HISTORY OF GHANAIAN MEN OF GLORY
Ghanaians are a sport-loving people. Sports as a discipline is widely acclaimed as an essential ingredient that enriches culture and life. It helps mold the character of the individual by inculcating a sense of discipline and tolerance as well as instilling a spirit of perseverance and industry.
It also helps to engender innovation and excellence in people and promote health and fitness in the individual. Given the important role of sports, from time immemorial, Ghanaians have devised many sporting games.
Among the Ewes, up to about the age of ten years, boys engage in mock-battles, tug-of-war, running, and other games which involve physical exertion. Of regular occurrence are games of challenge and confrontation. Children roll up their clothes in the form of whips in readiness for fighting.
Then one of them intones the challenge and the other reply in a chorus. The whole game is first and foremost a test of bravery but the song really tests general knowledge and alertness.
The Grunsis and Sissalas were noted for their wrestling contest. Among the Gas, children were taught to settle disputes or differences with their fists. No one was expected to separate the combatants till the fisticuffs were over with one clearly defeated.
Thereafter the combatants were made to shake hands and let go of their anger. During some special occasions, under the moonlight, inter-community fisticuffs contests were organized between children aged five and above who were paired on one-on-one battle according to their ages.
The idea was to make children become accustomed to combat, lose fear in the process and grow up to become warriors, and protect their people in event of aggression from enemies. The advent of colonialism saw the suppressing of a number of sports organized by the people.
In their place, the colonial administration gradually introduced European sports. Throughout the greater period of colonial rule, sports development in the country was largely on a self-help basis since it was only individuals interested in certain sports who encouraged them.
In 1952, the first legal effort to promote amateur sports in Ghana occurred with the enactment of the Gold Coast Amateur Sports Ordinance Number 14.
The Ordinance gave power to a Council to grant affiliation status to an association if it was satisfied that such a body truly existed for the promotion, encouragement, and control of sports. The Ordinance gave the Council no power to support sporting associations financially and otherwise. Financial assistance from the government was meager and could not sustain the steadily growing interest in amateur sports.
It was not until much later after the country had participated in a series of international sporting engagements, including the 1952 Olympics Games, the Empire (Commonwealth) Games of 1954 and 1958 that the need to give official backing to sports promoting and development was realized.
Towards the end of 1958, the Central Organisation of Sports was formed. Ohene Djan was appointed the first director of sports. So hard did Ohene Djan work that remarkable successes were achieved in various sporting fields both within Africa and the world at large.
It is this achievement that gave him a unique place in the history of the sport of the country and even though he was an administrator, he ranked as one of the men of glory in the sporting field.
The CPP government’s support and encouragement to the development of sports were aimed at instilling discipline in sportsmen to propel them to achieve for Ghana. In pursuance of this policy, certain sports were selected for development: football, athletics, boxing, lawn tennis, table tennis, basketball, hockey, handball, swimming, cycling, cricket, chess, netball, volleyball, draught, and softball.
Of all these sports, football remains the most popular and much followed.
The game was introduced into Ghana by British civil servants and other company officials who were residents at Cape Coast (then the seat of Government).
As they played the game regularly, they influenced the formation of the first football club the Cape Coast Excelsior in 1903. Accra Hearts of Oak emerged in 1911 and remains the oldest existing top division, club in the country. The 1930s saw the emergence of a number of existing top division clubs, among them: Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Cape Coast Dwarfs, and Sekondi Eleven Wise.
Each new club is affiliated with one football association par or the other. In 1947, Richard Akwei brings up the idea or the suggestions of making something big by bringing together the major or top associations which cause a lot of discussions in the country.
Just as everything seemed to be Otin moving on well, a split occurred and two national associations emerged from the crises. Richard Akwei finally became president or the head of the Gold Coast Football Union and the gentle man John Darkwa also headed the Gold Coast and Ashanti Union. Power struggles, however, undermined efforts at forming a long-lasting union. Richard Akwei resigned on September 8, 1957, and his place was taken up by Ohene Djan.
A year after assuming leadership of the Ghana Amateur Football Association (GAFA), Ohene Djan organized the national leagues as a feature of the football calendar of clubs.
As a matter of fact, the first attempt at organizing a national league was in 1956 during the last days of Richard Akwei’s administration. The 14 clubs that entered the competition were: Accra Hearts of Oak, Accra Great Olympics, Accra Standfast, Accra Great Argonauts, Vipers, Cape Coast Dwarfs, Sekondi Hassacas, Sekondi Eleven Wise, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Kumasi Cornerstone, and Dynamos.
Due to the poor organization of the league, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and four other Kumasi-based teams – Kumasi Cornerstone, Great Ashanti, Dynamos, and Evergreen boycotted it.
The Richard Akwei administration reacted by suspending them. The football competition eventually comes up but with only the teams or we can say the club from the south of the country. In the ensuing confrontation, the four boycotting clubs were able to convince some others to join them, thus wrecking the league and flouting the authority of the GAFA. The competition was eventually won by the Accra Hearts of Oak.