OHENE KWABENA DJAN (1924-1987)
Ghana’s First Director of Sports
Representatives of Regional Football Associations which formed a loose Central Administration gathered in Accra on December 16, 1957, to discuss the state of the organization. After hours of heated debate involving unleashing an avalanche of attacks on the Central Administration Body, the Cape Coast representative in a motion demanded:
In of view the fact that the present Ghana Amateur Football Association is incapable of maintaining the international prestige and national unity of Ghana Football, we the individual associations here assembled do severally and jointly constitute ourselves into a new progressive national football association and resolved that all legitimate by the Ghana Amateur Sports Council within the shortest possible time.
To the great surprise of Sir Leslie MacCarthy, chairman of the Sports Council, who was also the chairman of the meeting, the motion was overwhelmingly adopted. That ended the ten-year reign of Richard Akwei, chairman of the Gold Coast (Ghana) Amateur Football Association (GAFA).
Subsequently, Ohene Djan, the representative of the Eastern region Amateur Football Association, was elected the new chairman of the GAFA. Ohene Djan occupied that post until 1960 when he was made the Director of the Central Organisation of Sports, thus taking full ministerial responsibility for the development of Ghana Sports. He worked in that capacity till the 1966 coup.
Ohene Djan was born on January 29, 1924, as the only child of Mankrado Kwafo Kraba II and Aberewatia Julian Yaa Amponsaa Otoo alias Yaa Gyinae both of Aburi.
He began his schooling at the Aburi Presbyterian Primary School and continued at Aburi Methodist Boarding School. He had his secondary education at Accra Academy. On leaving the sixth form in 1943, he joined his father’s cocoa purchasing business. Ohene Djan worked with his lovely father for almost a year and finally joined the civil service. His father’s fast deteriorating health forced him to resign in 1949 to take over the management of the business.
The agitation of 1950 saw Ohene Djan as an active member of the CPP. In the 1951 general elections, he stood on the ticket of the party and was elected as its member for Akuapom/New Juaben Constituency.
In Parliament, he was appointed Ministerial Secretary to the Ministry of Finance. He held that office until February 1954 when he was found guilty and imprisoned in connection with findings of corruption against him in the “Braimah Case”.
When he was released from prison on June 9, 1955, he took over his deceased father’s business as a licensed cocoa buyer for the Cocoa Marketing Board. Under the business name of Mogya Kwafo Kraban (MKK), he also traded in palm kernels, ran a poultry farm and fleet of vehicles. Though occupied with his business, he kept his childhood interest in sports, especially football, alive.
He participated in organizing football in the Akuapem and other areas in the Eastern Region. He rose to become a member of the regional executive board of the Eastern Regional Amateur Football Association (ERAFA). It was in that capacity that he represented the ERAFA at the historic meeting at which he was elected chairman of the GAFA.
One of the first things he did, not long after assuming office, was to personally finance Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club, by flying to Ghana Sir Stanley Matthews, nicknamed the Saint of Soccer. Sir Stanley’s observations and recommendations about soccer organizations in the country made Ohene Djan decide to employ a number of foreign coaches to assist in training and unearthing local talents. Coaches were invited from England, Sweden, Italy, West Germany, and Hungary to make scientific coaching available to many clubs.
To foster competition among the unearthed talents, Ohene Djan instituted a knock-out program in 1957, first as the “Aspro Cup” competition and two years later as the F.A. Cup competition. The first successful national league competition, as a salient feature of the national football program, was organized in 1958.
Ohene Djan’s approach or action who was taken by him to form a national team was made of good men or students from various tertiary institutition.
This group which later became the Academicals became the cradle of soccer in Ghana. The occasion for forming the national team was in October 1960. After a poor performance of the Ghana National Team in Lagos on October 10, 1960, it was decided to re-organize the team by infusing young and new talents.
The name Black Stars was chosen to give more inspiration to the group and to symbolize the spirit of African Personality which was then being forcefully stressed by President Nkrumah. The first camping and training of the Black Stars were held at the CYO Park, Nsawam, under a Swedish coach, Andreas Sjoberg on October 17, 1960. The original members of the group included: C. K. Gyamfi, Baba Yara, Aggrey Fynn, Addo Odametey, E. O. Oblitey, W. K. Mfum, Ofei Dodoo.
Mohammed Salisu, Dogo Moro, Kwame Appiah, Ben (Simmons) Akyeampong, Kwao Baffoe, Kwame Adarkwa, Addoquaye Laryea, A. K. Kasum, R. Bunya, and E. Obadzen. To expose the boys to international competition, foreign football matches were organized for them.
Welcoming the group back from one of their European tours in 1961, John Ofori-Atta, editor of the Pan African Sports, wrote:
The Black Stars, Ghana’s national soccer team has carried the force of African inspiration into the heart of Europe, and what a successful debut. What a terrific impression these Ambassadors of African created on soccer fans over there! It was an immense demonstration of the skills and potentials of the African footballers. Against formidable European opposition, the Black Stars combined punchy dexterity to capture the imagination of millions… But the performance of the Black Stars on the European tour must be viewed from the right perspective.
The Editor did not forget the role of President Nkrumah in inspiring and helping Ohene Djan. As the magazine pointed out, immediately after Ohene Djan’s assumption of office in 1957, the President charged him to come out with bold schemes to make Ghana soccer a showpiece on the continent of Africa. “Your task will be arduous but you must fight hard and in your fight, remember organization decides everything, you have my personal support and that of the government” the magazine reported the President as saying.
A directive sent by Nkrumah to Ohene Djan on June 12, 1960, perhaps best tells of his love for soccer.
My interest in soccer is so great that I propose in the near future the formation of a model club that will offer leadership and inspiration to clubs in the country.
To carry out the directives of the President, Ohene Djan invited two ace players from each of the established clubs to form the nucleus of the Real Republicans. This drew opposition from the established clubs leading to the first boycott of the national soccer league in 1961 Ohene Djan, however, remained steadfast. He went ahead to form the premier model club which he fondly called Osagyefo’s Own-Club (O-O-C).
The model premier club was soon to propel the country onto the international soccer scene. In 1961 and 1963, the Black Stars won the West African soccer competition and the “Gold Cup” donated by President Nkrumah 1963, the group also stormed Africa and won the Africa Cup of Nations and successfully defended the Cup in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1965.
Under Ohene Djan, the Black Stars also qualified and participated in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1964. He was preparing the Black Stars for even greater honors for the 1968 Olympic Games when the CPP Government was overthrown.