Sunday, December 1, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s first ever Africa Nations Cup (AFCON) triumph. On Sunday, December 1, 1963, Ghana became the lords of African football. Incidentally, December 1, 1963 was a Sunday and yesterday, December 1, 2013, exactly 50 years fell on Sunday.
The role of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, with his ambition to ensure Africa Unity, believed that football could be used as a tool to achieve that. As a result, he appointed Ohene Djan, the then Chairman of the Ghana Amateur Football Association (GAFA), as the Director of Sports, a new ministerial portfolio on July 1, 1960.
Ohene Gyan (Director of Sports during the 1963 Nations Cup)Due to his love for football he enabled Ohene Djan to form Real Republicans, also known as Osagyefo’s Own Club (OOC), in the early 1960’s.
As a model club, two players were selected from each team and this enabled them to be an instant hit in Ghana football. Subsequently, they won one league title and four consecutive FA Cups, which is still a Ghanaian club record in the FA Cup.
This team formed the core of the Black Stars that won the Nations Cup in 1963.
Camping and other preparatory tournaments
The Black Stars group at the time was fully a local-based team, so there was a long period of camping to prepare for the tournament and this ensured team work and stability.
The Stars, prior to this tournament, were champions in their own right, winning three West African Championships.
In 1962, the Stars played against Real Madrid (who had won the Champions League for five times) with the likes of Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano at the Accra Sports Stadium and the game ended 3-3. This boosted their confidence.
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The road to the final
The Nations Cup tournament started on Saturday, November 24 and ended on Sunday, December 1.
The Nation’s Cup was strengthened in 1963 with the joining by new independent African countries. Politics was high on the global agenda and with the formation of the OAU in 1963, the pan African sentiments of leaders such as Nkrumah were at the centre stage. Ghana for the very first time, participated in the Nation’s Cup and at the same time hosted the tournament.
Ghana was in Group A, against the likes of the defending champions, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. Ghana drew the opening game against Tunisia and Welberforce Kwadwo Mfum became the first Ghanaian player to score a goal in the Nations Cup in the ninth minute, before Djedidi equalised for Tunisia.
Ghana beat the defending champions, Ethiopia 2-0 and the two- goal hero was Edward Acquah, to top the group.
Group A (Accra)
P W D L F A Pts
1. GHANA 2 1 1 0 3- 1 3p
2. Ethiopia 2 1 0 1 4- 4 2p
3. Tunisia 2 0 1 1 3- 5 1p
*Ghana booked a date with Sudan in the final. Sudan topped the other group made up of Egypt and Nigeria.
Venue: The Accra Sports Stadium
Date: December 1, 1963
Score: Ghana: 3-0 Sudan
Scorers: Aggrey-Finn (pen) 62, Edward Acquah 72, 82]
Three-time champions of West Africa, Ghana, ascended the continental throne, after the victory over Sudan.
There was much combination among the “Soccer Trojans” — Edward Acquah, Leonard Acquah and Mfum — at the early stages of the first half.
Ofei Dodoo replaced Leonard Acquah and he brought some life into the game in the second half. Mfum and Acquah exerted pressure on their opponents and in a despearate attempt to clear the ball, a defence player of Sudan handled the ball in the box. Skipper Aggrey Fyn beat goalkeeper Sabit Dodoo from the spot in the 62nd minute.
There was some humour on who was to take the penalty. When Aggrey Fyn picked the ball, Edward Acquah told him Nanabenyin, as he was affectionately called, “Aren’t you afraid of taking Ghana’s penalty? For me I’m gone”, he said in Fante and this shows the fear of Ghanaians taking penalty kicks since the early days of Ghana football. This second half goal opened the door for Mfum to bang in two more goals to complete the wallop.
Celebration after the victory over Sudan
The celebration was a never-to-be- forgotten one, according to eye witnesses and participants such as Osei Kofi, Kofi Pare, Leonard Acquah and Ben Acheampong. “The people of Ghana celebrated as if Ghana had attained independence”.
Osei Kofi, another eye witness, said people went to the drinking spots and started merrying to mark the victory while others took to the street.
The significance of the victory to President Nkrumah
It was a triumph for both the team and their national leader, Nkrumah. Football, he believed, could be a model for African pride and unity and with a successful Black Stars team he had a supreme vehicle.
The Black Stars team that achieved the historic African Nations Cup triumph (18-man squad)
Players alive (11)
Dodoo Ankrah (Real Republicans), Evans Oblitey (Real Republicans), Ben Acheampong formerly Ben Simmons (Real Republicans), Franklin Crentsil (Real Republicans), Kwame Adarkwa (Kotoko), Kofi Pare (Real Republicans), Wilberforce Mfum (Kotoko), Agyemang Gyau (Real Republicans), Leonard Acquah (Defence Stars), E.E De Graft (Cornerstone), Osei Kofi (Kotoko).
Players dead (7)
Addo Odametey (Real Republicans), Edward Acquah (Real Republicans), Mohammed Salisu (Kotoko), Aggrey Fyn - Captain (Real Republicans), Ofei Dodoo (Hearts of Oak), Joe Aikens (Cornerstone), Atta Kwame (B.A United),
Coach: C.K. Gyamfi
Assistant coach: Ben Kouffie Team Manager: Kwabena Haggan (Late)
Director of Sports: Ohene Djan (late)
Clubs contribution to the 1963 team
Real Republicans: The 1963 Nations Cup winning coach)
Hearts of Oak, Defence Stars, B.A United: 1
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Ghana as a nation, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, needs to recognise these heroes by establishing a pension scheme for them, because playing for the nation in those days was just a pride and not for any other commercial gains as it is in recent times.
Some of the old players are now living in abject poverty and are bitter. Promises made to most of these heroes were not honoured due to reasons, including a coup detat.
For instance, the 1965 AFCON winning team, according to people such as Osei Kofi, who was part of the team, were each promised an estate house, but it never happened because Dr Nkrumah was overthrown in February, 1966 and also from news report, I.K Acheampong promised the 1978 triumphant team an estate house each and once again due to a coup detat it never came to pass.
Most of the heroes of the four African Nations Cup successes believe that until the nation satisfies promises made to them, Ghana will never win a Nations Cup trophy again.
As a nation, we need to pay particular attention to this because as it is said a nation which doesn’t honour its heroes is not worth dying for.
Ghana needs to name most of our sports facilities after some of these heroes. In this direction, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has really done well since the era of the Kufour-led government to the present John Mahama-led administration and it needs to be sustained.
The Accra Sports Stadium, named after Ohene Djan, the first Director of Sports who led Ghana to two Nations Cup triumphs and the Kumasi Sports Stadium, named after Baba Yara, who got paralysed in an accident with the Real Republicans team in 1963, thereby denying him the chance to feature for Ghana in the 1963 Nations Cup, is a laudable idea.
The Cape Coast Stadium, is also named after Robert Mensah, the goalkeeper of the Black Stars side that lost in the 1968 and 1970 African Cup of Nations finals.
It is my wish that one of the stadia is named after Charles Kumi Gyamfi, the coach of the 1963 Nations Cup winning team and joint most successful coach in Nations Cup history.
He won the Nations Cup in 1963, 1965 and 1982, before returning to Ghana as the technical director during the 1992 Nations Cup. C.K Gyamfi, who once captained the Stars, per his achievements, is arguably the greatest sports hero in Ghana.