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30.07.2005 Sports News

Thousands bid farewell to late Ofei Ansah


Accra, July 30, Thousands of mourners made up of football fans, players and administrators from across the football spectrum on Saturday thronged the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium on Saturday to bid a fitting burial for former Hearts of Oak caretaker coach, Ofei Ansah. The mourners from all walks of life, said they came to celebrate the life of a man who had lived and died for the game they all love best.

Mourners mostly clad in the red, yellow and blue colours of Hearts paid glowing tribute to the late Ofei Ansah who, until till his untimely death in the early hours of June 8 was the acting coach of their darling club. Notable among the mourners were Mr O B Amoah, Deputy Minister of Sports, Mr E T Mensah, former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Amarkai Amerteifio and representatives from all the premier league clubs and old players.

The burial ceremony was heralded by a gala competition by playmates of the late Ofei Ansah, namely Hesse Odametey, Mohammed Ahmed Polo, Awuley Quaye and Anas Seidu. Police detailed to ensure security at the funeral grounds had a tough time controlling the long queue of mourners who wanted to file past the body. The Police somewhere along the line had to stop some in the queue from filling past the body to prepare for the second part of the ceremony, which included a memorial sermon and tributes.

In a tribute, the Board and Management of Accra Hearts of Oak described the late Ofei Ansah as a man with a fearless and undoubting spirit, which should be a source of pride to all Phobians. They said Ofei Ansah deserved more than they can do to immortalize him and in the future suggested that upcoming managements should institute an award scheme to honour his memory. "Until then, we the Board and Management have decided to set up a trust fund for the purposes of educating his children".

The tribute urged all followers of Hearts to contribute to the seed money put in the fund to ensure that the burden of the Ofei Ansah's lost was lessen on the family. It said Ofei Ansah left Hearts with a belief, that, ''despite all the odds that one faces, once there is a belief and a common purpose there is a way.'' This he amply demonstrated when he took Hearts to the top of the league table for the first time in the 2005 season after beating Liberty Professionals by a lone goal just before passing away.

Hearts described the late Ofei Ansah as a versatile and amazing person who was a wonderful players and a good coach. It said Ofei did not end there as he was also a good tailor and a designer who even had a stint with hockey when he become the goalkeepers for Trustee of SSNIT after resigning from soccer. "We remember will also remember you in the mid 80's, for voluntary driving the Willowbroke bus of the team to training and sometimes to matches when the driver was indisposed and unavailable for some reasons".

Another tribute came from the Accra Hearts of Oak Old players Association (AHOOPA) who called Ofei Ansah's exit, as a great loss that would take a long time to be replaced. The AHOOPA tribute stated, "playing alongside the likes of Kofi Bruce, Abekah Ankrah, Carl Lokko, Ernest Bruce Adjei, Lante France, Alex Mingle, Ebenezer Adansi Kisco, Anars Seidu, L B Ibrahim and Hesse Odamtey, among others, you indeed distinguished yourself and duly earned your nickname 'Rock of Gibraltar'.". There were other tributes from Mr George Adjei Osekere, Former Executive Officer of Accra Hearts of Oak, the Winner Chapel where he worshiped and the family.

Ofei Ansah's short final journey from the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium to the Osu Cemetery which under normal circumstances would have taken just below five minutes took about 30 minutes as the funeral cortege made up family members, players, administrators and fans of Hearts slowly made their way through the sea of mourners who all jostled to catch a glance of the casket draped in Hearts colours. There were wreaths from the Management of Hearts, the Ghana Football Association, and the national Sports Council to mention a few. Coach Emmanuel Ofei Ansah collapsed and died later at the Ridge Hospital, Accra on June 8 after a short illness.

Ofei Ansah was born on June 6 1955 to Mr David Ansah and Madam Florence Quao both from Accra. His potential as a talented footballer was discovered early when he stared for the colts' teams like Salami Aces, Falcom Dwellers and Bukum Young Hearts. Having showed his great talent in his colts' days Ofei Ansah joined the junior team of Hearts, Auroras, then under the guidance of the late Lantei Lamptey. He was promoted to the senior team of Hearts in the 1972-73 season, and this prompted him to put aside his tailoring career for football. Ofei Ansah worked hard to fill the shoes of another Hearts legend Robert Hammond.

"Afro Joe" or "Baby Face" as known in his playing days was a dead ball specialist fetching many goals with his fierce free kicks. He rose through the ranks again at Hearts and broke into the senior national team, Black Stars where he faced a stiff competition from Charles Oppong, Awuley Quaye, PSK Paha and Haruna Yusif among others for the left and right hand back positions. But the hard work of Ofei Ansah won him a regular place on the Stars team and was part of the history making Stars team that won the African cup of Nations for keep in 1978.

The ex-Black Stars player later joined the technical bench of Hearts and took over the reigns of Hearts in a caretaker capacity from Archibald Lamptey after the first game of the 2005 season. Ofei Assah partnered former head coach Jones Attuquayefio to conquer Africa in the Champions League in 2000 and the Super Cup in the same year. He was survived by three wives and four children.