Following a recent short that went viral in the U.K. from Betway about how Premier League football clubs are attracting overseas support – we’ve taken the opportunity to look at how Hearts of Oak went about creating a strong Japanese following.
Hearts of Oak became the first Ghanaian club to attract overseas fans in droves thanks to the appointment of trainer Kenichi Yatsuhashi three years ago when Japanese fans trooped to support their compatriot who was in charge of the Accra-based club.
Kenichi was appointed as head coach of the club prior to the start of the 2015/2016 Ghana Premier League season but the Japanese fans departed as soon as their countryman was sacked by the capital-based team.
Since then the 2000 African Champions are still searching for a formula to attract new overseas fans and a new documentary on West Ham United showing how the English Premier League side is getting from unlikely place like China is a model Hearts can adopt.
Kenichi rise to fame in Ghana was as a result of his famous training techniques, style of dressing and overall the performance of his team in the Premier League season.
Despite his short spell with the Phobians, the Japanese trainer became a house hold name as Hearts of Oak saw a resurgence in their performance as they begun to win games both home and away in the 2016 Ghana Premier League season.
Kenichi’s charisma as head coach of the team supported by Yaw Preko as assistant coach saw a lot of improvement at the club.
Due to the positive results been chalked at the time, Kenichi was able to pull a lot of Hearts fans including catching the eye of his fellow countrymen to the venues they played at in the Ghana Premier League.
The performances of the team, his coaching antics and charisma which was hailed by the fans and publicized caught the attention of the Japanese Community in Ghana as the vociferous Hearts fans made it possible
In a Ghana Premier League game played in the 2015/ 2016 season between Hearts of Oak and New Edubiase which the Phobians won by a goal, about 100 fans from Japanese community in Ghana were at the VIP section of the Accra Sports Stadium to watch that game.
It was the largest contingent of foreign fans at the stadium to witness a Ghana Premier League game. The Japanese Community received a lot of good treatment from the Hearts fans on that day,
After the game, Kenichi was happy to have had the support from his own countrymen which he told the media.
The Japanese Community in Ghana were always at the Accra Sports Stadium anytime Hearts of Oak played at home that season.
Mostly after the games, the Hearts of Oak fans chanted and sang praises to their head coach at that time who had become a new hero for them.
Kenichi also received the best of treatment from the fans here in Ghana during his time with the club. He also received a lot of admiration on an off the pitch.
After his departure, Kenichi thanked the Phobians for the love and support shown him during his tenure as head coach.
“The Support I have received from Hearts fans is irreplaceable as I said in June 2016, it is still the same and it will be forever the same. I would not have survived that long without them. I really appreciate a large support of people who recognized works”
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