Kwame Nkrumah, Football And Liberation
Gerardo Lara – FLAF Américas
There is a nation that stands out in history for seeking a way to unify efforts thanks to collective work. Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah, a visionary who found in football the perfect way to connect the social fabric that the game is capable of creating.
Colonialism brought football to those it considered an inferior race, the practice of the game then allowed the interaction between Europeans and Africans who saw a fight with political sense on the pitch. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that results can be achieved thanks to good organization, without the aid of any outside force.
For Nkrumah the masses of the African peoples were crying for unity. From that came the rise of pan-Africanism, whose objective is to achieve the union of the African people. It became the engine of the struggle in the countries that achieved independence thanks to popular unity. That just cause would be fought on the pitch and in the streets.
The new movement in Ghana was based on the organization and creation of the People’s Convention Party (1949), it expressed the demands of the Ghanaian people. Ghanaians were fed up being Britain’s backyard, a precious mine of raw materials, an extension of the market and exploitation while the resources and profits obtained financed the development of the “first world”.
Two years later the first triumph came when general elections were called, the Nkrumah party won the election, but they disagreed with the 1951 constitution that represented only slight change and did not tackle the real problems of the country. Because they oppose the new constitution, Nkrumah and his comrades are arrested, but later released in February of the same year.
They persisted with the struggle, and on March 6, 1957, Ghana was the first country in so-called ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ to achieve independence. One of the first measures was to affiliate the country’s football team to FIFA. Nicknamed the “Black Stars”, the Ghana team was the representation of Nkrumah’s dream. The liberation of Ghana made no sense if it did not break the chains from the rest of the African continent and their national team paved the way for solidarity and self-determination.
By 1963, different editions of the African Cup of Nations had already been played with the Egyptian team having become the historic first champions of Africa in 1957. Now it was the turn of the Black Stars who already had a good record in high rank matches against clubs or national teams from other countries. For example, they drew against the European club champions, Real Madrid and performed well in a worthy defeat against the already twice world champions of the Italian National team. These results increased the confidence of the Black Stars.
Ghana, as a growing country, would host the Africa Cup of Nations (CAF) that year and they would not miss the opportunity to give their people one more joyous moment in history. The road to victory began with a draw against Tunisia, later they beat the Ethiopian team by 2-0 and qualified directly for their first final in history. The total number of participating nations was 6.
The final, with a huge crowd, was played on December 1, 1963 with the Accra Sports Stadium as the scenario for Ghana vs Sudan. The Black Stars fought for every last centimeter of the pitch and the support of their people was answered with a final score of 3-0.
This national football team taught the world that with work and dedication comes the will to succeed. This sense of determination also became a driving force of rebellion across continent. The example of football and collective work that is capable of writing a new history, conscious and consistent with the values that our football, the people’s game, promotes.
Working class unity, solidarity, respect, pride and identity are the key to continue advancing in this game against the system.