Football great, Mohammed Polo and Mahama Acquah are among thirteen former Hearts of Oak players who did not go by their real names during their playing days.
These players are mostly part of three generations of the club’s history - “The Fearsome 5”, “The Musical Youth” and “The 64 Battalion”.
Polo, a key member of the Fearsome 5 squad, revealed that he was nicknamed ‘Polo’ because as a kid he loved frequenting the Accra Polo Grounds to play football with other friends.
Mahama Acquah, on the other hand, began going by the name ‘Acquah’ after he was compared to Asante Kotoko legend, Oliver Acquah. Hearts fans believed their playmaker resembled Oliver Acquah because of his playing style and technical abilities.
There are two narratives of how Daniel Ziem Kpeyine became known as Dan Quaye.
One account suggests that when he joined Great Olympics in 1997, many of the players struggled to pronounce his surname. His colleagues affectionately called him ‘Dan Quaye’ simply because it was easier on their tongues. The name has stuck ever since.
But the other legend suggests a different story about the “64 Battalion” stalwart.
According to the other account, a man called Mr Quaye took Dan as a foster son and took care of him when he was young. He grew up with strong attachment to Mr Quaye to the extent that he adopted him as a father and consequently adopted his surname.
It took several years for football fans to discover that that the real names of Charles Taylor and Awuley Quaye Junior are Bismark Kweku Asampong and Evans Lartey Quaye respectively.
For the others, it could even be a nickname they grew up with that sticks with teammates and supporters alike.
Two Musical Youth prodigies, Sowah Ghartey and Ofoli Mayele are former players known instead by their nicknames.
And not many people are aware that their actual names are Samuel Sowah Aryeh (Sowah Ghartey) and Francis Ofoli Mensah.
For Laud Oscar and Ashitey Armah, they have former Welfare Officer of the National Teams, Alhaji Meikano, to blame or to praise.
According to the Musical Youth pair, the late Meikano, perhaps inadvertently, altered their details during the processing of their documents.
Full list below:
1. Mohammed Polo
Real Name: Mohammed Ahmed Fayorse
Mohammed Ahmed Fayorse is the real name of perhaps the most influential footballer of all-time.
The 1974 SWAG Player of the year has said, his childhood coach came up with his nickname, ‘Polo’ because of his regular visit to the Accra Polo Grounds.
Polo will be remembered as one of Hearts of Oak’s all-time greats. His contributions as player and coach were instrumental in the club’s success, and he has inspired and entertained millions of fans all over the country and beyond.
2. Eben Dida
Real Name: Eben Ashitey Armah
He took his name from the legendary Brazilian goalkeeper, Nelson de Jesus Silva, better known simply as Dida.
In his prime, the Tema Newtown born was rated among the best goalkeepers in the Ghana Premier League.
At Hearts of Oak, Eben Dida was a giant character on the field, he commanded his back line brilliantly even if it often led to disagreements.
Dida is one of the most decorated goalkeepers in Ghana football history, playing through the unprecedented success of Hearts of Oak.
He boasts of Seven GPL titles, two FA Cups, a Gala trophy, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup and the CAF Super Cup.
3. Awuley Quaye Jr
Real Name: Evans Lartey Quaye
He’s the son of former Black Stars captain, Awuley Quaye - under whose leadership Ghana won the 1978 AFCON trophy and for keeps.
The former Hearts midfielder told his father he wanted to change his name and was considering taking on the father’s name.
“My actual name is Evans Lartey Quaye” the former youth international has revealed.
4. Laud Oscar
Real Name: Laud Kpakpo Allotey
The 1993/94 Ghana Premier League top scorer says he grew up idolizing former Brazil World Cup star, Jose Oscar Bernardi and like his mentor he prefers to be called Oscar.
He dropped what was supposed to be his family names and started going by Laud Oscar.
Oscar made a name for himself with spells across clubs like Hearts, Diamond Stars, Dawu Youngsters and Zamalek winning the Egyptian League in 1994 with the latter, as well as the FA Cup a year later.
Oscar enjoyed further stints with three different clubs in Germany after departing Zamalek.
He almost ruined his reputation at Dawu Youngsters due to his involvement in the club’s disqualification from the WAFU championship in 1992, but Oscar will be remembered fondly by club founder, Seth Yeboah and their teeming fans.
5. Sowah Ghartey
Real Name: Samuel Sowah Aryeh
Throughout his football career, the attack-minded midfielder was always referred to as “Ghartey”, in reference to Hearts legend, Joe Ghartey.
He’s known for his brilliant ball retention skills and his ability to pick out the right pass under pressure.
Ghartey combined beautifully with lethal Shamo Quaye and Fuseinu Sulemana in the Hearts attack.
A combination of injuries and concerns over his consistency saw him fall out of favour after three seasons with the 2000 Africa Champions.
6. Dan Quaye
Real Name: Daniel Ziem Kpeyine
It probably goes without saying that Dan Quaye’s surname is not “Quaye”. The defender was born Daniel Ziem Kpeyine.
Hearts of Oak signed Dan Quaye from Great Olympics in 1999 and the player’s 10-year stay with the Phobians was something remarkable.
Dan Quaye achieved a great deal as a player, winning six GPL titles, two FA Cups, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup and the CAF Super Cup.
7. Ibrahim Ansong
Real Name: Samuel Cudjoe Ansong
Ansong began life as a Christian but converted to Islam, adopted the name ‘Ibrahim’ and practiced the religion for several years before reverting back to Christianity.
He emerged as a prodigiously talented player and was joined by the likes of Joe Amoateng, Philip Opoku Sampene, Sam Yeboah, Mohammed Odoom, Joe Odoi, Albert Ansuade, Thomas Hammond, Saarah Mensah to mention but a few to form the nucleus of the first-ever junior national side, the Black Meteors team in 1983.
Defenders found it difficult to deal with Ansong’s pace and swiftness.
A superb winger blessed with sublime ball skills, Ansong was tipped to succeed Douglas Tagoe at Hearts but a continued muscle injuries he suffered during international assignment curtail his potential.
8. Charles Taylor
Real Name: Bismark Kweku Asampong
It's now common knowledge that Charles Taylor’s real name is Bismark Kweku Asampong.
The former Ghana and Hearts of Oak forward who appeared a cult hero at every club he lined up for, admits, he played under the pseudonym of ‘Charles Taylor’.
“My real name is Bismark Kweku Asampong. ‘Charles’ and ‘Taylor’ are not my names. I came to take these names in Accra but they are not my names” he said.
9. Ashitey Armah
Real Name: Daniel Ashitey Trebi
He is almost never referred to by his real name, which is Daniel Ashitey Trebi.
He started going by the name, Ahmed Ashitey after his conversion to Islam in 1982. He joined Hearts nursery side, Rolands the same year with same name.
In 1987, he gained a National Under-20 call-up where his name was inadvertently changed to Ashitey Armah.
His technical ability and football intelligence allowed him to build a sound reputation in the Hearts Musical Youth team.
The aging defenseman is still playing at the height of his game for the La Old Stars in the Greater Accra Oldies League, even as he enters his late 50s.
10. Ofoli Mayele
Real Name: Francis Ofoli Mensah
The Musical Youth forward was usually calm, cool and collected and commonly labelled as a brilliant football mind.
Francis was named after former D.R. Congo play-maker, Jason Nono Mayele because of his devastating force on the field.
11. Mahama Acquah
Real Name: Mahatma Musa
He got his nickname, ‘Acquah’ because of his resemblance and playing style of Kotoko’s Oliver Acquah.
An iconic figure in Hearts history, Mahama Acquah represented the club with pride and loyalty.
The calm and intelligent attacking midfielder led Hearts as captain for 8 years, through the glorious days of the Fearsome 5.
12. Mark Hyde
Real Name: Samuel Ayitey Hyde
Nobody knows the reason behind the change of Mark Hyde’s first name.
The former Hearts goalie now goes by the name Samuel Hyde.
Efforts to get him explain has been unsuccessful.
An agile goalkeeper during the Musical Youth era, Hyde was known for being vocal towards his defence-men after allowing chances.
13. Kotey Kalala
Real Name: Kotey Hammond
Before he became a Hearts of Oak player, the burly striker was known as ‘Kalala’ - inspired by striking instincts of the former Congo and TP Englebert’s talisman, Mukendi Kalala.
Kotey Kalala attracted praise and attention after scoring the Hearts’ winner against Kumasi Cornerstone in the 1972 season.