On 11 December, 1983 (Exactly 36 years ago today), Kumasi Asante Kotoko defeated Al Ahly of Egypt by a goal to nil to become champions of the Africa Clubs Champions Cup. The first leg in Cairo ended goalless.
Sunday, 12 December 1982 at the Kumasi Sports stadium, and Sunday, 11 December 1983 at the same venue show two contrasting scenes. Indeed no two scenes can be so dissimilar.
Sunday, 12 December 1982, a sullen, ill tempered crowd streaking out of the Kumasi Sports stadium. Asante Kotoko had failed to lift the Africa Cup of Champions Clubs trophy, losing to Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
Sunday, December 11, 1983 a hysterically jubilant crowd singing to the praises of the Almighty God and to the gods of Ghana.
Asante Kotoko had turned the night of Sunday December 12, 1982 into the day of Sunday, December 11, 1983.
Al Ahly of Egypt, had been dethroned and Asante Kotoko had become the occupants of the coveted continental throne.
There was little between the two highly polished sides until the 21st minute when Egyptian central defender Saleh in an attempt to clear a midfield lob handled and the ball went straight to winger Bannerman.
Algerian referee Hansal gave the advantage by waving play on and as the nimble winger raced with the ball glue to his feet towards the far corner little did any one expect anything good out of it.
But it happened. An intelligent cross was not within the reach of three Egyptian defenders rushing back to defend. But then striker Opoku Nti who had an unusual passive performance, showed the extent to which the champions still rely on him for goal scoring by stretching and shooting past goalkeeper Thabet El -Batal.
The milling crowd at the stadium with about almost the same number who just hang around behind the stadium could not help surging onto the field when the Algerian referee blew his last whistle to mark the end of the tension packed match.
They surged forward and backward in sheer ecstacy as they sang around without actually knowing what they were doing.
In fact the jubilation was so great and emotional that even the security personnel looked on helpless while the crowd did whatever they wanted in the arena.
It took quite sometime before the Kotoko players could be escorted to the dais to receive the trophy from Mrs. Anaa Ennin, Member of the PNDC who represented PNDC Chairman Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings and assisted by Mr. T.Y. Tessema, President of CAF.
The victory immediately set the city of Kumasi and its outlying villages ablaze with wild jubilation. The streets were filled with jubilant crowds.
At the stadium it took a hell of time before the Kotoko players could be driven out as fans besieged their bus to catch a glimpse of all the players who had made them proud while they cheered the beaten Egyptians as they left the stadium.
Asante Kotoko’s recapture of the African Cup on December 11, 1983 was truly historic. Why, it was the first time such a feat had been achieved by a Ghanaian club at home– they were the only Ghanaian to have won the Cup at that time.
But the real makers of history are coach Sunday Ibrahim, captain Papa Arko and Chairman Yaw Bawuah.
Sunday who was voted African footballer of the year in 1971 was the chap who captained Kotoko to win the cup for the first time ever in Kinshasa in January 1971(1970 final) and for him to have come back twelve years later as a coach to win the cup again in his first year as full time coach, makes him a hero.
With the able assistance of his 1971 triumphant African Cup colleague and friend, Malik Jabir, and the full backing of the Bawuah administration, Sunday set down to work. It wasn’t easy.. mistakes were made, disagreements arose sometimes, failure and frustration stared Sunday and his team in the face.
But they never gave up …they persevered in the face of adversity and sometimes downright provocation.
And look at captain Papa Arko, easily the youngest player to captain Kotoko. He took over as acting captain following Opoku Afriyie’s ‘forced’ retirement.
In the midst of controversy and furore, the midfield dynamo rallied the playing body around himself and the management thus braving several nasty storms.
It was in appreciation of this that later in the year he was confirmed captain of the side. Retaining the league trophy in his first year as captain was no mean an achievement but winning the continental honours at the same time put him among soccer’s immortals.
Then was the club boss Yaw Bawuah, the first chairman to take Kotoko to the finals of Africa Cup in his first year and winning it in his second.
In 1982, Bawuah then a keen follower of the club was appointed Executive Chairman of Kotoko, a post Mr Simms Mensah had just relinquished after a four year term.
Mr Bawuah assumed the rather tough task of leading one of the greatest clubs in the country and indeed Africa with youthful dynamism and infectious enthusiasm.
It wasn’t all rosy; with impediments placed in his way both from within and outside the camp. Bawuah’s administration moved on rather jerkily. That the club failed to win the Africa Cup in his first year in office failed to dampen his enthusiasm.
If anything, that closed shave inspired him and his close associates to work even harder
Treading where even angels fear to tread, Yaw Bawuah took some controversial yet bold decisions. He reshuffled his management, dropping a few key members and committing near heresy by retiring the club’s captain and leading figure.. Opoku Afriyie ..and thus inviting the fury and wrath of certain sections of the club’s followers and the sporting press.
Yet, he never relented. Infact, he took one of the wisest decisions by appointing Assad Mallah as Special Adviser and Chief trouble shooter who at the crucial stages of the Africa Cup campaign calmed the rough waters to pave the way for success of which all Kotoko supporters are all proud now.
Kotoko won their first Africa Clubs Champions Cup in 1970 and added that of 1983. To date Kotoko has not been able to repeat this feat again.
Kotoko Line-up: Joe Carr, Ernest Apau, Kwasi Appiah, Seth Ampadu, Addai Kyenkyenhene, Yahya Kasimu, John Bannerman, Papa Arko(Cap), Ebo Mends , Opoku Nti, Isaac Afranie
Subs: Albert Asaase , Francis Agyemang, Akye Erzuah, Ahmed Rockson, Karim Abdul Zito, Akwetey Quaye (Joe Tex)
Coach: Ibrahim Sunday
Team Manager/ Assistant coach: Malik Jabir.
Masseur: Omono Asamoah
Chairman: Yaw Bawuah
Chairman of African Cup Planning Committee :Assad Mallah
Al Ahly Line Up: Thabet El-Batal / Hossam El-Badry / Maher Hammam / Mahmoud Saleh / Osama Orabi / Mohamed Amer / Magdi Abdel Ghani / Taher Abouzaid / Moustafa Abdou / Mahmoud El-Khateeb / Zakaria Nasef / Khaled Gadallah
On this day 11 December 2008(Exactly 11 years ago today) Joseph Agbeko earned a 12-round majority decision over William Gonzalez to retain his International Boxing Federation world bantamweight title at the Prudential Center, New Jersey, US.
The victory enabled Agbeko, a native of Ghana fighting out of the Bronx, to improve his career record to 26-1 with 22 knockouts. Gonzalez, from Managua, Nicaragua, fell to 21-3 overall.
Agbeko took command of the fight from the opening seconds, landing a straight right that stunned and briefly buckled the challenger.
Judge Tom Kaczmarek scored the fight even at 114-114, while Lawrence Layton and Larry Doggette both scored it 116-112 in favor of the champion.
“I thought I deserved a unanimous decision,” Agbeko said. “He gave me good competition, but I clearly beat him. He was a tough fighter, but I was better tonight.”
Gonzalez scored in the fifth round with a left that stunned Agbeko. The champion responded in the sixth with a series of right hands that cut the nose and right eye of Gonzalez.
Gonzalez rallied in the 10th round with a series of short lefts, but Agbeko won the last two rounds on all three cards.
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Judge: Tom Kaczmarek 114-114
Judge: Larry Layton 116-112
Judge: Larry Doggett 116-112
Referee: Albert Earl Brown
Blows by Versus: Agbeko 287/815 39%, Gonzalez 299/915 33%. Both boxers used power blows with few jabs.
On this day 11 December 1981(Exactly 38 years ago today) In his 61st and last fight, Muhammad Ali lost to Trevor Berbick by unanimous decision at Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, Nassau, Bahamas
Ali said he wanted to fight WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver. “I should beat Berbick easy just moving and sticking,” he said. “Then I’ll beat Weaver, and then I’ll probably quit. To beat Weaver at age 40 and be champion a fourth time and then retire would be all right.”
Berbick entered the fight as the Canadian and Commonwealth heavyweight champion, as well as the WBA’s fourth-ranked heavyweight contender.
The fight was actually close for seven rounds, with Berbick missing enough to make it competitive and interesting. Ali jabbed and delivered his harmless rights, and Berbick tattooed Ali’s ribs when the three-time champion tried to hold on.
But over the last three rounds, Berbick dominated, causing one to wonder what would have happened to Ali had he been in with a truly exceptional fighter. Larry Holmes demolished Ali and marked his once unblemished face even though he tempered his fight plan with underlying caution and unnecessary respect.
Berbick, not one-fifth the fighter Holmes is, walked right through Ali yet couldn’t drive in a single telling blow.
The decision was unanimous. Judge Alonzo Butler of the Bahamas scored it 97-94 for Berbick, and judges Clyde Gray of Canada and Jay Edson of Florida agreed, both voting 99-94. International Boxing had it a bit closer, tabbing Berbick the winner, 96-94.”
Trevor Berbick: “Early on, I was hitting him on the chin to try to take him out of his misery. I didn’t want to hurt him. I just wanted to throw enough punches to win. I made the fight. If not for me, there wouldn’t have been a fight. It would have been a waltz.”
Muhammad Ali: “I think I’m too old. I was slow. I was weak. Nothing but Father Time. The things I wanted to do, I couldn’t do. I was doing my best. I did good for a 39-year-old. I think I’m finished. I know it’s the end. I’m not crazy. After Holmes, I had excuses. I was too light. Didn’t breathe right. No excuses this time. I’m happy. I’m still pretty. I could have a black eye. Broken teeth. Split lips. I think I came out all right for an old man.”
By the end of his boxing career Ali had absorbed 200,000 hits.
STORIES: GEORGE MAHAMAH