49 YEARS AGO: HEARTS HOLD PELE'S SANTOS

On Thursday, February 6, 1969, Hearts caused a big sensation when they drew 2-2 with world famed Santos, the top European [sic] team from Brazil. It was the belief of all that Hearts were going to lose by a heavy margin. In actual fact, the purpose of the match was to let Ghanaian soccer fans see Pele in action. And it cost the National Liberation Council (N.L.C) Government N¢30,000 for the single match played at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Employees from the state sector closed once and employers in the private sector who could afford it closed their workers at 2:30 p.m. But long before the time for the match, the stadium was bursting with anxious spectators.

Hearts were first to score from a carpet shot by ‘wonder boy’ Abeka Ankrah. The cheers that greeted this goal were sufficient to bring Queen Nefetiti back to life. Santos looked more serious after the goal and equalized through a penalty spot-kick.

From recess, Hearts went ahead again and Amusa Gbadamosi outwitted a bunch of defenders and crashed home a powerful shot. That was the danger sign for Santos. They applied all tricks in the game but young Sam Amarteifio expertly foiled all the attempts of the Peles and Edus at goal. At one stage of the game, the world acclaimed forwards of Santos were made to look-like little children shooting at the moon with ineffectual arrows. That was when Addo Odametey, Joe Dakota, and Kpakpo Allotey  screwed the Hearts defence water-tight.

But Pele, who was roaming the field like a wounded tiger, managed to get the equalizer with the Hearts defence looking on as if mesmerized. A grand goal from a great player on a big occasion. That was how Pele scored the much needed equalizer for Santos.

Hearts did not end there. Determined to cause a big stir in world soccer circles, the glorious boys of Capital City of Ghana forged ahead. A beautiful combination between Amusa, Abeka and Joe Ghartey saw George Alhassan on the run. He outwitted a defender and tricked the goalkeeper out of position. A gentle tap saw the ball rolling into an empty net. FIFA referee Major George Lamptey rightly whistled for a goal and pointed at the centre, but as the ball was being jubilantly carried away for a re-start the referee spotted linesman Hulede’s flag. As a good referee, he raced to him and after a few exchanges, the referee disallowed the match winner. Why and how Hulede flagged an infringement, only heaven knew. He claimed that it was an off-side goal but a slow motion picture after the match exposed him.

One interesting aspect of the match was that it was the first time Pele played any game to the last whistle. He usually sneaked off the field 10 minutes before time to avoid being mobbed by fans after a game.

Santos knew the strength of Hearts before they arrived, Hertha O3 from Berlin whom Hearts beat 1-0 in a similar match two months earlier gave Santos the tip-off.

In turn, Santos warned Association Atletica Portuguesa from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when they were scheduled to play Hearts later in 1969. But the warning came rather too late and for the first time in 10 matches of their European and African tour, Atletica crashed to a heavy 1-4 defeat.

 

[Culled from the 1970 Year Book for Accra Hearts of Oak – by Stephen Borquaye].