https://www.myjoyonline.com/dreams-fc-throwback-to-the-64-battalion-and-a-glimpse-of-the-future/-------https://www.myjoyonline.com/dreams-fc-throwback-to-the-64-battalion-and-a-glimpse-of-the-future/

It is the month of December; the year is 2000 and Ghanaians are preparing to go to the polls. At political rallies and church services, Cindy Thompson’s transcendental ‘Awurade Kasa’ is blasting through speakers. John Agyekum Kufuor and the NPP had hit a masterstroke in selecting the song for the party’s election campaign.

Five days before the election results confirmed this, another Kufuor was on the cusp of achieving immortality. After rounding Chokri El Ouaer (Esperance goalkeeper), Emmanuel Adjogu put it on a plate for Emmanuel Osei Kuffuor. ‘The General’s 79th-minute goal completed the comeback after Ishmael Addo had restored parity 17 minutes prior.

Two weeks later, Kuffour (with his tenth of the competition) and Addo scored again as Hearts beat Esperance 3-1 in Accra to win the CAF Champions League.

Hearts would add the Ghana Premier League and the FA Cup to complete the treble, a first by a Ghanaian club – a record that stands to this day.

Hearts of Oak's 64 battalion won seven league titles, four FA Cups, the CAF Champions League (treble winning season of 2000), Confederations Cup and Super Cup between 1997 and 2005

The win at the Stade El Menzah, Tunis, was the third away win of their unbeaten Champions League campaign;

Aug 5, 2000: Jeanne d'Arc 2-4 Hearts of Oak
Aug 20, 2000: Lobi Stars 0-2 Hearts of Oak

December 2, 2000: Esperance de Tunis 1-2 Hearts of Oak.

Two years later, Asante Kotoko beat AS Police 3-2 in Congo to qualify for the final of the then Cup Winner’s Cup. It would also be Ghana’s last in the Champions League or the Confederation Cup for decades. Until Dreams FC.

On Sunday night, Dreams FC matched that feat when they, like Kotoko in Congo, came from behind to beat Stade Malien in the quarter-final first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup.

While Dreams cannot be compared to the legendary Hearts and Kotoko teams, there are still noticeable similarities.

Seminal moves

Dreams took a leaf from Hearts’ book when they recruited John Antwi and Saani Mohammed (in August and December 2023 respectively).

In 1999, Hearts of Oak signed Agyemang Duah to bolster their ranks. At the age of 26, Agyemang Duah had five league titles to his name (three with Asante Kotoko and two with Ashantigold). By the time he was 23 years old, ‘Rambo’ had played in the CAF Champions League final, losing out on penalty shootouts to Moroccan side Raja Casablanca. By the time he joined Hearts of Oak, he had played at two AFCON’s – 1994 and in 1998, for Ghana.

Agyeman Duah ‘Rambo’ clears the ball before Victor Agali during Ghana’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria in a Japan/ Korea 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Think of Rio Ferdinand winning multiple league titles with Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal, before turning 25 years of age. And before that, becoming an established national team player at 20. That is the absurdity of what Agyemang Duah did.

So, while young, the wealth of experience and the titles to back his ridiculous talent meant that even for a team that had won the league thrice on the bounce, Hearts of Oak needed a character like him.

He was not alone. Amankwaah Mireku (from Okwahu United), Charles Taylor (from Olympics), etc all joined.

It is that kind of excellent recruitment that has gotten Dreams FC on the cusp of glory.

In August 2023, Dreams FC surprised fans by announcing the signing of John Antwi. Having previously been managed by GFA President Kurt Okraku’s Proton Sports, John Antwi has always been part of the Dreams family. In 2014, Kurt famously ‘attacked’ Black Stars coach Kwasi Appiah for not naming John Antwi in Ghana’s squad for the World Cup.

In John Antwi, Dreams has a serial goal scorer with a wealth of experience. The former Hearts of Oak striker has played in the CAF Champions League for Ismaily, Al Ahly, and in the Confederation Cup for Ismaily, Pyramids FC, and now Dreams FC.

With 100 goals to his name, John Antwi is the highest-scoring foreign player in Egypt. Beyond the goals, Antwi has been crucial in setting the standards as far as work ethic professional conducts are concerned. In recognition of this and his seminal role in an attempt to change club culture, the club has made him captain.

As big as they come, Dreams FC signed John Antwi, a striker with more goals on the continent than any Ghanaian in history - 100

Recruitment

A year before the FA Cup success, Dreams signed Godfred Atuahene. The midfielder had been the most valuable player on thirteen occasions for Liberty Professionals in the previous year. Suleman Suhuyini also joined from Tamale Steadfast FC in July 2023.
All three have been ever-present in the campaign so far.

But it is not just about this group. Dreams have always had a reputation for recruiting players with high resale value. Of course, they do not always work out abroad but the conveyor belt keeps running. In recent times Michael Agbekpornu, a central midfielder, was a personal favorite.
In the past few years, the focus has switched to finding explosive, inventive midfielders who are technically malleable. Sylvester Symba (to a lesser extent), Leicester City’s Abdul Fatahu Issahaku and now Abdul Aziz Issa.

At 18, Aziz Issa has an FA Cup, African Games gold medal and is hitting double digits in his second full season

While Simba did not exactly work out, Issahaku and Aziz certainly have.
Like his senior at Leicester City, there are many things unrefined about Aziz but my word what a player.

In the first twelve matches of the season, Aziz scored ten goals in all competitions for Dreams.
Some concerns combining that many games and the national Under-20 workload may be too much for him. Those concerns were quickly dismissed when he added the Confederation Cup to his list of hunting grounds. So far, the 18-year-old has four goals and is the club’s joint-top scorer in the competition.

At the just-ended African games, he led Ghana to win gold, his first taste of international silverware. That, and his goal in the club’s FA Cup final last season, have given him the authority to do what he does.
So he may take an extra touch, dribble one more than necessary, or shoot when he does not need to, but it’s not all empty confidence. The goals - 10 by the halfway point of the season, and assists that have followed plus two titles, mean he will trust himself even more.

In their last five matches, Karim Zito has fielded almost the same side.
That kind of continuity has made it easier to build cohesiveness in a constantly changing side.

That cohesiveness means on days like Sunday when Aziz was not around, they can dispatch credible opponents without breaking a sweat.

Clout

Once upon a time a football write, Ameenu Shardow is now pushing boundaries as a football executive

It is impossible to decouple the club’s successes from its relationship with the leadership of the Ghana Football Association.
Without that, Ameenu Shardow, its General Manager, perhaps does not become Team Manager of the Black Stars. Since Kurt Okraku, the club’s former president became GFA boss, his partner Jiji Alifoe has been more visible around national teams than ever.

While it is hard to establish what purpose some of them serve, the value these relationships bring to the club is immeasurable. They have seen first-hand how the continent's elite football institutions are run and built relevant relationships with their peers from elsewhere.
To their credit, they have made smart business moves. After establishing their place in Ghana’s elite division, the owners set up Still Believe and In God We Trust as feeder clubs.
But they are not all yes-men and tag-a-longs.

Last year, Ameenu Shardow, reportedly acquired a controlling stake in lower tier side, Kassena Nankana.
Kassena Nankana has become the soul of football in the Upper East Region. Although they have not played in the Premier League yet, they have made their name by recruiting and transferring exciting talents. They specialize in technically gifted midfielders and wingers in the Northern regions. Nankana finds these players through a network of competent scouts who know the exact profile for their ready-made markets.

Critics saw the acquisition as a political move to secure more votes for Kurt Okraku's re-election campaign. Where critics saw votes, Ameenu Shardow saw a self-sustaining club with clearly defined management practices.

That is the level of ambition and know-how behind Dreams FC these days.

J.A. Kufuor has retired. The 64 Battalion is now scattered across the globe. But just like Awurade Kasa’s place in Ghanaian music, what Hearts of Oak’s golden generation achieved, has changed the rules forever. They are the standard.

Dreams FC is not there yet, but have all it takes - a lot of money, the right business relationships both at home and abroad, sufficient intellectual infrastructure, and the right motivation. And at this rate, who’s to say the dream cannot become a reality?

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.


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.



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