C.K Gyamfi: Ghana’s greatest ever football manager
In a week where the greatest British and arguably the world’s greatest ever manager, Sir Alex Ferguson retired, I thought it apt to pay homage to Ghana’s and arguably Africa’s greatest ever football manager.
The man I speak of is Charles Kumi Gyamfi. After retiring as a player he became a coach, and career highlights include leading Ghana to the African Cup of Nations three times. At the time this made him the most successful coach in ACN history. Gyamfi was already setting records as a player when he became the first African player to play in Germany, having joined Fortuna Düsseldorf in 1960. Before that he enjoyed a distinguished career in Ghana playing for the likes of Asante Kotoko and Accra’s premier club, Hearts of Oak.
However it was his exploits as manager where he secured legendary status amongst Ghanaians. After retiring as a player it seemed the natural transition for Gyamfi to become coach after showing a number of the traits needed to be a manager during his playing days. Thus having taken over as coach in 1963 he secured his and Ghana’s first African title after a 3-0 win over Sudan in Ghana which made victory all the more sweeter.
But the real challenge was to come in 1965, when Gyamfi was faced with building a new squad to replace the aging first generation of stars to defend their status as champions of Africa in Tunisia. During the tournament Gymafi would often play with three strikers, with goals now coming from the likes of emerging Ghanaian stars such as Frank Odoi, Ben Acheampong and Osei Kofi providing as many as 12 goals in their 3 games as Ghana went on to beat hosts Tunisia 3-2 in extra time after being down 1-2. Ghana had become the first nation to successfully defend the African Cup of Nations, but Gyamfi would leave his post the same year.
He would return as manager in 1982 to lead Ghana into the African Nations cup in Libya. It would prove an inspired return as Ghana would go on to be crowned African champions again for the fourth time after beating the hosts Libya 7-6 on penalties in a pulsating match. This remains the last time Ghana have won the CAN title and cemented Gyamfi’s name in Ghana’s football history.
Always respected for his “old school” approach to the game, in January 2008 Gyamfi publicly lamented the modern obsession of players with money rather than the love of the game. He was quoted as saying, “Today’s players don’t know the value of the national jersey but my players were prepared to die for their country.” This statement is not far from the truth from a real Ghanaian and African legend who has garnered respect all over the continent from his peers. He achieved a feat that I don’t believe another Ghanaian coach will ever achieve again.
Charles Kumi Gyamfi Me Firi Ghana salutes you!
Ben Jk Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)