They won a treble, they went through the season unbeaten in the domestic league, the brand and quality of their football was breathtaking. So good were they managed in one season to get the better of El-Ahly, Esperance and Zamalek .
There is no doubt 17th December 2000 remains the most significant day in Hearts of Oak’s history besides their November 11th founding date. Next year they would have been in existence for a century.
And sadly despite the highs of ten years ago, memories of December 17th 2000 is all they will be clinching on to.
The venue was the Accra Sports Stadium with all the big wigs of African football in attendance. Hearts had been the standout team from that year’s champions league. They had two mighty scares in the qualifying stages though. First they survived by the skin of their teeth in the first round against Horoya of Guinea coming through 4-03 winners on aggregate. They got through the second round by the same margin against DC Motema Pembe who battled hard to turn over a 4-1 thrashing from the first leg to no avail.
So its fair to say Hearts did not go into the group stage as the all conquering side but once there they proved a match for anyone.
The group opponents were Senegal’s Jeanne d’Arc, Nigeria’s Lobi Stars and the grandmasters of African club football El-Ahly. They took 14 points out of a possible 18 winning four out of those six games and drawing two.
In the final they were simply too good for Esperance, winning away from home 2-1 before beating the Tunisians 3-1 at the Accra Stadium.
That return leg in Accra was marred by the shameful antics of Esperance goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer who faked an injury in an attempt to get the game abandoned.
He did not succeed and for once Hearts fans were able to sing their famous Continental Club Masters chorus with proper meaning.
They had hoped while singing that it will be the moment their club finally became a major player on the continent. Ten years down the line it still remains a dream.
Some of the players who stood out in their amazing year speak of their regret at playing for Hearts and how becoming African champions did little to help their lives. Ishmael Addo banged in the goals for fun and then faded off afterwards, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffuor was top scorer but spent much of the time afterwards wrangling with the club about one move or another. The goalkeeper from that year Sammy Adjei is still in business for them though even though he has fallen off the high perch of those years as the undisputable best goalkeeper in Ghana.
The story of the individual players mirrors that of the club. Stewed in debt now, Hearts can no longer box clever against the continent’s big hitters. True, they added the 2004 Confederation Cup after beating Asante Kotoko over two legs but that has been just about it.
In the ten years since, they have made the group stage once in 2006 but hit rock bottom when pulling out of the same competition a year ago because they reckoned they did not have the team to take them into the knock-out stages and make the money that would have made it worthwhile.
It is not what the fans and close followers of Ghana football envisaged when Hearts guided by the brilliant Jones Attuquyefio held us all spell bound in 2000.
But like Ghanaian club football it has failed sadly to build on the highs of those years. And there is no guarantee yet that it will be rising anytime soon.