Tag: Asante Kotoko


The Ugliest Day of Ghana’s Beautiful Game: 15th Anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium Disaster

5354030820799_5043073398733There are very few things which unite the Ghanaian people like football. There is a visceral, all-encompassing passion when it comes to the beautiful game – not only in Ghana, but worldwide. However, with such a game which has played host to numerous moments of unspeakable joy and celebration, there have also been moments which have encroached upon the very darkest parts of the human condition. Racism. Abuse. And most of all, death. Death found its way to Hillsborough and Heysel in the late 80s. And on the 9th of May 2001, death found its way to the 40000 all-seater Accra Sports Stadium (aka Ohene Djan Stadium). This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Accra Sports Stadium disaster on ‘Black Wednesday‘ which claimed the lives of 127 supporters.

Speak to any football fan and they will tell you that there are certain matches which peak interest unlike most of the others. Liverpool v United. Real Madrid v Barca. In Ghana, when the Accra Hearts of Oak go toe-to-toe with the Asante Kotoko, it’s a very big deal.

In such matches tensions are high as the tribalism and passion of the fans thunders through the atmosphere. You can feel it. You can taste it. And that fateful day in May was the same. Every tackle met with cheers of derision and accomplishment in equal measure. Until one refereeing decision proved to be one bone of discontentment too much for some. Hearts of Oak had scored two late goals to race into a 2-1 lead. This led to fans registering their displeasure by launching missiles onto the pitch – chairs, water bottles, etc.

The police decided to fight fire with fire and in an attempt to disperse the crowd, indiscriminately Accra-Sports-stadium-stampedefiring tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs into the throngs of people. A recipe for disaster. People in pain and distress now found themselves in a warzone, and everyone made a frantic bid for the exits. Fans couldn’t encroach onto the pitch because of the 2-meter high wire fences which were adorned with barbed wire – similar fences which had been outlawed in Europe post-Hillsborough.

So the fans made mad dashes down the six narrow stairways which led to the exits. The bottleneck effect was brutal, fans crushing against each other in panic. Amidst the mayhem and the bedlam, fans trampled over each other, everyone desperate to save their life. In turn, 127 individuals lost theirs. And countless others sustained injuries of various severities.

Locked gates. Narrow exits. It took too long to relieve the crush. Chests prevented from expanding. Those who had fallen did not have space to get back up. People had been trampled upon, piled up against each other. When all was said-and-done, the battle list read painfully. 117 died from traumatic asphyxia – having their chests crushed inward resulting in suffocation. 10 more died from stampede trauma. 148 children of the deceased are being catered for by a Stadium Disaster Fund.

Black Wednesday was a logistical catastrophe of errors on an unbelievable scale. Aggressive police were too hack-handed in their attempts at crowd control. There were inadequate numbers of safety staff, inadequate access for emergency services. The stadium originally built in the 1960s was not fit-for-purpose for the new millennium – a poorly-maintained concrete dinosaur which simply could not cope with the worst that sport can have to offer. 37 Military Hospital was unable to house all of the dead – and so instead of the 106 surplus bodies being shifted to other mortuaries, they were kept on the compound in inappropriate temperatures; already in a state of decomposition by the time collections began for burials.

sffasfafafThe Accra Sports Stadium disaster on Black Wednesday still stands as the deadliest stadium disaster in all African history. It’s very ironic that the 15th anniversary comes just a couple of weeks after the new Hillsborough inquiry ended – just 8 less people died on Black Wednesday than Hillsborough and Heysel combined. Yes, an official Ghanaian commission blamed police on duty for inciting the stampede through criminal negligence. But unlike Hillsborough, there is no ongoing inquest, no active fight for justice. Even today, 15 years on, and despite renovation in 2007, the Accra Sports Stadium still falls short in terms of structural safety. Most of the recommendations from the government-appointed commission’s report following the disaster have been ignored.

But for a country which remains so football-mad, we need to do more to safeguard future sporting fans. The Ghanaian government needs to learn lessons from the West, which has made great strides in learning from their past disasters to ensure there is no room for repeat. The 127 need to be remembered – a safer, more fit-for-purpose sporting environment would be a fitting legacy. For nobody should leave home to go to a football match, cheering on their favourite team, and never come back home.

“As I made my way towards the staircase, I froze,” reported Accra sports journalist Yawme Ampofo-Ankrah in the aftermath of Black Wednesday. “I saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life…the most appaling look of fear and hopelessness was written across the faces of dying innocent young men. They were dying and ther was nothing anybody could do to save them.” We have the means, the will, and the lessons in our nation’s chapter to learn from the disaster and ensure that there is hope for the future. That there will not be another one of Ghana’s sons or daughters in such a predicament ever again. We can save them now. For as the inscription on the memorial bronze statue outside the stadium reads, ‘[We are our] brother’s keeper’.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

A Ghanaian Footballing Pioneer: The Legend of CK Gyamfi

As summer 2015 began its first forays into autumn, one of the brightest Black Stars dimmed, fading away into the ages. Charles (Nana) Kumi Gyamfi, more popularly known as C.K. Gyamfi, passed on to glory on 2nd September 2015. In his wake, he leaves a legacy which still looms large over the landscape of Ghanaian football.

gfa_mourns_passing_of_legendary_coach_ck_gyamfi_975092106Born in Accra in 1929, Gyamfi began playing football at the age of 7 in junior school. His precocious talent was noticeable from the off, and he became an integral part of his School XI, playing against boys bigger and taller than him. Due to his special talent, he gained admission into the Accra Royal School in 1944, despite the School being closed to further admissions as they had no vacancies!

He started his senior professional career with Sailors Football Club in 1948. After a match against the Ebusua Dwarfs in which he excelled against the opposition, he was persuaded to join them for a brief time before commencing a 5 year run playing for the Asante Kotoko. Noted for being the pivot around which Kotoko’s attack rotated, Gyamfi earned the right to play for the Gold Coast team which toured the United Kingdom in 1951. The Gold Coast team stunned their opponents, playing barefoot on British shores and scoring a total of 25 goals, with CK Gyamfi scoring 11 of those goals!

On his return to Ghana, armed with his first pair of boots, he introduced football boots to the Ashanti and Southern Gold Coast playing circles, and is credited by some as leading the charge which led to every team in the nation adopting football boots. He formed the Kumasi Great Ashanti in 1954, following a big split in the Kotoko camp, leading them to many great victories. After 2 years, he left the Great Ashantis and joined the Hearts of Oak, helping them win their first Cleague title in 1956 as well as being the inaugural winners of the league title in a newly independent Ghana in 1958. His 4 year stint at Hearts ended in 1960, when he secured a transfer to Fortuna Düsseldorf – becoming the first African football to ply their trade in German football! He scored on his debut and was held in affection by the Düsseldorf faithful, nicknamed ‘Tunda Vita’ (meaning ‘Thunder Weather’) due to his powerful shots.

He then entered football management, becoming assistant coach in 1961 before taking full charge of the Ghana National Team in 1962 following the departure of the Hungarian Black Star head coach Joseph Ember. Winning the Uhuru Cup in Uganda, Ghana then went on to win the West African Gold Cup. Gyamfi then led Ghana to their first Africa Cup of Nations championship in 1963, before repeating the feat 2 years later in 1965. For those who may have considered that achievement a fluke, an anomaly achieved in the 1960s where football was a lesser standard, CK Gyamfi stuffed their opinions back down their throats as he returned to manage the Black Stars in 1982 and secured a record third Africa Cup of Nations crown! Even now, more than 30 years after becoming the first manager to win three Africa Cup of Nations championships, only one coach has managed to equal the feat, and none have been able to surpass it.

Such a figure simply could not be ignored, and Mr Gyamfi continued to be an important voice in Ghanaian football. Most significantly, towards the end of his life when asked about Ghana’s failures in international competition, he bemoaned a culture among today’s generation motivated by love of money rather than national pride. “The players that I worked with played for the love of the game and were totally committed to playing for their country,” said the man known in football circles by his initials, CK. He added: “Today’s players don’t know the value of the national jersey but my players were prepared to die for their country.”

CK-169x300He became a chief of Okorasi, a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana, in 1999 when the stool of the town became vacant. He also received honours in the form of being named a ‘National Sports Hero’ and being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, as well as having the National Sports College in Winneba being named after him. The former captain of Accra Hearts of Oak & Ghana Black Stars, and the engineer of three of Ghana’s four Africa Cup of Nations triumphs, CK Gyamfi leaves behind his wife Madam Valerie Quartey Gyamfi (who was a former national tennis player herself) and eight sons.

By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Inspiring Ghanaians – Charles Kumi Gyamfi

C.K Gyamfi: Ghana’s greatest ever football manager

 

ck gyamfi

Former Ghanaian coach Charles Kumi Gyamfi


 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)