Did you know? Meet the Ghanaian who became CAF Vice President 54 years before Kwesi Nyantakyi

This same administrator served on FIFA's Executive Committee 55 years ago

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play Ohene Djan
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News of Kwesi Nyatankyi's ascension to the high profile post of CAF Vice President broke on Monday.

The decision was confirmed at a meeting between African football governing body's Executive Committee members as part of the ongoing FIFA Congress in Bahrain.

play Ghana Football Association President Kwesi Nyantakyi

 

As expected, Ghanaians expressed pride at the height attained by their Football Association President, who was also voted unto the FIFA Executive Council in March, with many going as far as to claim that he is the first citizen of the country to assume such posts.

But, unknown to many, another Ghanaian occupied both posts over five decades ago.

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play Ohene Djan (GAFA Chairman 1957-1960, Director of Sports 1960-1966)

 

Ohene Djan was his name.

Indeed, many contemporary sports fans would recognize the moniker: Years ago, the Accra Sports Stadium was officially named the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium.

And as anyone would imagine, to have one's named bestowed upon a national stadium is indicative of grave influence.

Djan's rise to sporting prominence culminated in September 1957, when he became chairman of Ghana's football association, then known as the Ghana Amateur Football Association (GAFA).

He had led a revolution that had toppled the administration of Richard Akwei, a respected politician who had ruled football in Ghana - then known as Gold Coast - officially since 1952 and unofficially for many years before then.

Djan was young and energetic, impressively only 33 years of age. A sporting novice, he had a background in politics and in business, serving as Deputy Secretary of Finance in Ghana's first indigenous cabinet and running a family cocoa business in his native Nsawam.

His achievements - including founding of the Black Stars, Ghana's famous national team, setting up the Ghana League and getting the country affiliated to both CAF and FIFA - set the stage for his own rise through the ranks of football politics.

In July 1960, Ghana's founder and first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, elevated Djan to the ministerial portfolio of 'Director of Sports' - the overall boss of sports administration in Ghana. He was to be in charge of the newly created Central Organization for Sports (COS), a sports ministry-like organization.

Although Djan left his GAFA chairmanship post due to this promotion, he continued to play a key role as General Secretary.

play Kwame Nkrumah

 

Hailed for his intelligence and forcefulness, Djan's reputation grew.

On the continent, he commanded respect. His lobbying got Ghana the hosting rights for the Africa Cup of Nations in 1963 (which the Black Stars won). Again, his counsel got his boss, Kwame Nkrumah, to suggest and donate a trophy for a tournament that is now known as the CAF Champions League.

Indeed, it was not surprising when at a CAF meeting in January 1963, Djan - alongside Ethiopia's Ydnekatchew Tessema, who would later become CAF President - emerged as Vice Presidents to serve under Egyptian Abdel Aziz Moustafa, CAF's second leader.

play Djan served as CAF Vice President alongside Ydnekatchew Tessema (pictured on the right). Tessema later became CAF President from 1972 to 1987.

 

A year before, at a CAF extraordinary assembly in Addis Ababa, Djan had been voted unto the powerful FIFA Executive Committee (now known as the FIFA Executive Council). Sir Stanley Rous, FIFA's president then, described Djan as a 'valued' player at the World football governing body.

Djan - heralded by journalists and and other witnesses of his era as one of Africa's most powerful sports administrators - got his wings clipped in 1966 when Kwame Nkrumah's government was overthrown in a military coup.

Due to the influential role he played in Nkrumah's government, Djan was banned from public activities by the National Redemption Council, the military junta that undertook the coup, thus resulting in a loss of his place on the FIFA Executive Committee and subsequently, at CAF too.

With the spotlight dimmed, Djan's power and activeness declined, and he spent the ensuing years away from mainstream football politics.

The iconic sports manager died in March 1987.

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