Coaching Legacy (Part Three) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2010)

Shameful Precedent

Even the greatest coaches are treated abysmally by African federations. Charles Kumi Gyamfi won the African Cup of Nations at the first attempt in 1963. He retained it in 1965. Following the military coup that deposed Ghanas first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah in February 1966, Gyamfi was shamefully demoted to be the assistant to a recently qualified Brasilian fitness trainer, Carlos Alberto Parreira, for the 1968 Cup of Nations.

It was a disastrous decision that cost the Black Stars dear. Ghana lost 1-0 to a Pierre Kalala goal for Congo-Kinshasa in one of the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament. Parreira deserved the sack. Gyamfi didnt, but paid the price anyway. Gyamfis great football knowledge and popularity with the team was thrown away. They played for Gyamfi – wanted to – but Parreria had none of that. It was not the Brasilian’s fault that he was appointed above his abilities – Ghanas coup plotters bear ultimate responsibility for that and much more besides.

The sacking of Gyamfi set an unfortunate precedent that happened again forty years later to Augustine Eguavoen. The Nigerian number two was sacked after Berti Vogts failure in the 2008 edition of the African Cup of Nations, but Eguavoens fate cannot compare to Gyamfi, who had achieved something that took more than forty years to be matched – retaining the African Cup of Nations.

I think it defies imagination”, says one of the young players that Gyamfi brought through in 1965, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, who went on to follow his mentor into coaching. 63 he won it as head coach with his assistant. 65 he won it again with the same assistant. 68 the two of them were relegated and Parreira took over. He had to go back as assistant, so you see the African mentality is the problem here. Terrible”.

Wasted Opportunities

Camerounian goalkeeping hero Thomas Nkono agrees. “One of the problems of Africa is they dont have consciousness of yourself”, he told us. “We have ideas about white people – yellow people. For the African, the first thing to do is to give the confidence of the people to the coach. Give him all possibility”.

But this doesnt happen for African coaches. They are held to short-term contracts and do not receive the support they need. It happened to Attuquayefio more than once. Despite a four-year contract with Ghana in 2000 he was dismissed in a year.

In 2004 he managed to take Bénin to the African Cup of Nations finals for the first time in their history. They lost every match and Attuquayefio was sacked, but he created a legacy in the tiny West-African nation. Sadly it was squandered by the late Reinhard Fabisch.

They decided to go for a white man to come and coach them again”, said Attuquayefio. “The white man arrived and he has held them to a long contract, whereas when I was there I had a contract that was from fear. It is the African way and I don’t like to be doing that because I personally want to change the will”. But how?

The Slumbers

The revolution, or at least the understanding of the power of football was rediscovered, ironically by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. His investment paid off for the Black Stars, but not himself. Fred Osam Duodo won the African Cup of Nations in 1978, but it did little for Acheampong, who shared Nkrumah’s fate. A few weeks after Ghana won the tournament he was overthrown in yet another coup.

Further coups and counter-coups brought the controversial Jerry Rawlings to power. Acheampong was executed by firing squad in 1979. Ghana won the African Cup of Nations for the fourth and so far last time in 1982 – Gyamfi’s third and last triumph. They lost in the final in 1992 and again in 2010, but the February 1966 coup cost Ghanaian football far more.

The counter-revolution was consolidated and Ghanaian coaching regressed. The model that had produced Gyamfi and enabled others to learn from him was lost. Top coaches were ostracised as the military governments did not invest in football or its potential and the next generation of African coaching talent stagnated before it was allowed to develop.

The principles of the Football Revolution and opportunities that it gave talented Ghanaians were thrown away. They had to be rediscovered. So did the accomplishments of Osagyefo – Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

 

 

 

 

 

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Coaching Legacy (Part Two) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 27th 2010)

Retaining

When Charles Kumi Gyamfi took his young team to Tunisia expectations were high in Ghana, but not elsewhere in Africa. The young coach had won the tournament on home soil in 1963. So what? Now he had to take his rebuilt team to North Africa and deliver again. Gyamfi proved himself an exceptionally good coach – an African legend – during that tournament.

The Black Stars retained the trophy, but the African team of the decade never got to keep an African Cup of Nations trophy. They threw away the best chance they had through petty political interference that involved the disgraceful treatment of a football icon, but that was in the near future. Ghana’s Football Revolution was ready to be exported to the rest of Africa after the Black Stars success in 1965.

We win the cup in Tunisia and we wanted to stay here and celebrate, but Dr Kwame [Nkrumah] tells us that we had to go to Kenya”, Gyamfi told us. “He wanted us to play there – show the Kenyans – what went on in Tunisia, so we went to play there. We played against the Kenyan national team. In fact, before we left we were not happy about it, but once Kwame Nkrumah had said it, we went there”.

Exporting the Revolution and African Unity

The trip showed the importance of the revolution. Celebration could come later, but first the revolution had to be exported. “Really we are going there to enjoy ourselves”, said Gyamfi. “We had to go there to court opinion and play against Kenya, so that we get their friendship”. It was far more than just a match, although the Black Stars put on an exhibition of football, which was not what Nkrumah had intended.

When we got to Kenya we played in front of the Kenyan people”, Gyamfi said. “Jomo Kenyatta himself was waving to us and totally happy. We beat them 13-0 – 13-0”.

There can’t be many times when such a result earned the winners displeasure, but Nkrumah was not happy. In fact, he was very displeased and demanded that the Black Stars understand the importance of their mission to Kenya – to help build African unity.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah told us that he didn’t tell us to go and dismantle Kenyan football and therefore we knew that Kenya was not finished for us”, said Gyamfi. “We played a second match against Kenya and give them a chance to play, so we drew with them in the second match. He didn’t ask us to go and destroy Kenya. It was a friendly, just to bring all of us together. All of these things were important”.

Robbed

Ghana would soon be robbed of the fruits of the Football Revolution. A CIA inspired coup d’état in February 1966 overthrew Nkrumah, outlawed his Convention People’s Party, and set about reversing his policies.

A statue of Nkrumah was dismembered in the violence that accompanied his overthrow and ushered in a cycle of coups, counter-coups, weak governments and yet more coups. It now stands to the left of his mausoleum – a permanent reminder of the violence and cost to Ghana of the coup.

Nkrumah dreamed of returning to power, but that never happened. His health began to fail rapidly after a kidnap attempt in the Guinean capital Conakry failed to capture him, Guinean President Ahmed Sékou Touré and the gifted liberation struggle leader of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands, Amílcar Cabral. It had been organised by the Portuguese dictatorship of Marcelo Caetano.

Knowing that he was dying Nkrumah asked military dictator General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong to be allowed to return to die. His request was refused and Nkrumah died in exile in April 1972, just months after Acheampong seized power in a coup.

Following assurances given by Acheampong, Nkrumah’s remains were returned to Nkroful – the village of his birth and buried there – until the Nkrumah Mausoleum was completed in Accra.

Nkrumah’s Football Legacy

Nkrumah’s legacy is a complex one, especially in Ghana, but it is acknowledged and celebrated throughout Africa and even in his country now. The Football Revolution that Nkrumah helped to initiate is also appreciated now. As Gyamfi acknowledges it played a very important role in developing and fostering African unity.

It played a very, very big part in Ghana at this time, because football is something that you have to keep enjoying when playing”, said Gyamfi. “In Kenya we enjoyed every minute. I enjoyed it; my colleagues enjoy it too. Those who are spectators also enjoyed it”. But it couldn’t last. “A lot of things went wrong after he [Nkrumah] was overthrown”, said Gyamfi. “I went away. They wanted to play for money and things went wrong”.

Ghana – the sole African survivor in the 2010 World Cup – has been adopted by all of Africa. The vuvuselas now hail the Black Stars as Africa’s team. This World Cup is seen by Africans as their tournament. The support Ghana receives in South Africa is a legacy of the Football Revolution. “It brings us all together”, said Gyamfi, “and it was by getting all these things that we bring Africa together. We put a lot of effort and strength and devotion into it”.

The Betrayal

Nevertheless, coaches including Gyamfi would soon feel the brunt of the counter-revolution. Nkrumah’s blueprint was shamefully thrown away and African achievements were denigrated once more. Coaches and administrators were not trained abroad or within the country and gradually their skills were lost as they were not passed on to the next generation.

Dependency on foreign coaches crept back into Ghanaian football and the strong national team and league that Ohene Djan built was frittered away. The Ghanaian FA was held to ransom by foreign coaches, who did not understand Ghana or its football culture. Ghanaian coaching and administrative skills would have to be learned again from scratch. It was a recipe for failure and the counter-revolution delivered that with gusto, but first the revolution had to be destroyed.

The roots of the revolution were so strong that it took years to totally dismantle. A chronic lack of investment in football, coaches and human resources sent Ghanaian football to a decade-long slumber. But despite the lack of investment and disastrous short-sightedness, the Black Stars were too good to bring instant failure – that took time.

Ghana reached an unprecedented four consecutive finals of the African Cup of Nations between 1963 and 1970. It is no coincidence that shorn of the full influence of the greatest coach the country ever produced they lost the two finals they contested after the revolution was betrayed.

 

Coaching Legacy (Part One) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 27th 2010)

Football Revolution

Africas World Cup will have a legacy and part of it should include a better deal for African coaches. They rarely get a chance on their continent. It isnt fair, but part of the blame must be laid at the door of African Football Federations and their failure to learn the lessons of Africas Football Revolution and apply them throughout the continent.

Half a century ago the first President of independent Ghana Dr Kwame Nkrumah had a vision. He developed a blueprint for African achievement – a revolution through football. It gave African administrators the opportunity to shine.

The greatest African organiser was his Minister of Sport Dr Ohene Djan who reorganised football in Ghana – establishing league competition and a new cup and a team Real Republicans that allowed the best Ghanaian footballers to play and train together regularly.

Black Faces of the Football Revolution

Djan also supported the African face of the Football Revolution. It needed a black face in the dug-out, but one that could inspire the team and produce results. There were no prizes for second place in 1963 in Ghana and two years later it was ready to be exported to the rest of the continent, but only if the Black Stars delivered once more in Tunisia. They did under their gifted young coach, who had only just hung up his boots.

Charles Kumi Gyamfi was the captain of the Black Stars when he left to join West German outfit Fortuna Düsseldorf, but he went to Europe to do more than just play – he was there to learn to coach and bring what he learned back to Ghana. Other ageing players trod the same path too. On his return Gyamfi was incorporated into the national set up and allowed to learn from Ghanas European coaches as well, especially Jozef Ember.

Revolutionary Football

Football was more than just a sport in Ghana at this time – it was an essential part of a social project that would change not only the sport that Gyamfi had dedicated his life to, but the country and continent that he loved.

We were always planning ahead, like we wanted to plan and organise here in Africa”, Gyamfi told us exclusively. “We wanted African organisation – an organisation that is African – to be the African team through organisation. It happened”.

It was far more than a football strategy – it was proving to a country emerging from colonialism that Africans were organisers, tacticians and could compete and achieve their goals on merit. Gyamfi was among the first to benefit, but he brought his newly acquired skills back and passed them on to other Ghanaians. The revolution was spreading and a new generation of coaches and administrators was developing.

They looked at me then – the training there and in Europe – and because of that a lot of them played professionally and train as coaches”, he said. “We had to demonstrate that there was a special way of coaching. There were a lot of beneficiaries, so really in the end they tell me that – the people in the country – and they give me the time”.

Osagyefo and the Director

Gyamfi wholeheartedly believed in the revolution. The respect he has for Osagyefo [Nkrumah] remains as strong as it ever was half a century later. “To hear my boss, who was then Dr Kwame Nkrumah, tell us what we were capable of inspired us”, he said. “He talked to us about what we could do totally. He believed in us and in football. He helped me greatly”.

Vital as Nkrumahs support was Gyamfi recognises the importance of Djan to the revolution. He was already on the path to greatness – achievements that would take more than four decades to equal – but even after winning the African Cup of Nations at the first attempt in 1963, Gyamfi faced absurd calls for his job. It was Embers team, not his, they claimed. He inherited it and learned from the Hungarian, but he still had to deliver and did.

Djan ignored the calls to sack Gyamfi. He was no stranger to courageous decisions. During colonial times he stood up to corrupt and incompetent officials and organised resistance that was eventually overtaken by events. Even before the Football Revolution Ohene Djan was a respected visionary.

Nkrumah asked one of the younger ministers to be the Director of Sport – not of coaching – and that was Ohene Djan”, Gyamfi told me. “The stadium is named after him – a very hard working man. He organised the administrative side and he did a lot. He used to tell Kwame a lot and he cared about football, because he could see that we have so much there that he wanted us to develop it to move forward, so we can do whatever to achieve that. I remember him very well”.

Judgement

Djan also proved that he was an excellent judge of talent by sticking with Gyamfi. The young coach realised that he had take hard decisions – ones that could end long friendships. He took a successful team that was ageing – ending the international careers of players he had recently captained himself – and brought young players through. Among them was a young man who would follow his mentor into coaching and become an African legend himself, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio.

The test of Gyamfi and Ghanas Football Revolution would come in Tunisia in 1965. Egypt was the only team thus far to have retained the African Cup of Nations, but Gyamfis task was harder. He had to deliver in Tunisia in a different format as more teams contested the finals than had when Egypt won in 1957 and 59 and no coach had ever won the trophy twice let alone retained it – an achievement that Hassan Shehata matched in Gyamfis homeland in 2008 and surpassed in Angola in 2010.