When Accra Hearts of Oak’s trip to the Nana Fosu Gyeabour Park — towards the end of the 2015/16 Ghana Premier League season — ended in a 3-1 defeat to hosts Bechem United, one man was the toast of the home fans.
Abednego ‘Zlatan’ Tetteh scored all three goals for Bechem, and it was after this heroic feat that the giant forward became a household name on the local scene. He subsequently received a first national team call-up from then manager Avram Grant, as Ghana prepared to face Rwanda in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
But while he didn’t get to represent the Black Stars on that occasion, Tetteh continued to make a mark at club level. He would end that season with 12 league goals — 16 in all competitions — for the Ahafo-based side, also starring as they beat Okwahu United, a team Tetteh once played for, in the MTN FA Cup final.
Following that impressive season, Tetteh went overseas — the way of most Ghanaian footballers — and took in stints with Al-Hilal Omdurman and Al-Hilal El-Obeid (Sudan), Jimma Aba Buna (Ethiopia), Real Kashir and TRAU FC (India).
By May 2020, Tetteh had returned to his homeland, signing as a free agent for Hearts, the club he thumped all those years ago. An agreement had long been reached, in fact, but a delay in the arrival of Tetteh’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC) protracted the process.
His capture, when announced, was greeted with unanimous optimism, and Hearts fans were clearly chomping at the bit to see what Tetteh brought to their team — not much, from the early glimpses.
Tetteh’s debut came on Matchday 2 of the current league season, against Inter Allies, and it was wholly forgettable. After spurning a glut of sitters in the initial stages of the game, Tetteh was hauled off at the interval.
His second appearance – against Karela United – played out similarly, with an unimpressive Tetteh withdrawn just ten minutes after restart by head coach Edward Nii Odoom. The embattled trainer was himself relieved of his post after that game, with Kosta Papic — the man who all but won Hearts’ last significant piece of silverware, back in 2009 — drafted in, in his stead.
In the Serbian’s first game, Tetteh did not make the squad as Hearts romped to a comfortable 3-0 home win over Dreams FC. It was only the beginning of a spell of misery which lasted through Hearts’ next two games — away to Aduana Stars and King Faisal — as Tetteh was omitted entirely from Papic’s traveling contingent.
Hearts’ first fixture of the new year — versus Tetteh’s former club, Bechem — saw the 30-year-old brought back from the cold, but he never got off the bench during that seven-goal thriller. He was, once more, an unused substitute a game later, when Hearts visited Elmina Sharks and came away with a point.
It was not until Matchday 9, Papic’s sixth game in charge, that Tetteh finally returned to the pitch. Brought on in the 64th minute to replace Victor Aidoo, scorer of Hearts’ second goal on the night against Techiman XI Wonders (more on him later), Tetteh made no meaningful impact.
And that’s all he’s had, though injury-free: 26 minutes of game-time from a possible 540. It is a hugely underwhelming return for a player of whom so much was expected, but that’s the reality. Not that the Phobians have had to worry overly about Tetteh’s struggles, though. They certainly have options upfront – and some very good ones, too.
Before Kojo Obeng Jr’s injury, the Dormaa native was Papic’s preferred choice to lead the attack, and now he is back. Daniel Afriyie Barnie, having returned from captaining a triumphant Black Satellites team at the WAFU Zone B Cup Of Nations in December, has also been thrown straight into the starting XI in the games against Bechem, Sharks and Wonders.
Afriyie may not be the most prolific forward, but he compensates for that with tireless running, industry, and good hold-up play. Goals have come from Aidoo — mentioned earlier, remember? — who, after his own shaky start, has scored four times in as many games, appearing ‘undroppable’ at the moment.
Even Isaac Mensah, freshly fit, is ahead of Tetteh in the pecking order. The former Nkoranza Warriors man looks very good on the ball and has an eye for a pass – an attribute that is a prerequisite for any player who aspires to play in Papic’s team.
It looks likely, then, that Tetteh — who now only earns the Zlatan Ibrahimović comparisons with his stature and utterances, by the way — could face an extended period on the sidelines. If playing for Hearts is like braving a fiery furnace, Tetteh’s prospects are burning up fast.