How Dr. Kwame Nkrumah quest to fight discrimination denied Ghana a place in the 1966 World Cup

Ghana has been a powerhouse on the African continent since the early 1960s, but they had to wait until 2005 to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup in Germany 2006.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah exchaning pleasantries with the Black Stars of 1963

The Black Stars were the first team from the Sub Saharan Africa to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1963 and the first African country to win the continent’s showpiece three times and they won all their four AFCON titles before five times champions Cameroon clinched their first title in 1984.

Despite all their heroics on the African continent, a qualification to the FIFA World Cup was always a daunting task for the West Africans until they manage to break the jinx in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Osei Kofi a member of the golden generation of the Black Stars that dominated African football in the 1960s reckons that Ghana’s failure to book their ticket to the FIFA World Cup could be attributed to the fact that Africa as a continent had no slot in the competition- they shared one slot with two other continents.


Osei Kofi who is one of the greatest Ghanaian players of all-time has said that Ghana would have qualified for the 1966 FIFA World Cup hadn’t been a directive from Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to FIFA that Africa was not representing in England 1966 because of the injustice in the allocation of slots.

“It was a directive from Osagyefo (Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana) and Ohene Gyan. That was the reason why in 1966 Africa boycotted the World Cup,” he told in an exclusive interview.

“FIFA instructed that Africa, Asia, Oceania- only one team should represent the three continents.

“And Ohene Djan and Osagyefo thought it was a waste of time and money. That was why we concentrated on the African Cup of Nations and the Olympic games. In those days a team that will win the Africa Cup will represent the World Cup. That was why in 1974, Zaire won it and represented Africa.


“We won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1965 and we could have gone to the World Cup in 1966 in Britain.

“But Ohene Djan represented Africa by writing a letter to FIFA that Africa was boycotting the World Cup because three continents would have just a slot. So Africa withdrew and FIFA replied that they had accepted.

“In 2017, BBC brought all the documents here and the Ohene Gyan communication to FIFA that stated Ghana was to represent in Britain, but Osagyefo and Ohene Djan had already informed FIFA that Africa will not be represented. This is on record when you go to the BBC they will give it to you”.

It should be noted that contrary to Rev Osei Kofi’s recount of how the 1966 qualification format was done, a place in the FIFA World Cup on the African continent has always been based on elimination format including the 1974 FIFA World Cup.


And also if Africa had even agreed to compete in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, Ghana wouldn’t have got an automatic qualification to the Mundial, because they would have competed with countries from Oceania and Asia for a place in the competition.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s entrenched position which inspired Africa to boycott the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England, however, paid off in 1970 as the African continent for the very first time had a sole slot to get a representative for the FIFA World Cup held in Mexico and the slot for Africa has since increased to five.

Ghana won the AFCON in 1963 on home soil and 1965 in Tunisia, emerging as the first African country to beat the hosts in the final of the AFCON.

Ghana reached their third consecutive final in 1968 in Ethiopia but failed to win the competition three times running.

So, one wouldn’t be far from right to say, but for the boycott, Ghana would have qualified for the 1966 FIFA World Cup staged in England.


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: