A few days ago, GTV Sports+ took fans down memory lane by showing the 2003 GHPL clash between Hearts and Kotoko, which ended in a 1-1 draw. I didn’t watch the game but noticed from posts on Facebook that Hearts fans had finally seen how important Eric NYARKO was to the team.
For once, I felt happy for him. A lot of players had gone under the radar during our run to the finals. In fact, their contribution to the Hearts success has largely gone into oblivion. And painfully for NYARKO, whom we lost due to accumulation of yellow cards, for the final return clash in Kumasi, his immense contribution seemed to have escaped a lot of fans.
NYARKO was involved in 9 games during our 14 matches in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup in 2004. He played in 3 of our 6 CAFCL qualifying games. And 6 of our 8 games in the CAFCC.
In total, he’s on the winning side five times, involved in three draws and tasting only one defeat. The most surprising statistics too was that he was never substituted, playing full throttle in the 9 games he participated in.
Impressive right? Hold on. In all the games he played as a NO.6 — or the defensive midfielder, shielding the defense — Hearts won five out of those games drawing only one which happened to be the final first league game against Kotoko in Accra.
But this was the most telling statistics of it all. NYARKO played in four different positions for Hearts during the continental odyssey in 2004. Against AS Aviacao of Angola in Accra, he played as a right back or No.2, helping Hearts to a 4-1 home victory. In the return encounter against the Angolan giants, he played as a No.3 or left back.
Against Sable de Bâtie in Cameroon, he’s given some sort of free-role as coach Cecil Jones packed the defense with five-out-and-out-defenders (Amankwa Mireku, Dan Coleman, Acquah Harrison, Kwabena Boafo, and Dan Quaye). Yet, the Phobians were unable to escape defeat.
When Nyarko was brought back to shield the defense in the next three games that followed, Hearts won it all beating Sable de Bâtie (5-1), Santos (0-1), and Coton Sports Garoua (3-2).
Here’s a salute to Eric NYARKO. Mr. Versatile, water-carrier extraordinaire, unsung hero, team player, tactical genius, under-appreciated player and almost hidden in oblivion.
But not anymore. We at @HeartsEleven celebrate you today.