Day In The Life Of A West Point Football Player Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

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Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

Four-time winners of the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana is globally regarded as one of Africa’s leading sporting nations. In Ghana, Asante Kotoka is one of the most famous football teams and is the national champion many times. Yet it should be noted that in Kumasi in the 1970s, apart from soccer, there was little evidence of public interest in sport. It can be said that of all the world’s sports brought to Africa, only soccer captured the imagination of Ghanaians.

Little boys could be seen on every patch of open ground, kicking a squashed ball or a bundle of rags while their sisters played a traditional children’s game called anpe. The pastime involves two players facing each other and dancing on the spot, stepping in sync with the opponent to score a point. Thus it was left to the fair sex to preserve something of the pre-colonial sports scene. The only apparently native children’s game is to tie a cockroach to a sewing thread and observe its circular flight. Whether it involved competition based on the number of circuits was not examined.

Apart from the famous football ground, Kumasi also had a horse racing track. Occasional events were well attended and betting seemed to be popular, but the ‘Game of Kings’ was not universally popular. Another remnant of the colonial era is the Kumasi Golf Course, known locally as ‘Golf Park’. It was frequented by an elite group of expatriates and local businessmen, held together by nuclei in banks and breweries. For other remnants of the colonial game one has to visit the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

In 1971, the 3rd Battalion of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment was in Ashanti for several weeks of jungle training with the Ghanaian Army. At the end of the exercise the troops arrived in Kumasi for a two-day recreation. He challenged the university to a game of rugby. The eager Welsh expatriate lecturer quickly formed a team of other British expatriates and a senior sergeant in the Ghanaian army who begged them to be included. The diminutive Welsh scrum-half took one look at the tall soldier and said ‘yes please’. Unfortunately, the giant had never played rugby before, and it soon became clear that out-of-shape academics were no match for jungle-hardy warriors.

The senior staff club of the university had some sports facilities like badminton and tennis courts and a full size billiards/snooker table. Tennis and badminton flourished from time to time due to the participation of expatriate enthusiasts who maintained the activity during their service period. Sadly, the departure of foreign participants left the facilities generally abandoned, and this fate also befell the university’s Olympic-sized swimming pool and its horse society stables. Only snooker seemed safe from dependence on expatriate investment, and a visiting British businessman opined that a future Ghanaian champion could emerge to challenge dominance in Europe and Asia.

At the end of the decade, local interest in soccer reached its peak in 1978 when Ghana hosted the final of the Africa Cup of Nations. Some of the games were held in Kumasi where the stadium was extensively rebuilt and modernized in time for the event. The citizens prided themselves on being the center of continental and global interest, and the entire city was consumed by football fever. Unfortunately, some citizens lost their lives by being crushed behind the new heavy iron gates as fans forced them out of the stadium after a match. Had they survived, the victims would have rejoiced with their compatriots at Ghana’s victory in the final in Accra, in which they defeated Uganda by two goals to nil.

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