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AFCON Archives 1960s: Ghana’s Black Stars do the double

In this edition of AFCON Archives, the weekly deep dive into the history of Africa’s continental football tournament, we look back on the triumphant Ghana teams of 1963 and 1965.

AFCON Archives 1957: Egypt triumphant, South Africa sidelined

Few were more excited by these victories than the nation’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. What, then, was Nkrumah’s fascination with the beautiful game?

Nkrumah was lauded as the Osagyefo (“Redeemer”) / Evening News, October 6th, 1962 (Accra, Ghana)

Ghana, previously known as the Gold Coast, achieved independence from Britain in 1957 with Nkrumah as its political leader.

When the Ghanaian Republic was declared three years later, the charismatic Pan-Africanist was named its first president. Sports, but especially football, then played a central role in a presidency which lasted until 1966, when Nkrumah’s increasingly authoritarian government was overthrown by General Ankrah.

Throughout his presidency, Nkrumah had stressed Ghana’s leading role in a continental convergence and viewed sports as an important tool in cultivating this African unity.

Evening News, 14th September 1962 (Accra, Ghana)

Benjamin Koufie, former Black Star and deputy head coach during the 1965 AFCON, recalls his president’s Pan-African concept of sport.

“Kwame Nkrumah used football to reach the whole of the continent, so he wanted to make sure that the Black Stars of Ghana were a shining example.”

As Ghana’s first two forays in the tournament culminated in victory, these were political as well as sporting triumphs.


The 1963 AFCON was expanded to include six teams, whereas previous editions had featured either three or four.

Ghana played host for their AFCON debut, with rivals Nigeria also making their first appearance.

Embed from Getty Images

The rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria lives on today

The Black Stars’ campaign kicked-off with a 1-1 draw against Tunisia, followed by a 2-0 win over Ethiopia in their second and final group game.

Ethiopia then defeated Tunisia 4-2, securing Ghana’s place in the final.

Nigeria, meanwhile, had a torrid time in Group B, leaking ten goals across two defeats to the United Arab Republic and Sudan, who progressed to the final on goal difference.

An AFCON final now awaited the debutant Black Stars.

In front of an expectant home crowd, an Edward Acquah brace powered the Black Stars to a 3-0 win over Sudan.

Two years later, Ghana travelled to Tunisia to defend their crown.

The 1965 edition once again featured a six nation roster, including debutants Senegal, Congo-Léopoldville, and Ivory Coast.

The Black Stars made light work of the group, netting nine goals in two games to set up a final with the host nation.

Ghana took a first-half lead at the Stade Chedly Zouiten, but a Tunisia fightback left them trailing 2-1 after 67 minutes played.

The Black Stars then equalised through Osei Kofi, netting his third goal of the tournament to make him its joint top-scorer.

The final whistle called time on a 2-2 stalemate but as extra-time beckoned Ghana’s Frank Odoi answered its call, netting the winning goal six minutes into the additional period.

The double was complete. The Evening News captured the celebratory mood under the headline “1965: A Great Year for Ghana Sports.”

Evening News January 7th, 1966 (Accra, Ghana)

These victories were part of a wider story, though.

Just ask Charles Kumi Gyamfi, coach of the 1963 squad:

“It was only kicking the ball as such but we were doing politics with it. Wherever we go and we were playing a game and we were being beaten, you found your team-mates and you look at their faces and you say ‘what are we doing. What are we going to tell Kwame Nkrumah.’”

Nkrumah’s Sporting Project

Ghana’s moniker – the Black Stars – invokes the Black Star shipping line through which Pan-African icon Marcus Garvey challenged global economic imbalances. It was chosen by Nkrumah, signalling his fusion of Pan-Africanism and sport.

In the decade after independence, this sporting vision inspired Nkrumah to pioneer several African sporting competitions.

Awarding the African Gold Cup to a victorious Ghana in April 1960, he underlined the Pan-African fundaments of such competitions.

“I selected and donated this cup not for its intrinsic value, but rather because it is symbolic of the sound foundation upon which we can build the unity of West Africa.”

Pan-African ideas even permeated club football, with Nkrumah founding the African Club Championships in 1964.

Evening News, January 29th, 1963 (Accra, Ghana)

His pre-final address was summarised in a February 1965 edition of Accra’s Evening News. Once again, he stressed the Pan-African meanings of the sporting contest.

Evening News February 8th, 1965 (Accra, Ghana)

Nkrumah also hoped to influence post-colonial global politics through football.

The president encouraged sports minister Ohene Djan to lead Africa’s boycott of the 1966 World Cup after FIFA assigned the continent a singular, shared qualifying spot with Asia.

He also repeatedly stressed his desire for the national team to announce African excellence on the world stage.

In 1962, Real Madrid were invited to play the Black Stars in Ghana. To Nkrumah’s delight, Los Blancos, who had won five consecutive European cups between 1956 and 1960, were held to a 3-3 stalemate.

In the pages of the Evening News, the president sounded his approval. “I am certain that the Black Stars have compelled the soccer world to acknowledge the fact that a new soccer force has arisen along the West Coast of Africa,” he declared.

Evening News Tuesday, August 21st, 1962 (Accra, Ghana)

Two years later, the paper was making this point even more emphatically.

“We have shaken ourselves from the adamantine chains and it is our duty and right to prove to them that the African, when given the chance, can rise to the occasion.”

Evening News, Friday July 17th, 1964 (Accra, Ghana)


Nkrumah’s vision of sporting excellence had been realised, but this alone could not sustain his regime.

He was overthrown by General Ankrah in 1966 amidst rising discontent with his regime’s authoritarian impulses.

Ghana would reach the next AFCON final in 1968. This time, a second-placed finish offered confirmation of sporting decline and mismanagement. Ankrah, judged by the standards of his predecessor, was attacked for his sporting apathy.

“During the latest Africa Cup Competition the Congolese government promised the Congolese players with cars… no wonder the Congolese won the cup from Ghana,” complained the Evening News in July 1968.

The loss was especially painful because it came at the teeth of the Leopards of Congo-Kinshasa, a country in the midst of its own sporting ascendency. For more on that story, tune into next week’s AFCON Archives…

You can read the full AFCON Archives collection here.


  • Jonny Coffey

    Jonny Coffey, 21, is a London-based sports journalist focusing on football. Fascinated by tactics, Coffey is famed for his introduction of inverted full backs to the second division of Cambridge college football, and his admiration for Carlo Ancelotti’s eyebrows. A lifelong Arsenal fan, his interest in analysing wing play is a thinly-veiled ploy to rave about Bukayo Saka.