It is my principle not to eulogise personalities on their death but as commanded by Dr. K.B. Asante who recently passed on, that on the death of personalities good people have to write tributes for present and future generations. It is in this vein that I have been compelled to write a short tribute for Alhaji Suleman Braimah, aka Alhaji Hearts.
Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hades, where is your victory? As King David cursed Mountain Gilboa on the death of his covenant friend, Jonathan, so also do I have to curse January 31, 2018 on the death of Messrs Suleman Braimah, aka Alhaji Hearts.
It was on that fateful day that I have hope that my darling club, Chelsea, would take advantage of Manchester United defeat to Tottenham Hotspur so that Chelsea would take the second spot of the most popular league in the world, the English Premiership, to gladden the heart of all Chelsea supporters in the world because the blues have made some signings in the January transfer and they are on course to place among the top four in the English Premiership. But that was not to be as we were walloped 3-0 by Bournemouth.
I had a long night’s sleep only for the death of one of the formidable pillars of Hearts of Oak, Alhaji Hearts, to add salt to injury.
As a young lad of Hearts of Oak, I heard much about Alhaji Hearts, first as an ordinary supporter, and later as a masseur of the oldest existing club of Ghana. I could remember that as a young member of Chapter 19, whenever Hearts visited Nsawam, Alhaji Hearts would allow me to shake hands with some of the popular players of the club after introducing me to the Auroras players.
The versatility of Alhaji Hearts knew no bounds as he advised the then Multi-System Coach, Sam Arday, that the best form of defence was to attack, so Hearts of Oak should play all-out in games against a Tunisian club in Tunis after Hearts had beaten the Tunisians 2-0 in the first leg at the Accra Sports Stadium. That was not to be as the suggestion was turned down and Hearts went on the defensive and Etoile du Sahel turned the 2-0 deficit in the return leg and eventually booted Hearts out on penalties.
Pundits and connoisseurs of the game would remember that Alhaji Hearts turned himself into a commentator in the local language and commented sadly about the penalty miss by my school mate, Ebenezer Dugbartey. Perhaps, if Hearts had trained on penalty kicks before the ill-fated match, the result would have been different.
No wonder when Alhaji Hearts became a director of the club (the only Hearts of Oak supporter who has moved on from masseur to become a director) luck smiled on the Continental Club Masters and we defeated a Tunisian side, Esperance, on their home grounds on our way to winning the CAF Champions League in 2000.
My relationship with Alhaji Hearts deepened when I entered the University of Ghana where I became an active member of the Legon Chapter. I remember that during Hall Week celebrations I would send residents of the premier hall to Alhaji Hearts’ River Park Forex Bureau and Travel and Tours to donate air tickets to boost the celebrations.
I could remember when there was a rumpus in Hearts of Oak, I led a delegation from the Legon Chapter to Alhaji Hearts to pay a working visit to the Hearts of Oak team at their camping base at Aburi. The late Alhaji Hearts listened to me and, he and some welfare committee members, including Thomas Okine (now Nii Ayi Bonte II) paid a courtesy call on the players at Aburi. That morale-boosting visit helped the club to beat Sotra Club of Cote d’Ivoire, despite the ‘pull him down’ attitude of some Hearts supporters.
Fans of the club would also recall the noble role the late Alhaji Hearts played during the Gallant 14 era for the government to appoint the late Akai Nettey to become the sole administrator of the club.
When I received a call from Hearts of Oak Directors to come and man the club’s secretariat and to be trained as the future Managing Director of the club, the first person I contacted for advice was Alhaji Hearts, who advisedly chipped in that my patience with the rank and file of Hearts members would face the severest test.
My tenure as the Administrative Manager of Hearts indeed saw me facing the most severe test at the helm of affairs. This is because our attempt to get the premier club beer (Club Beer) to sponsor the premier club of Ghana was hijacked by ‘Mr Thick Skin’. That unfortunate incident, coupled with the high salary of expatriate coach, Petr Gavrilla, worsened the financial plight of the club.
However, due to the tenacity and tact of the late Alhaji Hearts, we used complimentary cards to get soft loans and overdraft from Mr Awotwe of Standard Bank to pay bonuses and salaries of our players in time. That was the time the banking supervision division of Bank of Ghana had relaxed their rules concerning commercial banks and the late Alhaji Hearts did that with excellence.
The late Alhaji Hearts was a person with impeccable human relations, pleasant disposition, charisma and networking. And he often flexed his romantic muscles. That, at times, brought him into conflict with some fanatics of the club. But as a person with a complex personality and a mixture of the various temperaments, he often used his brawl and stern character to pave way for himself and the club.
But as a true Muslim, he always apologised and came to terms with the realities of life. I hope all those he offended and his enemies would forgive him as an enigma, an intelligent man who fellshort of formal education and lived in an imperfect environment.
The late Alhaji Hearts used his skills and the various travelling experiences of the old players of Hearts to send them abroad not only to better their lot but also to give true meaning to the fact that remittances from Ghanaian citizens abroad far outweighed foreign direct overseas assistance.
The last time I met Alhaji Hearts was at the floatation of the Hearts shares at the Alisa Hotel which the only approved mouthpiece of the club, Hearts News, captioned the headline ‘big countdown 11 days to Hearts’ shares closure’. The late pillar of the club intimated that Hearts of Oak is the only club that could give a masseur an opportunity to become a director of the club. It is an irony that he did not buy some of the shares.
Our hope is that his death would bring peace to the club as Hearts of Oak tap into the experience of being World Soccer Magazine CNN’s 8th best club of the week by floating more shares with foreign involvement so that we can even recruit foreign players like what his predecessors did by bringing the late Getenezer of Austria to feature for Hearts of Oak.
Fare thee well my brother!!!
Tribute by Augustus Ohene Kwabi
(Former Management Committee member and Deputy General Secretary of Hearts of Oak)