This season, it took Gilbert Fiamenyo just one game to equal his own goal tally from last season. Scratch that: make that 56 minutes. Four minutes shy of the hour mark during Hearts of Oak’s home away from home clash with Premier League new boys WAFA in Kpando, the stocky marksman found the net – a goal that proved the decider in what has turned out to be Heart’s only win in the three-game old campaign.
One goal. Baako p3 – just one. That was all the 24 year old managed to score in 10 league games last season. To say it was nightmarish for him would be a gross understatement. He had joined the Phobians as a hot goal scoring sensation from Heart of Lions before the 2012/13 season, but battling a recurring knee injury had meant he spent more time everywhere else – from the touchlines, to the doctor’s through to home – than on the pitch. Spending time off the pitch came with its own additional problems. He wanted to return and prove his worth, but his body was failing him. The frustration was piling up, and, given the inactivity, so were the calories.
His weight fluctuated embarrassingly, reaching an all-time high at times where he took to the pitch and could barely manage a 1 meter sprint without panting uncontrollably. He was called names too; his competence rubbished, fat-jokes hurled at, killing his spirit as he struggled to stage a come-back against that heavy tide. “Why will people say I’m not performing because I’m overweight? I don’t agree with them at all. In football, you might sometimes dip and that is acceptable,” he would say months later, looking back on a painful episode. “It’s about time people start to accept and encourage we the players. Give us motivation when we go down but not to insult and make such comments.”
As early as December 2012, four months after he had been signed, strong rumours emerged that Hearts had given up on him; that they had transfer-listed him, amid growing complaints from fans that he had been a worthless purchase. But Hearts kept faith, defending their man. “It’s not true we have put Fiamenyo on the transfer-list. It has not even crossed our minds,” Hearts spokesman Muheeb Saed said. Fiamenyo would repay the faith. Later on in the season, he would show glimpses of his old form, going on a three game scoring spree that saw him score six goals. But that was it; a flash in the pan. He lost the self-belief again, checking back into the depressing zone of self-pity and its accompanying mediocrity.
But after enduring another difficult season – last season – Fiamenyo is back. Or so it seems. Before the season kicked off on January 18, with Hearts scheduled to play the first game of the season, Fiamenyo poured his heart out. “I know the fans expect a lot from me but they should have patience,” he said. “I am determined to make my mark and bang in the goals for the side. It is my primary duty to score for the team. I will not relent in my effort to ensure I succeed at the club and make the fans happy.”
The determination oozed from his words and by the time Hearts took to the pitch, it was oozing from his legs too. Balling like a player reborn, Fiamenyo – playing at the Kpando stadium, a familiar turf where he scored at will during his time at Lions – put in a solid performance, capping it with the season’s first goal.
Match Day two saw Hearts face Berekum Chelsea away. If anyone was thinking his great start would follow the familiar nine-day wonder script, they would have revised their expectations upon learning that the opponents were going to be Chelsea. Fiamenyo himself must have smiled, comforted by the warm feeling that the gods were definitely on his side this year. Why? Even through Fiamenyo’s well-documented predicaments at Hearts, he has always managed to score against Chelsea. He had scored three goals in his last two games against the Blues from Berekum, and that amazing run was going to continue. Fiamenyo went on to bag a clinical brace despite Hearts giving in to a second half capitulation and eventually losing 2-4 to Chelsea. Five goals in three games against one opponent, three goals in two games this season alone. He was operating on a different plane, gliding smoothly on cloud nine.
Predictably, there must have been niggling fears that this would end soon, given his history. The doubts must have lurked, both from within and from without, the pressure mounting. But few things can stop a man in his elements. If he was doubting the glaring signs that this was going to be his season, he was surely going to change his mind as Match Day three saw him bag yet another brace in Hearts’ 2-2 away draw against Medeama in Sekondi on Sunday.
“Man-of-the-moment Gilbert Fiamenyo proved he is back to his best,” wrote Hearts’official website. Indeed, the man from Kpando is back to his very best. And it has been timely too. The young man, the stone that the builders rejected many times over the last two seasons, is now the cornerstone, carrying Hearts on his shoulders with his red-hot form. Hearts have scored five goals this season, and every single one of them has been scored by Fiamenyo. And they haven't been easy goals too. Every goal has evinced class, born out of exceptional technique and clever thinking, elucidating his predatory instincts. His second goal against Medeama was praised by Hearts journalist Sadat Larry as "the greatest of the growing array of glittering strikes from the in-form target man – a sensational that brought the whole stadium on its feet".
Insiders say the surge in his form owes much to Herbert Addo's belief in him. The new Hearts coach has worked extensively on the striker - both physically and mentally - and has placed a sort of trust and confidence in him that has got him flying and firing.
Just three matches into the new season and it is already safe to say that no matter what happens next, this will be his best season yet. This is how good his current tally is: last season, at the end of the first round (15 matches), the top scorer at that point was Kotoko's Seidu Bancey. He had scored six goals. Fiamenyo is just one short of that tally after just three games.
Hearts' current talisman is back where he belongs; he is reliving the familiar routine of sticking the ball at the back of the net with effortless ease, and he is enjoying it. And it is hard to see this form derailed at some point; there is a visible hunger, a determination to make this season his own. “I think I’m back again,” he told Sadat Larry. “I'm trying to do better than this and I hope to improve more.”
Many Hearts fans tried desperately to believe that Fiamenyo had been the beneficiary of the hype-without-substance culture so familiar with Ghana’s top flight – a phenomenon aided by the fact that about 90% of games don’t make it to television amid the arrangement of eight matches being played simultaneously almost every match day, and so there isn’t enough seen of players collectively to make informed assessments. Thus there were countless times where his talent was questioned. But what many failed to realize – and what Fiamenyo is proving now - is that the art of goal scoring had always been embedded deep within his genes. It had just been dormant, yearning to be awakened, but the discouraging words from fans had been stifling it.
Not anymore. The confidence has been retraced. The brilliance has resurfaced. The boy has found his feet. A beast has been unleashed.
---AshantiGold are still winning. The Aboakese lads are still the only club with a 100% record after three match days. Bashir Hayford and his team have disconnected themselves from the early season chaos and they are steadily setting themselves apart. Other teams – read, Kotoko and Hearts – will hope it won’t be too late when they settle into their stride.
---So, after a winless first two games, defending champions Asante Kotoko have finally picked up their first win of the season. This is must have come as such a huge relief; Kotoko’s struggles in the first too games caused a huge panic that culminated in a board meeting. Imagine. Will they be able to use this result to turn things around? It remains to be seen. And oh, the highly-rated Ahmed Toure got off the mark too, scoring the second in a comfortable 2-0 win at B.A United. Are we going to see a Toure-Fiamenyo race for goal king? If so, that would be some explosive race, wouldn't it?
---WAFA didn’t do an Inter Allies after all. After two consecutive losses, the Sogakope-based boys won their first game. And they did it impressively too, coming back from a goal down to beat Olympics 2-1 at home. “They are good side, very technical and tactical. They are also young and fast and a lot of teams are going to have problems with them,” Hearts coach Herbert Addo said of them after their clash on Match Day one. If they are able to build on this and pick up some momentum, they will most certainly, like Addo said, be a thorn in the flesh of the big boys.
---There are four teams apart from AshantiGold who are yet to be beaten this season. They are Hasaacas, Wa All Stars and Aduana Stars, and they are second, third and fourth respectively. These teams finished 7th, 8th and 11th last season, and are obviously determined to make an impact this time round. Hasaacas, especially, at this point last season had just two points, in what was a terrible start that saw them go six games without a win. The ‘Doooo’ boys, under energetic coach Yusif Basigi have learnt from their mistakes and are doing the right things. Will they be a long term threat?
Sekondi: Hearts of Oak 2-2 Medeama SC [Gilbert Fiamenyo 2x : Benjamin Bature, Hans Kwofie]
Dormaa: Aduana Stars 1-0 Heart of Lions [Richard Arhin]
Sunyani: B.A United 0-2 Asante Kotoko [Jordan Opoku, Ahmed Toure]
Wa: Wa All Stars 2-0 Bechem United [Stephen Nyarko, Joseph Adjei]
Obuasi: Ashanti Gold 1-0 Berekum Chelsea [Bernard Morrison]
Sogokpe: WAFA 2-1 Great Olympics [Kissi Boateng, Samuel Tetteh : David Appiah]
Sekondi: Hasaacas 1-0 New Edubiase United [Roger Lamptey]
Tema: Inter Allies 0-0 Liberty Professionals
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