In Memoriam Remembering the life of C. K. Gyamfi; five things you ought to know

On the first anniversary of the death of Ghanaian football legend C.K Gyamfi, Pulse Ghana’s Fiifi Anaman takes a look at some facts you may not have known about the man, who died aged 86

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C.K Gyamfi was not the first national captain

He was, though, the first captain of the Black Stars, when the team was constituted in 1959.

 

But, there were national teams that served as precursors to the Black Stars, namely the Gold Coast XI (before independence) and the Ghana XI (after independence and before the Black Stars). This means that he wasn’t the pioneering skipper, as has been severally reported.

Indeed, the first widely known captain of the country’s national team was a heavyset, wide-jawed man from the small coastal town of Winneba. His name was Timothy ‘Tim’ Darbah.

Darbah, 28 years old at the time of his tenure, was a veteran, wielding fame and substance to boot, and aided by the respect he commanded on the country’s football landscape, earned himself the honour of leading the Gold Coast XI to their historic tour of the United Kingdom in August 1951. Tim, however, lost his captaincy as punishment for presiding over player-agitations of sorts before the team’s 8th game on tour, paving the way for the appointment of a young man named Emmanuel Christian ‘E.C’ Briandt as captain. E.C Briandt, then only 22, would go on to captain the country’s national team for the next seven years, finally handing over to the robust, manly left back Ben Sissuh in August 1958.

C.K Gyamfi would succeed Ben Sissuh a few weeks afterwards after the latter sustained a knee injury. He would go on to captain the team from then till January 1960.

C.K Gyamfi was not originally intended to be Ghana’s first black coach

E.C Briandt was. And this fact is particularly interesting because it shows how the trajectory of great people feature fascinating fine details, crapshoot opportunities, despite their talents giving their greatness merit.

 

In 1958, the Ghana Amateur Football Association (GAFA) decided to employ a national coach for Ghana. It was a first, because before then, the national team had never once had a full time or even trained coach. GAFA, helmed by the great Ohene Djan, settled on the English coach George Edward Ainsley – but simultaneously, they put in place a plan to send the most suited local players abroad for coaching training so that they could return and be ready for a baton relay from the expert expatriates. The first two footballers chosen were E.C Briandt, who was also the captain of Hearts of Oak, and Asante Kotoko’s great playmaker James Adjei.

The pecking order was clear; Briandt, as national captain, was first in line, with James Adjei in behind. But on their return, Briandt strangely decided against taking up the top honour, leaving Adjei to it. Adjei, too, due to reasons not so clear, never got to become Ghana’s first indigenous coach.

That honour would ultimately belong to C.K Gyamfi, a man Djan himself described as a ‘natural coach’, and a man who attained privilege despite being third in line. He was the third player selected for coaching training in 1959 and returned a year later serve through the ranks. In 1962, he made history – occupying and immensely succeeding in a hot seat that has since ironically become so unattainable for so many of his kind contemporarily.

CK Gyamfi was the first Ghanaian footballer from within to play professionally

Did you know that up until the early 1990s, football in Ghana was played within an amateur framework? Did you also know that the word ‘amateur’, as used here, contrary to misleading popular belief, didn’t mean that players of that era were not good footballers? It was only amateur because players were not paid for playing football. Football was a side job, a part time engagement to a mainstream job.

 

C.K Gyamfi was an amateur all his life until October 1960, when he smashed a glass ceiling. While training as a coach in Germany, he was hosted by German club Fortuna Dusseldorf, with whom he would occasionally train to stay fit. This association of convenience, however, blossomed into something historic: Fortuna became so impressed that they offered him a contract, thus making him the first Ghanaian footballer to cross the amateur boundary to play as a professional. Some Ghanaians had played amateur football in the U.K before, but none had played professionally. Indeed, ‘Ghanaian footballer from within’ features in the title because of Arthur Wharton, widely known as the first black professional footballer, was born in the Gold Coast, but he did not play in Ghana.

Impressively, Gyamfi’s achievement happened in; no mean a continent as, Europe, and, in no mean a country as, Germany, winners of the 1954 World Cup only six years earlier. This feat also made him the first African ever to go Pro in Germany.

CK Gyamfi did not win the Afcon as a player and as a coach

Contrary to what has been widely reported, C.K Gyamfi only won the Afcon as a coach. By the time of the first Afcon Ghana participated in – at home in 1963 – C.K Gyamfi was 34 years old, retired from active play for over a year, but still the national team coach.

 

His eventual win of that tournament made him the first Ghanaian to achieve that – and subsequent wins in 1965 and 1982 further broadened the distinction, making him of only two coaches in the competition’s history to boast of a hat-trick of titles.

CK Gyamfi is not C.K Akunnor

Yes. C.K Akunnor is different from C.K Gyamfi. This might sound absurd, an attempt to state the painfully obvious, but many Ghanaians seem to confuse the two personalities. It is hard not to see why people would too; coincidentally, both players had the same recognisable initials; both played professionally in Germany; both served the Black Stars as influential attackers; both even ended up captaining the team too. And oh, both became coaches after their playing careers!

But they are different. So different, in fact, that their playing eras are separated by at least four decades. There was Charles Kumi Gyamfi – who at the height of his powers in the 1950s terrorised defenders and goalkeepers in Ghana and went on to become a celebrated coach through the eventful 1960s. And there is Charles Kwabena Akunnor, a left-footed maestro who captained the Black Stars right after the original maestro Abedi Pele in the 1990s. Akunnor is currently the coach of Ghana Premier League debutants Dreams FC.

Both personalities were great in their own right, but there is no question about who had much a larger impact on Ghana’s football history.

And it’s an irony – and shame - that that one, among the current generation of Ghanaians, remains largely unfamiliar. Or even worse, unknown.

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