By Ken Bediako
Last week’s premier league fixture involving Kpandu Heart of Lions and Accra Hearts of Oak scheduled for Sogakope that was cancelled due to floods in the River Volta basin, quickly reminded me of the 1968 countrywide floods that resulted in the entire abridgement of a whole national football league that season amidst confusion and disbelief.
A statement issued by the GFA working Committee and signed by chairman H.P. Nyemitei said, the league has been abridged in view of the present deplorable conditions of our roads and the unpredictable nature of the rains which have rendered travelling to league centres almost impossible”.
Indeed on August 25 Kumasi Asante Kotoko had been stranded on their way to Ho for their league match against Sunset. The flooding of River Anum at Mile 26, near Konongo, had rendered the Kumasi-Accra highway impassable.
The GFA however came under heavy criticism for bridging the league and were accused of inconsistency. This is because the association had earlier on publicly told the world in a statement it was determined to complete the league in order to pick a champion for Africa on merit.
Just before the Black Stars departure for the 1968 Mexico Oympiad, the GFA said it had given special dispensation to Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, each of which had more than four players in the Black Stars team. The two clubs were given the option to continue the league on competitive basis or stay out until the return of the Black Stsrs from Mexico when they could clear their outstanding natches.
The football public considered this arrangement bogus and the GFA came under heavy attack nationwide.
Cape Coast Venomous Vipers were the most vocal. Club chairman Kwame Akuoko Sarpong (now Omanhene of Agogo) issued a statement saying the GFA should by then have been able to develop a means to make it necessary to subordinate its local programme to its international engagements. The abridgement does not reflect the true championship form of the club so declared” the statement added.
The 1967-68 league will go down in history as the longest and most complicated and yet could not see a successful end. Remakably it was supervised by two different GFA chairmen, Nana Fredua Mensah for the first round and H.P. Nyemitei
for the second round.
Football historians say all this hullabaloo came about most probably because it was the first league to be organised after the landmark Armed Forces and Police coup detat that toppled Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s perceived dictatorial regime that also resulted in the dismissal of Sports Director Ohene Djan and the loss of his powerful grip on sports administration. No wonder there were calls from all parts of the country to widen the scope of the league.
In the wake of this new so called wind of change blowing across the country, almost every district wanted to have a representative in the national league.
This desire led to six more clubs being admitted for the total to jump back to 20 clubs.
They were Tema Hurricanes, Accra Standfast, Agona Fankobaah, Ho Mighty Eagles,Akim United and Ho Sunset.
Intriguingly there was no team from the Norhern Region
With this massive increase coupled With too many interested people trying to control the game, administrative problems cropped up. As the saying goes “too many cooks spoil the broth” and so it wasn’t surprising the tournament faced numerous problems and had to be suspended after the first round in March 1968 with Kotoko comfortably leading with 33 points followed by Great Olympics with 29 points
Nana Fredua Mensah, a traditional chief of Bekwai Ashanti and former roitballer had replaced H. P. Nyemitei as GFA chairman after the Osagyefo Coup. Though appointed by the government it was obvious he did not yield the kind of enormous powers Ohene Djan had. The politics this time round preached democracy. It was soon realised that Ghana might not meet the CAF deadline to submit a club for Africa and so a way should be found to solve the problem.
A special competition was organised and Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs emerged champions to represent Ghana in Africa. The rigmarole however continued and Mr HP Nyemitei, who had been the GFA chairman from 1966-67, was appointed to replace Nana Fredua Mensah and he announced the resumption of the league on July 14 after that long spell from March 13. And so for the third consecutive season, the league was abridged. This was on Sept 30 and there were nine more matches to end the competition.Once again Assnte Kotoko were declared champions. They say history does repeat itself in football.
With the looming floods from the River Volta making life uncomfortable for both the living and the dead the question is whither are we drifting.?
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.