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06.03.2007 League Report

Black Stars - Doyen Of National Teams

Black Stars - Doyen Of National Teams

The senior national team, the Black Stars, is arguably among the strongest forces in African football with a long history that transcends the colonial era.

Its origin is rooted in a very hazy background and anecdotes.

It is said that the first form of organisation of national football was in 1935 when an Accra representative side played a Lagos side at the Jubilee celebration of King George V.

The match ended in favour of Accra who thrashed their Nigerian counterparts 3--0. The return encounter was also won by the Ghanaians as they posted a 3-2 defeat over the Nigerians.

The inititial success of this organisation within the sub-region became the catalyst which Ohene Djan, Ghana's most celebrated soccer admnistrator, described as 'spasmodic effort to reorganise soccer at the national level in Ghana'.

In 1945 a Nigerian side was invited to meet a Ghanaian representative X1 and for the first time the Ghana team included players from outside the capital city of Accra known as Derby, and others from Cape Coast, described as the Gold Coast Pillar.

Others like Coker and Hart joined from Sekondi, with Kwaku Dua from Kumasi making it to complete the team.

Ghana maintained her dominance over Nigeria with a 3-1 spanking. But the two sides drew 1-1 in the return encounter in Lagos.

But what was expected to herald a smooth formation of a Ghanaian national team was initially obliterated by internal squabbles that undermined the organisation of local football.

It was to rejuvenate the national passion for the sport and elevate it to national consciousness that a hurriedly arranged tour of England was organised to boost the morale of the playing team and also offer them the opportunity of playing with advanced amateur sides.

Interestingly this was at a time when football boots were not in vogue, and it was a terrible experience playing bare-footed in unfriendly climatic conditions.

Indeed, the situation affected the output of the team as the Gold Coast team could only manage two wins out of the 10 matches played.

The Gold Coast team was to suffer its first ever defeat to Nigeria when they were humbled 5-1 in their first match after the tour of England.

The critics of the time blamed it on the Richard Akwei- led football administration which rushed a weary and dejected team indiscreetly to Lagos to the slaughter house.

Undoubtedly the inspiring presence of Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, became the rallying point for the transformation of the Black Stars into a great soccer tradition which was revered in both the sub- region and the entire continent.

Nkrumah saw the national team as a personal project to foster his greater vision of African continental integration.

An unprecedented soccer revolution was launched under Nkrumah at the period when the game was at a rudimentary stage in many parts of the African continent.

Nkrumah declared:”My interest in soccer is so great that I propose, in the near future, to encourage the formation of a model club which will offer the leadership and inspiration to clubs in the country. This club shall be known as Ghana Republicans to commemorate the launching of the 3-Year Development Plan in the year of our Republic”.

It was during this time that expatriates were hired to mould the Ghana national team into a magnificent and all-conquering side. Among them were George Ainsley, Joseph Ember and Andreas Sjoberg.

However, it was C. K. Gyamfi, who benefited from Kwame Nkrumah's scholarship programme in Germany, who returned with dedication and patriotism to infuse confidence among his own colleagues.

Introducing the 4:2:4 formation, he led the Black Stars group to the pinnacle of Africa continental championship.

World Cup fiasco

The Black Stars entry into the world of competition removed the barrier formed by the Sahara and brought Ghana into football contact with African nations North of the continent.

Playing in the Olympic qualifying series in 1959, Ghana proved her superiority over the United Arab Republic, now Egypt, with a 3-2 goal aggregate.

Ghana also entered the 1962 World Cup competition after disposing of Nigeria to qualify to meet Morocco. Ghana lost the duel after the two legs, truncating their World Cup aspirations.

But undeterred by this temporary setback, they continued their soccer crusade and later in the year embarked on an elaborate European tour which Ohene Djan, then Director of Sports, described as very successful.

He wrote :”The spectators, most of whom were ignorant about the soccer strength of Africa, were amazed and flabbergasted at the exhibition of skill and dexterity of the Black Stars”.

The Stars beat Moscow Dynamos, drew 2-2 with Fortuna Dusseldorf, beat Leipzig 1-0, thrashed Haille Provincial X1 7-1 and beat Spartan Prague of Czechoslovakia 3-2, among other teams.

The watershed of the Black Stars crusade was in 1963 when they captured the African Cup of Nations with a 3-0 victory over the Sudan in the finals played in Accra.

Two years later in Tunis Coach C. K. Gyamfi led the Black Stars to successfully defend the Africa Cup of Nations.

After a protracted hiatus mainly occassioned by the overthrow of President Nkrumah, the Stars fortunes plummetted until 1978 when the then the Head of State, General I. K. Acheampong, the Blacks under Coach Frederick Osam-Duodu embarked on a training tour of Brazil for six months which saw the team winning the African Cup of Nations for keeps in 1978.

In 1981 President Hilla Limann's declaration of boycott of the 1982 edition of the African Cup of Nations to be hosted by Libya was overturned by Flight Lieutenant J. J. Rawlings who urged the team to win the tournament as their token for the revolution that he had launched after toppling the Limann administration.

The Stars under the tutelage of Coach C. K. Gyamfi took three months to accomplish the feat to become the first nation to win Africa's most prestigious title for four times.

Since then Ghana's attempt to recapture its past glories have proved illusive until last year when the Black Stars qualified for the World Cup in an euphoric moment.

Maiden World Cup success

Ghana's participation at the global event in Germany will continue to evoke fond memories for many Ghanaians. For the first time since 1957 the Stars, with their 2-0 and 2-1 wins over the highly-rated Czech Republic and the United States of America, sparked off an intense spirit of nationalism among Ghanaians.

The Black Stars success was the result of President Kufuor's government commitment which complemented a rare sense of patriotism displayed by the playing body from the qualifying series.

Indeed, the government's determination to ensure qualification for the World Cup for the first time manifested in the introduction of new incentive packages unprecedented in the annals of the Stars.

Compiled by Andy Quao