If the powers-that-be at Accra Hearts of Oak were unsure how the club’s fans felt about the sacking of Samuel Boadu as head coach last month, scenes at the Accra Sports Stadium after Sunday’s CAF Confederation Cup home game versus Malian side Real Bamako left absolute no ambiguity at all.
The Phobians had just been eliminated from the competition at the first hurdle – surprise, surprise! – despite winning the second leg 1-0. Bamako had done far too much damage with an emphatic 3-0 win in the reverse a week prior for Hearts – despite rallying and summoning in their favour all the forces they could – to successfully stage a fightback.
Yet the supporters, disappointed as they were, put their worries aside post-match on seeing the recently-fired trainer at the stadium. They raised Boadu shoulder-high, sang his praises at full volume, and generally gave him a kingly treat.
Stunning, yes, but was anybody really shocked?
Boadu’s relationship with Hearts fans is, clearly, as strong as it’s ever been, even weeks after his departure – and, no, that didn’t happen by chance.
When he was handed the reins in March 2021, it didn’t take Boadu long to realise just what an asset the Hearts fan-base – harnessed properly – could be. If he cultivated that bond right, Boadu knew he could rely on them to stick by his side through thick and thin.
And, well, so it proved.
In those first few months when Hearts went on a winning spree, the supporters were the fuel that made the all-consuming fire of Boadu’s team burn ever so brightly.
And when that fire eventually died out – leaving some disillusioned and disgruntled – those same hordes constituted Boadu’s greatest ally, keeping the embers warm until his employers snuffed ’em out.
If goodwill towards Boadu quickly desiccated in the boardroom and/or dressing-room, it lasted much longer in the stands. Boadu had brought the Hearts faithful what they’d long-sought, and even if the aftertaste was bitter, memories of the good days remain fond.
It’s hard to think of any coach in the history of Ghanaian football so unconditionally loved by fans of a club he worked with. This is fanaticism at its most feverish, a cultish attachment teetering on the verge of idolatry, such is Boadu’s grip on their emotions.
Pair that ridiculously high esteem with the sheer uncertainty and chaos that has ensued in the immediate aftermath of Boadu’s exit, and the context of the treatment the 36-year-old got from his adoring faithful becomes apparent: not quite a full-blown revolt against those who are deemed to have hounded him out, no, but close enough.
And if the intended recipients didn’t get that message loudly enough – there are suspicions that some on the club’s Board may actually be tone-deaf, given how consistently poor they’ve been at reading the room over the years – it must have been drummed home by less savoury happenings after the weekend’s fixture.
Boadu, it could be argued, milked the occasion. He didn’t just turn up to watch the game as some ordinary spectator. He went as far as pitchside ahead of kick-off, as he often did while still Hearts’ coach, lapping up the adulation that streamed gushed his way.
How he got access to the arena’s inner perimeter is a topic for another day; the fact that the fans didn’t miss the chance to let him – and his former bosses, who must have found the sight all too galling – know how much he is still adored and revered within their ranks.
They’d wish him back to his post, if they could, in a heartbeat. Whether or not that reinstatement would ever happen can’t be known now. For the fans, though, and for Boadu, it’s enough that the latter’s shadow still looms large over Hearts.