The Phobians’ beautiful goal machine II: Ishmael Addo

Second part of Yaw Ofosu-Larbi’s paean to a man who transformed our notion of Ghana football

The passage of time can blur one’s memory but it is important to note that it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ishmael Addo at Hearts.

He had come into a fold that had the previous season’s goal king in Joe Fameyeh, Ousmanu Amadu, whom so many Hearts fans loved, the target man Ibrahim Mugu and Ian Acquah, who played a fringe but important role upfront for the Phobians.

Addo in particular had to rely solely on his ability, his pace, his instincts and the trust from coaches Ofei Ansah and Archibald Lamptey, who helped him hone his skills to develop into a well-rounded player.

Glorious debut

In his debut season, he went on to score 16 goals. Hearts were League champions that year but the dose of success they were having wasn’t good enough for them: they wanted more. And in the next season – the club’s most successful year ever – they built a commandeering attack that featured Charles Taylor and Bernard Don Bortey alongside Ishamel Addo.

That team went on, as expected, to win the Champions League, the Super Cup, the League title and the FA Cup. This was the famous “64 Battalion team”, led by the late Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. Addo says it was more about Jones Attuquayefio then, and the fighting spirit he instilled in the players, than what their abilities could handle.

“Jones always said you had to be selfish. He always told us to be selfish, in the sense that we should never allow our opponents to play. That’s all we were doing. We never wanted the opponent to play but we wanted them to allow us to play.”

Time to reap the benefits

The years have gone by fast and Addo may have moved on, but he still holds those moments in high esteem. When I asked what all that meant to him, he just smiled his super-coy smile and said: “I will probably use one word. That is to say I was fulfilled.

“I gave my best and my all to them when I was with them, so I think my job was done and I did a good job with them.”

The year that followed Hearts of Oak’s treble year was to be Addo’s most prolific year as a striker. It was harvest season for him. He played with a disregard for convolution. He had one job; a job that required him to put the ball at the back of the net and he understood his duties better than anyone else in the Ghana Premier League.

Nicknamed Enfant Terrible, Addo went on to score 22 goals in the League – a record that still holds today. Nineteen years later, no one has come close. It is lonely out there but Addo says the record gives him great joy.

“It makes me feel special, because the League was there before I was born and then there have been some records that were set before I came along. So, having the opportunity to have a record of my own in the Ghana League – that’s something I will always be proud of.”

Yaw Ofosu Larbi

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