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.
Born 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 league 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.”
He 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)