Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2013
The nationalistic fervour that greeted Ghana's performances in the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa powerfully evoked memories of an earlier period in the history of the Ghanaian state that witnessed Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana, draw on the game as a rallying point for nation-building and pan-African unity. This article uncovers this history by analysing Nkrumah's overt politicisation of football in the late colonial and immediate postcolonial periods. This study not only makes a novel contribution to the growing historical and social scientific literature on what is arguably Africa's most pervasive popular cultural form but also deepens our understanding of one of the continent's most significant political figures.
1 Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty in the last minute of extra time in their quarter-final against Uruguay that would have seen Ghana win the game. Ghana went on to lose the penalty shoot-out.
2 Bonna, Cited in O., Ghana, the Rediscovered Soccer Might: Watch Out World! (Philadelphia, PA, 2006)Google Scholar.
3 Field notes, 28 Aug. 2010.
4 See, for example, Birmingham, D., Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism (Athens, OH, 1998)Google Scholar; Bretton, H. L., The Rise and Fall of Kwame Nkrumah: A Study of Personal Rule in Africa (London, 1967)Google Scholar; Milne, J., Kwame Nkrumah: The Conakry Years – His Life and Letters (London, 1990)Google Scholar; Sherwood, M., Kwame Nkrumah: The Years Abroad, 1935–1947 (Accra-Legon, 1996)Google Scholar; Smertin, Y., Kwame Nkrumah (New York, 1987)Google Scholar; Rooney, D. D., Kwame Nkrumah: The Political Kingdom in the Third World (London, 1988)Google Scholar.
5 Darby, P., Africa, Football and FIFA: Politics, Colonialism and Resistance (London, 2002)Google Scholar.
6 This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-2617).
8 See, for example, Scotch, N. A., ‘Magic, sorcery, and football among urban Zulu: a case of reinterpretation under acculturation’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 5:1 (1961), 70–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Clignet, R. and Stark, M., ‘Modernisation and football in Cameroun’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 12:3 (1974), 409–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
9 There have been a number of notable journalistic accounts of African football: see Auf der Heyde, P., Has Anybody Got a Whistle?: A Football Reporter in Africa (Manchester, 2002)Google Scholar; Bloomfield, S., Africa United: How Football Explains Africa (Edinburgh, 2010)Google Scholar; Broere, M. and van der Drift, R., Football Africa! (Oxford, 1997)Google Scholar; Hawkey, I., Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of African Football (London, 2009)Google Scholar; Ricci, F. M., Elephants, Lions and Eagles: A Journey Through African Football (London, 2008)Google Scholar; Versi, A., Football in Africa (London, 1986)Google Scholar.
10 Darby, Africa, Football and FIFA; Armstrong, G., and Giulianotti, R., Football in Africa: Conflict, Conciliation and Community (Basingstoke, UK, 2004)Google Scholar; Alegi, P., African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game (Athens, OH, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alegi, P., Laduma!: Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa, From its Origins to 2010 (Scottsville, South Africa, 2004)Google Scholar.
12 Fair, L., ‘Kickin' it: leisure, politics and football in colonial Zanzibar, 1900s–1950s’, Africa, 67:2 (1997), 224–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ndee, H., ‘Sport, culture and society from an African perspective: a study in historical revisionism’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 13:2 (1996), 192–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Boer, W., ‘Football, mobilization and protest: Nnamdi Azikiwe and the goodwill tours of World War II’, Lagos Historical Review, 6 (2006), 39–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
13 Rosbrook-Thompson, J. and Armstrong, G., ‘Fields and visions: the “African Personality” and Ghanaian soccer’, Du Bois Review, 7:2 (2010), 293–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fridy, K. S. and Brobbey, V., ‘Win the match and vote for me: the politicisation of Ghana's Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko football clubs’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 47:1 (2009), 19–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar The former locates Nkrumah's use of football in the projection of the ‘African Personality’ within a broader analysis of the migration of young Ghanaian soccer talent and the management of the Ghanaian game in contemporary times. The latter touches briefly on Nkrumah's employment of domestic and international football competitions to promote an ideological agenda of national unity, patriotic consciousness, and pan-African solidarity in order to set the scene for a social history of the rivalry between Ghana's two most prominent clubs, Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko.
15 Vidacs, B., ‘Through the prism of sports: why should Africanists study sports?’, Afrika Spectum, 41:3 (2006), 337Google Scholar.
16 Vasili, P., The First Black Footballer – Arthur Wharton, 1865–1930: An Absence of Memory (New York, 1998)Google Scholar.
18 Hawkey, Feet of the Chameleon.
22 Quarcoopome, S. S., ‘A history of urban development of Accra, 1877–1957’, Institute of African Studies Research Review, 9:1–2 (1993), 20–32Google Scholar.
23 Fridy and Brobbey, ‘Win the match’.
24 J. S. Parker, ‘Ga state and society in early colonial Accra, 1860s–1920s’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1995).
28 Allman, J. M., The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana (Madison, 1993)Google Scholar.
29 Bediako, K., The National Soccer League of Ghana: The Full Story, 1956–1995 (Accra, 1995)Google Scholar.
31 Bediako, K., Black Stars: The Long Road to Greatness: A Photographic Documentation of Ghana's Football History (Tema, Ghana, 2010)Google Scholar; Kwateng, Asante Kotoko F. C.
32 Vasili, P., Colouring Over the White Line: The History of Black Footballers in Britain (Edinburgh, 2000), 73Google Scholar.
34 The Gold Coast at this time was divided into four disparate entities: a coastal colony, a conquered kingdom (Asante), a northern protectorate (Northern Territories), and a United Nations trust territory (Volta region).
35 Birmingham, Kwame Nkrumah.
38 Meredith, M., The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (London, 2006)Google Scholar.
40 For Asante federalists, this manifested itself in the political domain as evidenced in what was considered an inequitable allocation of seats in the Gold Coast's Legislative Assembly following the 1951 and 1954 elections. Allman, ‘The youngmen and the porcupine’; Rathbone, R., ‘Kwame Nkrumah and the chiefs: the fate of “natural rulers” under nationalist governments’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 10:1 (2000), 45–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
41 Bediako, National Soccer League.
42 Birmingham, Kwame Nkrumah.
44 Darby, Africa, Football and FIFA; Alegi, African Soccerscapes; Ndee, ‘Sport, culture and society’; Fair, ‘Kickin’ it’.
45 Stuart, O., ‘The lions stir: football in African society’, in Wagg, S. (ed.), Giving the Game Away: Football, Politics and Culture on Five Continents (London, 1995), 34Google Scholar.
46 Akyeampong, ‘Bukom and the social history of boxing’.
47 Boer, ‘Football, mobilization and protest’.
48 Alegi, African Soccerscapes.
49 Bediako, Black Stars.
50 Nkrumah, K. cited in James, C. L. R., Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (London, 1977), 118Google Scholar.
51 Evening News (Accra), 29 Jan. 1960; Alegi, African Soccerscapes.
52 Vasili, Colouring Over the White Line.
53 Mazrui, Cited in A. A. and Tidy, M., Nationalism and New States in Africa from about 1935 to the Present (Nairobi, 1984), 40Google Scholar.
54 Nkrumah had been heavily involved in the pan-African movement long before Ghana's independence. Whilst a student in England, he served as the joint organising secretary of the Fifth pan-African Congress held in Manchester in 1945 that did so much to revive pan-Africanism, intellectually and politically. Nkrumah subsequently served as general secretary for a working group on pan-Africanism that was established following the Manchester congress and chaired by W. E. B. Du Bois. Shortly before he was invited back to Ghana by the organisers of the United Gold Coast Convention, he had joined a group of fellow committed students in The Circle that was comprised of only the most ardent supporters of pan-Africanism. Nkrumah, K., Africa Must Unite (London, 1963)Google Scholar; Olaosebikan, A. J., ‘Kwame Nkrumah and the proposed African common government’, African Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 5:5 (2011), 218–28Google Scholar.
55 Broere and van der Drift, Football Africa!, 83–5. In January 1957, Matthews had been gifted a symbolic stool of chieftainship of the Gold Coast from Accra Hearts of Oak. West African Pilot (Lagos), 18 Jan. 1957, 4.
56 Bediako, National Soccer League.
57 The teams were Hearts of Oak and Great Olympics from Accra, Asante Kotoko and Cornerstones from Kumasi, Hasaacas and Eleven Wise from Sekondi, and Mysterious Dwarks and Venomous Vipers from Cape Coast. Ibid. The national league was complimented by the Aspro Cup, the first nation-wide knock out competition that was inaugurated in the same season. Kwateng, Asante Kotoko F. C.
58 Versi, Football in Africa.
60 Hawkey, Feet of the Chameleon.
61 Cited in ‘Africa Kicks – Part One’, BBC World Service, 8 Jan. 2009, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2010/01/100108_africa_kicks_one.shtml>, accessed 10 Jan. 2009.
62 ‘There is no choice left, our boys must win’, Evening News (Accra), 30 Jan. 1960.
63 ‘All eyes focused on Ghana’, Evening News (Accra), 29 Jan. 1960.
64 Evening News (Accra), 8 Feb. 1960.
65 Evening News (Accra), 20 Feb. 1960.
66 Cited in Obeng, S., Selected Speeches of Kwame Nkrumah, Vol. 1 (Accra, 1997), 29–30Google Scholar.
67 Goldblatt, The Ball is Round; H. D. Chipande, ‘Introduction and development of competitive football in Zambia (1930–1969): a historical perspective’, (unpublished MSc thesis, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, 2009).
68 Cited in The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 13 Jan. 1962.
69 Bediako, Black Stars; Evening News (Accra), 16 May 1960; The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 3 May 1962.
70 M. Morozov, ‘Red footballers: story of Russian tour of Mali, Guinea, Ghana’, West African Pilot (Lagos), 9 Jan. 1962.
71 The Black Stars played 12 matches during the course of their 42- day tour, winning eight games, drawing one and losing three. K. Obeng, ‘The sporting youth salute the party’, The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 13 June 1964; Hawkey, Feet of the Chameleon; Goldblatt, The Ball is Round.
72 Versi, Football in Africa; Obeng, ‘The sporting youth’.
73 Evening News (Accra), 28 Jan. 1960. The placement was arranged during Fortuna Düsseldorf's three-match tour of Ghana in 1959.
74 Cited in ‘Africa kicks’.
75 ‘13 meet Kwame Nkrumah with cup’, The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 3 Dec. 1963. Nkrumah was often referred to as ‘Osagyefo,’ which translated as ‘victor in war’, but was more loosely taken to mean ‘the redeemer’.
76 Versi, Football in Africa, 75.
77 W. Kwateng, ‘Africa's glory matters most in Tokyo’, The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 19 June 1964.
78 Evening News (Accra), 4 Apr. 1960.
79 Cited in The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 25 Nov. 1963.
80 Darby, ‘Football, colonial doctrine’.
81 Fédération Internationale de Football Association Archives, Zurich (FIFA) Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), Circular Letter to FIFA From the CAF Executive Committee, 21 Aug. 1964.
82 FIFA ‘Minutes of the XXXIVth Ordinary Congress’, Tokyo, 8 Oct. 1964.
84 Personal Communication to Dr Helmut Kaiser from Mourad Fahmy, 16 Aug. 1965.
86 FIFA, Minutes of the XXXVth Ordinary Congress, London, 8 July 1966.
87 Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite; Birmingham, Kwame Nkrumah.
88 The club celebrated its one-year anniversary in March 1962, an occasion that was marked by Nkrumah gifting six live sheep to the club's assistant manager B. B. Bismarck. The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 8 Mar. 1962.
89 E. Quansah, ‘The fall of a soccer empire’, West Africa: Special Edition (March 1990), 36.
90 Bediako, National Soccer League.
91 Interview with former Real Republikans player, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, Accra, 20 Jan. 2009.
93 Meredith, The State of Africa.
94 Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite.
95 Bediako, National Soccer League.
96 Ibid. Yankey went on to head Ghana's Special Intelligence Unit, founded in 1963 to monitor anti-government dissent.
97 Fridy and Brobbey, ‘Win the match’. Interview with C. J. Attuquayefio.
98 Nkrumah himself was moved to publicly criticise those who led the attempted ‘coup’. ‘Stop this rowdyism and hooliganism. It does not pay’, Evening News (Accra), 20 May 1960.
99 Bediako, National Soccer League.
100 The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 11 Jan. 1963.
101 Kwateng, Asante Kotoko F. C.
102 The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 3 Oct. 1963.
103 The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 25 Nov.1963.
104 Cited in Versi, Football in Africa, 33.
105 J. Aggrey, ‘Visitors ready’, The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 24 Oct. 1965. The match was dubbed the ‘OAU Match’ in the Ghanaian press.
106 Obeng, ‘The sporting youth’.
107 The Ghanaian Times (Accra), 30 Nov. 1965.
108 Meredith, The State of Africa; Agbodeka, F., An Economic History of Ghana from the Earliest Times (Accra, 1992)Google Scholar.
110 Interview with C. J. Attuquayefio.
111 Kwateng, Asante Kotoko F. C.
112 Bediako, Black Stars. General Ankrah is pictured in this publication shaking hands with Kotoko's Wilberforce Mfum prior to one of their games.
113 Kwateng, , Asante Kotoko F. C.
114 Bediako, Black Stars.
115 Prior to Ghana's hosting of the 1978 African Cup of Nations, General Ignatius Acheampong and a tournament organising committee dominated by the military government invested heavily in the preparation of the Black Stars, a move that bore fruit with a third continental title for Ghana. In 1982, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings welcomed the Black Stars in person when they touched down in Accra following their fourth African Cup of Nations title. A year later, Rawlings decorated the Asante Kotoko squad with medals following their first African Champions Clubs Cup success. Goldblatt, The Ball is Round; Bediako, Black Stars.
116 Ghana Soccer Net, ‘Ghana President Atta Mills Congratulates the Black Stars’, 16 Feb. 2012, <http://www.ghanasoccernet.com/ghana-president-atta-mills-congratulates-black-stars/>, accessed 26 Mar. 2012.