How Hearts’ Richard Attah Battled Adversity and Won

Signed on a free transfer back in December 2019, Richard Attah’s acquisition by Accra Hearts of Oak was, at the time, regarded as a rather shrewd piece of business.

Quick, strong, and not afraid to anticipate, Attah was everything a Hearts player should be, and much was expected of the burly goalkeeper as the Phobians sought to re-establish themselves as a formidable force in Ghana’s top-flight.

From the start, Attah retained the trust reposed in him by putting up some splendid performances for the team and establishing himself as the undisputed starter in goal.

Doing so wasn’t easy, to say the least, with Richmond Ayi — who had joined from the West African Football Academy (WAFA) only a season prior — providing very keen competition, while Ben Mensah’s experience stood him in good stead.

Still, as with all great talents, Attah’s excellence shone through. Just before the 2019/20 Ghana Premier League season got truncated by the coronavirus pandemic, in fact, Attah’s reputation as one of the best on the domestic scene was endorsed by an invitation to the Black Stars from head coach Charles Akonnor for upcoming Afcon qualifiers.

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Those games were rescheduled for later in the year, but when the updated squad was named by Akonnor, Attah was conspicuously missing. If that omission seemed unjustified, Attah’s displays when the new league season started made it hard to argue for his recall.

Attah’s hitherto impressive form had waned considerably, seemingly unable to catch a break, and observers/critics came up with varying theories — had he lost it? Was he just rusty? — to explain his slump. The less charitable went even farther, subjecting Attah to personal abuse… and then some.

If there was one thing that almost everyone could agree on, though, it was this: Attah, shorn of the spectacular reflexes and sublime saves that once made his game such a compelling watch, was quite simply a shadow of his former self.

And conceding so frequently — and so easily — came at a cost, with Ayi overtaking him in the pecking order for a while under head coach Kosta Papic. The Serbian took steps to restore Attah to favour towards the end of his brief reign, but it has been under successor Samuel Boadu that the former Elmina Sharks goalkeeper has truly achieved redemption.

Attah has played six games since Boadu took charge and not let in a goal in any of those. Hearts have ended up winning all six, interestingly, compared to just two games won of the five Attah has missed due to injury thus far into the former Medeama boss’ tenure.

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He is currently the goalkeeper with the most consecutive clean sheets (8) in the division, and while Boadu’s impact has certainly played a part, Attah deserves credit for steering his own turnaround.

The 26-year-old’s motivation, patience and perseverance to push through the season’s uncertainties (fitness issues, changes in technical leadership and all) is certainly admirable, as is his willingness to take the chances handed him.

Life — regardless of its spontaneity and drama and romance — always presents us with a single bottom line: reality. And while that can, at times, be both cruel and mundane, it is capable of inspiring and uplifting at other times.

This — Attah’s story this season — may well be one of those instances when life, and reality, throws up a good one: a lesson about how resilience and a dogged refusal to go gentle into that bad day eventually gets rewarded.

The ultimate reward, of course, would be a first league title/major trophy for Hearts in over a decade, an objective that their position atop the league table suggests they could achieve.

Should that come to pass, Attah would be even more pleased that he overcame adversity, rather than succumb to it.

Godfred Budu Yeboah — Ink & Kicks

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