches, including significant wins against top teams like Asante Kotoko, second-placed Nations FC, and FA Cup finalists Nsoatreman.

Bashir Hayford guided Heart of Lions to a famous 1-0 victory over Asante Kotoko in week 18 of the GPL

Suddenly, the once-doomed team found itself just two points away from escaping the jaws of relegation.

Beaming with a smile and letting out a sigh, attacker Seedorf Asante says, "Coach Bashir Hayford. Very tactical coach, very good coach. He is teaching us a lot. We will be with him and we are fighting for him as a coach. He is our father, our everything.

Bashir's illustrious career, and his track record are nothing short of legendary.

He had led the club to its first GHALCA Top 4 trophy in 2005, masterminded a Ghana Premier League triumph with Asante Kotoko in the 2007/08 season and then orchestrated another title victory with AshantiGold in 2014/15.

This competition is his playground.

Though his current mission is simply survival, not silverware, his impact is undeniable.

With just five matches left in the season, his meticulous approach during training sessions underscores the high stakes.

JoySports observed a session, and Bashir's intensity was palpable.

The man whose nous has brought this club to a near point of safety, stood with a piercing gaze that seemed to penetrate beyond the physical bounds of the field.

He took a stride to the East of this session but his keen senses caught a misstep contrary to his command from the opposite direction.

Like a compass needle snapping to North, his body switched to his left, and his index finger shot up. The middle finger dropped low, embracing the thump, while the ring and little fingers found themselves pointing to his chest.

Bashir Hayford draws players' attention to the details of the training session.

It was quick and abrasive, and what came out were words of disagreement.

"Four balls going from here," he instructed, drawing the attention of his players. "But I only see two balls going! Get ready again!"

The silence that followed spoke volumes about his authority and the respect he commanded. The moment of silence when he spoke had only one message: discipline.

"It is the discipline aspect," striker Raf Mahama says.

"He comes and we all want to sacrifice and work for him. We are just working hard and doing our best," he noted.

Bashir Hayford leading his side's training session ahead of week 30 fixture against Dreams FC

With a daunting schedule ahead - fixtures against CAF Confederation Cup semi-finalists Dreams FC, league leaders Samartex, defending champions Medeama, Legon Cities, and Berekum Chelsea, the stakes could not be higher.

Each match is a battle for survival, but with Bashir at the helm, there is a renewed sense of belief.

The players, the fans, and everyone connected with Hearts of Lions dare to hope again.

This club is on the brink of a remarkable turnaround.

Bashir Hayford is not just a coach; he is the beacon of hope, leading them out of the darkness.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.