Football was introduced in Ghana in the first half of the 15th century by European sailors who regularly docked at the seas port of Cape Coast in the Central Region for purposes of trading with the natives. The early merchants named the country ‘Gold Coast’ because of the enormous resources of gold sought by the ever-increasing stream of white invaders.
Reaching the coast of modern Ghana in 1471, they made settlements along the coast and in 1964, built the present castle at Cape Coast which became the capital and seat of the governor after the country had been colonized by the Britain. Most of the sailors who landed ashore had great passion for football and played with the Governor himself together with other European civil servants stationed at Cape Coast.
At the early stages of the game in the country it was played among the Europeans but it spread to some natives in Cape Coast in 1903. Soon, the bug caught up with students and townfolks alike. The local Government Boys’ School led the way with the formation of a football club comprising 22 students and a few excited youngsters from town, Buoyed by the Headmaster of the school, Mr. Briton from Jamaica in the West Indies, they embarked upon a training course in the art of football.
It was said that enthusiasm and commonsense were their coaches, while Mr. Briton played the role of a Team Manager. They trained mostly at night when the full moon was on to avoid missing classes. The Victoria Park, used as a ceremonial ground for durbars and parades, the same as now was their pitch. The first set of footballs used by the pioneering group was gift from the sailors docking at frequent intervals.
Impressed by their quick progress and heightening love of the game, the football pioneers ordered kits from the United Kingdom. The kit consisted of jerseys with red and yellow stripes, white shorts, socks, football boots and caps. This led to the formation of ‘EXCELSIOR’ (from Latin word ‘Higher’)- the first football club in Ghana.
After three months of intensive training, the happy band of football adventurers received the blessing of the Governor, Sir Frederic Hodgson, himself a keen sportsman, to inaugurate the game officially at the Cape Coast Victoria Park. The first official game was between Excelsior and a European side comprising sailors from a ship that had docked at Cape Coast Port and some European residents in Cape Coast. It is said that even though the game was played outside any existing laws of the game, the crowd was thrilled watching 22 youngsters running and kicking a round object.
Accordingly, the Victoria Durbar ground was lined and marked and with goalposts fixed, the first football pitch was thus created to showcase the two teams poised to introduce the game to the country.
It is of great interest to note that EXCELSIOR, the football minnows, played in football boots in their very first match in sharp contrast to the seasoned Gold Coast team that toured Britain in 1951 to play 10 matches, barefooted, and getting whipped by 10 goals to one in a match played against a team named the Athenian League X1 on 1st September 1951.
Spreading football in Ghana
After nursing the game for only three years, the tyros of football began spreading the game eastwards, planting it at Saltpond and Winneba before reaching Accra. In 1910, a team named Invincible FC, the first football club to be formed in Accra, registered s strong presence at James Town, the hub of Accra.
Provoked by an acute sense of rivalry, the boys at Ussher Fort, a next door neighbor accepted the challenge and 11 players with Ackom Duncan as captain, formed Accra Hearts of Oak on 11th November, 1911- currently the oldest existing club in the country.
In 1914, Captain C.B. Nettey was appointed the first secretary of the club and also became the chairman of the Accra Football Association in the late forties. Several other clubs were formed in Accra during this period namely EXCELSIOR, NEVER MISS, ROYALISTS, OSU PIONEERS, ASTON VILLA, ASIATICS AND ENERGETICS.
Accra Standfast was born out of Energetics which became the closest rivals to Accra Hearts of Oak. However, little squabbles within Accra Standfast led to the creation of Accra Great Olympics in 1954. Soccer rivalry within the city now shifted from Steadfast-Hearts to Hearts-Olympics with the latter organizing its supporters who attended matches with bells.
The spread of the game touched the West and Sekondi/Takoradi embraced it. The formation of a non- departmental team, named Eleven Wise in 1919 marked the beginning of football era in the districts. Teams named Mosquitoes, Western Wanderers, Jerricho, Railway Apprentices and Ga United were some of the great clubs that sprang into existence by the end of the 20 th century.
The year 1925 also saw the birth of Fanti United Football Club which was later renamed ‘Hasaacas’, said to represent initials of its founders which is still surviving. In the same year the District Commissioner, Mr. Sumner Wilson, formed the District Football Association which later developed into the Western Regional Football Association.
The football train moving to Ashanti Region took nearly 20 years to reach Kumasi, the capital. For the first few years of its introduction there, the game did not move beyond the stage of a recreational pastime. In 1922, therefore, there were only two clubs. One named Everton FC sprang up as a recreational club for the Kumasi Roman Catholic Mission School, attaching a brass band to it as a bait to woo spectators.
The second club called Royals FC was sponsored by the Weslyan (Methodist) Mission School. Patronage was strictly based on religion. Incidentally, the practice was that supporters of both teams wore the same jerseys and hose as the teams they supported for easy identification.
To these clubs of leisure was added a more serious one named the Rainbow FC in 1924 which transformed in 1926 into the first all Ashanti Football Club named ‘Ashanti United’, the precursor team of today’s Asante Kotoko.
13 young football enthusiasts of diverse vocations led by Kwasi Kuma, a professional driver and L.Y. Asamoah a private electrician ignited the touch for the ordinary town folks to get onto the wagon.
As the club faced difficulties in mobilizing the youth, with passion for football to strengthen the tottering team, the leaders cleverly resorted to regular picnics in the streets, amidst merry-making, to sustain interest of members and to entice the uninitiated.
By 1929, a lot of clubs had been formed to justify the establishment of a controlling body to regulate the conduct of the game in the region. Leading the pack, were clubs named as Evertons, Royals, Ashanti United, Europeans, Primrose, Nerver Miss, Army Police and Highlanders, a club that targeted mainly the youth in the Zongo communities in the municipality.
Adding to the number in 1931, was Kumasi Cornerstone, formed by mainly migrant Fante Youths at Fante New Town, and located in the central part of Kumasi. And so in 1932, it became a matter of course to inaugurate the Ashanti Regional Football Association as the regulatory authority.
In 1935, Ashanti United, having changed its name twice, first to Kumasi Titanics in 1931 and then to Mighty Atoms but still failed to glitter was taken over by Mr. JSK Frimpong, a teacher at the Kumasi Government Boys’ School, who obtained the permission of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II, to name the club, ‘Asante Kotoko’ with all the trappings of the Ashanti nation on a ceremonial day of ‘Fofie’, Friday 31st August 1935. For this reason, Otumfuo became the spiritual head and life patron of the club.
In other regions, namely the Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Volta and the three Northern Regions, the craze had caught on, like wildfire running through prairies.
International Award Winning Ghanaian Footballers
Ibrahim Sunday, Africa Best Player of the Year, 1971
Robert Mensah, 2nd African Best Player of the Year, 1971
Robert Mensah, African Best Goalkeeper of the Year, 1971
Karim Abdul Razak, African Best Player of the Year, 1978
1979 Adolf Armah 2nd African Best Player of the Year
1983 Opoku Nti 2nd African Best Player of the Year
1991 Abedi Ayew Pele African Best Player of the Year
1991 Abedi Ayew Pele BBC African Player of the Year
1991 Nii Odartey Lamptey FIFA U-17 World Youth Championship
Golden Boot winner
1992 Abedi Ayew Pele African Footballer of the Year
1993 Abedi Ayew Pele African Footballer of the Year
1993 Dan Addo FIFA U-17 World Youth
Championship Golden Boot Winner
1999 Ishmael Addo FIFA U-17 World Youth
Championship Golden Boot Winner
1999 Samuel Osei Kuffour African Footballer of the Year- 1st
2005 Michael Essien African Footballer of the Year- 2 nd
2006 Michael Essien BBC African Footballer of the Year
2007 Michael Essien African Footballer of the Year- 1st Runner up
2009 Asamoah Gyan African Footballer of the Year- 1st Runner up
2009 Dominic Adiyiah FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship Golden Boot/ Golden Ball Winner
2010 Asamoah Gyan BBC African Footballer of the Year
2011 Andre Dede Ayew BBC African Footballer of the Year
2013 Emmanuel Assifuah FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship Golden Boot Award
2013 Clifford Aboagye FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship Bronze Ball Winner
International Award Winning Ghanaian Coaches
C.K. Gyamfi, African Best Coach of the Year, 1982
Sunday Ibrahim, African Best Coach of the Year, 1983
Jones Attuquayefio, African Best Coach of the Year, 2000
Sellas Tetteh, African Best Coach of the Year, 2009
Contributors: Godfred Budu Yeboah
Editors: Kwame Osei