How Many Times Has Ghana Won The World Cup Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

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Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

A four-time Africa Cup of Nations winner, Ghana is seen globally as one of Africa’s leading sporting nations. In Ghana, Asante Kotoka is one of the most famous football teams and a national champion many times. Yet, in Kumasi in the 1970s it must be recorded that, apart from football, there was very little evidence of popular interest in sport. It could be said that of all the world games that came to Africa, only football had captured the imagination of the Ghanaian public.

While the little boys could be seen on every piece of open ground, kicking a battered ball or a bundle of rags, their sisters were playing a traditional children’s game called ampe. This pastime consists of two players who face each other and dance on the spot, proceeding to synchronize with the opponent in order to score a point. So the ten or so were left to retain something of the pre-colonial sporting world. The only boy’s game that seemed native to them was to tie a cockroach to a piece of sewing thread and observe its circular flight. It was not investigated whether this involved a contest based on the number of circuits to exhaustion.

As well as a famous football ground, Kumasi also had a horse racing track. Occasional events were well attended and betting appeared to be popular, but the ‘sports of kings’ were far from universally popular. another relic of the colonial era was the Kumasi golf course, known as ‘golf park’ by the locals. This was attended by an elite group of expatriate and local businessmen, held together by a nucleus of the banks and breweries. For other vestiges of colonial sports the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology had to be visited.

In 1971, the third battalion of the British Army parachute regiment was in Ashanti for several weeks of jungle training with the Ghanaian Army. At the end of the exercise, the soldiers came to Kumasi for two days of recreation. They challenged the university to a game of Rugby. An enthusiastic Welsh expatriate lecturer put together a team of other British expatriates and one massive sergeant from the Ghanaian Army who begged to be included. The little Welsh insider looked at the huge soldier and said ‘yes please.’ Unfortunately, the giant had never played rugby before, and it was soon clear that out-of-shape academics were no match for tough jungle warriors.

The university’s Senior Staff Club had a few sports facilities such as badminton and tennis courts and a full size pool/snooker table. Tennis and badminton flourished from time to time due to the participation of expatriate enthusiasts who maintained activity throughout their service season. Unfortunately, the departure of the foreign participants usually led to the abandonment of the facilities and this fate even befell the university’s Olympic-sized swimming pool and the stables of its Horse Society. Only snooker seemed safe from dependence on expatriates, and a visiting British professional suggested that a future Ghanaian champion could emerge to challenge the dominance of Europe and Asia.

Towards the end of the decade, local interest in football peaked when Ghana hosted the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1978. Some of the matches were played in Kumasi where the stadium had been rebuilt and modernized extensive in time for the event. The citizens were proud to be the focus of continental and world interest and the whole town was infected with football fever. Unfortunately, a few citizens lost their lives when they were crushed behind the new heavy iron gates as the crowd pressed to leave the stadium after one of the matches. Had they survived, the victims would have rejoiced with their compatriots in Ghana’s victory in the final in Accra, where they beat Uganda by two goals to nil.

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