What Size Soccer Ball Used In World Cup Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

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Ghana Life: Sport in Kumasi in the 1970s

Four-time winners of the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana is seen globally as one of Africa’s preeminent sporting nations. Within Ghana, Asante Kotoka is one of the most famous football teams and a multi-time national champion. However, in Kumasi in the 1970s it should be noted that, apart from football, there was very little evidence of popular interest in sport. Arguably, of all the world games that had been brought to Africa, only football had captured the imagination of the Ghanaian public.

While the little boys could be seen in every part of the open ground, kicking a batted ball or a bundle of rags, their sisters played a traditional children’s game called ampe. This pastime involves two players facing each other and jumping in place, advancing one foot in sync with the opponent to win a point. Thus it was left to the fair sex to preserve something of the pre-colonial sports scene. The only apparently indigenous boys’ game that could be observed consisted of tying a cockroach to a long sewing thread and watching its circular flight. It was not investigated whether this involved a race based on the number of circuits to exhaustion.

Apart from a famous football ground, Kumasi also possessed a horse racing track. Casual events were well attended and betting seemed to be popular, but the ‘sport of kings’ was far from universally popular. Another relic of the colonial times was the Kumasi Golf Course, called ‘golf park’ by the locals. This was frequented by an elite group of expatriate and local businessmen, held together by a core of banks and breweries. For other traces of colonial sports the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology had to be visited.

In 1971, the 3rd 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 troops entered Kumasi for two days of recreation. They challenged the university to a game of rugby. A keen expatriate lecturer from Wales quickly assembled a team of other British expatriates and a sergeant major from the Ghanaian Army, who begged to be involved. The small half of Wales glanced at the tall soldier and said ‘yes please’. Unfortunately, the giant had never played rugby before and it soon became clear that the out-of-shape academics were no match for the hardened jungle warriors.

The university’s Senior Staff Club possessed several sports facilities such as badminton and tennis courts and a full-sized pool/snooker table. Tennis and badminton flourished from time to time due to the involvement of expatriate enthusiasts who kept up the activity throughout their term of service. Unfortunately, the departure of foreign participants usually resulted in the abandonment of facilities, and this fate also befell the university’s Olympic swimming pool and the stables of its Horse Association. Only snooker seemed immune to dependence on expatriate involvement, and a visiting British professional expressed the view that a future Ghanaian champion could emerge to challenge the dominance of Europe and Asia.

Towards the end of the decade, domestic interest in football peaked when in 1978 Ghana hosted the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Some of the matches were played in Kumasi where the stadium had been extensively rebuilt and modernized in time for the event. The citizens were proud to be at the center of continental and world interest and the whole city was infected with football fever. Sadly, several citizens lost their lives when they were crushed against the new heavy iron gates as the crowd pushed their way out of the stadium after one of the matches. Had they survived, the victims would have rejoiced with their countrymen for Ghana’s victory in the final in Accra, in which they beat Uganda by two goals to nil.

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