Today in history: Real Republikans formed

January 23, 2020

On this day, 23 January 1961 (Exactly 59 years ago today), the First Director of Sports of Ghana at the Central Organisation of Sports , Mr Ohene Djan announced the formation of Osagyefo’s model football club Real Republikans.

Never before in the history of Ghana football had a method used in the formation of a Club provoked so much bitterness and misgiving as the inception of the Real Republikan Sporting Club.

The formation of the Club were marked by interminable and unremitting chains of controversy, manoeuvre and counter -manoeuvre and unrest.

At this stage, it would be useful to recapitulate the events that led to the emergence of the Club.

On June 12, 1960, in a message to the Annual Conference of the Ghana Amateur Football Association at Ho in the Volta Region, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah hinted at the formation of a model Club. Among other things, Osagyefo said :

“My interest in soccer is so keen that I propose, in the near future, to encourage the formation of a model football club which will offer leadership and inspiration to football clubs in the country.

“This club shall be known as ‘Ghana Republikans ‘ to commemorate the launching of your Three-Year Development Plan in the year of our Republic.

“I need not to remind you that football is now in the forefront of Ghana . It is in fact our national game”.

And the Director of Sports, Mr Ohene Djan, at once set about to translate Osagyefo’s dream into reality.

He promptly conferred with the delegates of all the leading clubs at the Accra Sports Stadium.

According to the Sports Director, certain vital details were resolved and the delegates gave their blessing to the scheme.

And soon, like a flash, a decision was positively thrust on the football set-up.

Announcing the formation of the Club at a press conference in Accra on January 23, 1961, Mr Ohene Djan said that in Osagyefo’s memorable message to the annual general conference of the former Ghana Amateur Football Association the previous year, he intimated his intention to found a model football club to offer leadership and inspiration to other clubs in the country.

“But conditions governing the formation of clubs in the country have sharply changed ever since and our illustrious Kwame, the beloved friend and leader of Ghana sportsmen and women, who is famous for his adaptability, has changed with the time and fitted his intentions admirably into the new approach to sports; he said

Mr Ohene Djan said the Republikan Sporting Club would fully participate in all programmes for activities arranged by the Central Organisation of for League Clubs., starting from that year.

Osagyefo felt, Mr Ohene Djan went on, that this model Club through dedicated training, decipline of the highest order, loyalty actuated by genuine sense of patriotism, and sound and efficient club administration, would set the pattern for club development in Ghana.

Membership of the Republikan Sporting Club would be by invitation and all members of the club “will lose membership of their various clubs with effect from today (23/1/61), Mr Djan pointed out.

Subsequently, the following players were selected by Mr Ohene Djan to form the nucleus of the Republikan Club; Dogo Moro, Baba Yara (Kotoko), Addo Odametey, Ofei Dodoo (Hearts), Edward Acquah, Cromwell (Eleven Wise), Emmanuel Oblitey, Dodoo Ankrah (Great Olympics), George Appiah , Frank Crentsil (Sekondi Independence), Kwadwo Appiah, Joe Aikins (Cornerstones), J. K. Thompson of Cape Coast, Y. Boateng of Accra, Osei Kwasi of Kumasi, Edusei of Achimota School and all members of the Real Ghana Group.

The threats of boycott and bitter controversy assailed the formation of the Club and leading the rumpus were Asante Kotoko. Purloining soccer stars who had been carefully picked, groomed, trained, and whom money had been generously expended by their clubs not their idea of equity and decency.

Asante Kotoko felt that the drafting of stalwarts like Dogo Moro and Baba Yara, the very fabric of their efficiency and popularity would be in serious jeopardy.

Kotoko consequently threatened to discontinue further participation in the national League, contending that the methods employed by the Director of Sports were prejudicial to the stability of the clubs.

To them, it was carefully -woven plot calculated to suit the whims of fancies of one man — Ohene Djan.

Other clubs supported Kotoko morally and, even though they were not ready for a unanimous showdown with the Central Organisation of Sports, the bitterness and resentment were still there.

In the absence of a joint action by the clubs, it soon became apparent that the controversy was a straight affair.

Asante Kotoko v. C. O. S.

But strong man that he is, Mr Ohene Djan on March 14, 1961,threatened that he would refuse to recognise Asante Kotoko, disband it and sponsor a new League club if by mid-day on Friday, March 17, Kotoko had not registered to take part in the national soccer League.

Asante Kotoko stuck to their guns. They would not yield to intimidation and they refused to budge.

To Asante Kotoko, not only was this act most unprecedented but it was also fantastic.

The case of Kotoko seemed to have been summed up by an editorial in the Ashanti pioneer of March 17, 1961, headed “The Republikan Sporting Club. “

“By the time this leader reaches the public, the ’72-hour ultimatum ‘ issued upon the Asante Kotoko Sporting Club by the Central Organisation of Sports will have long passed off.

“And so, probably, if the Kotoko Club did not live up to the injunctions of the ultimatum, it should now be considered as having forfeited its sporting rights and liberties in so far as the Central Organisation of Sports is concerned.

“We are not authorities on the administration of Sports in the Republic of Ghana. But this much we know perfectly well. That is, when the President of the Republic of Ghana issued the relevant directive to director of Sports in the country, he did not give even an outline of who and what the Republikan Club should comprise.

“The presidential directive, which we consider as being broadly democratic, was left at that. And so, to our commonsense, it was a directive that was to to be carried out within the clean and broad atmosphere of democracy.

“That is why we think the Central Organisation of Sports — or, is it the Director of Sports? — has completely gone off the rail by snatching the star players of the long established and leading clubs to form the Republikan Club.

“If the C. O. S. and the Director of Sports had wished to go about this matter in the true spirit of the president’s directive, they should have gone wider afield to seek new world. They should have selected very young, smart and hardy lads for the Republikan Club. In other words, they should have left completely alone, any player –whether star or moon or sun or whatever they call him – of the old brigades!

“In the first place, the natural fact is that such a club of young virile lads would provide the nation with players who stand the doubtless chance of very many years of useful service because of their age.

“In second place, the current violent controversy raging around and over the nation’s Central Organisation of Sports would not have arisen.

“In the third place, the entirely new club would have found its solid foundation on sound democratic directive of the President.

“In the present circumstances, what we see is that the Central Organisation of Sports has hawn down the main planks of the old clubs and carried them away to build up its Republikan Club.

“And does this not mean that, in the consideration of the C. O. S. and the Director, the old clubs which, as it were, have been robbed of their live-wires could go hang?

“This is not only undemocratic, but sheer injustice!

And the new club the C. O. S. intentended to form to replace the Ashanti national club was KUMASI KUMAPIM.

Contacts were made with amazing rapidity and ingenuity and the junior clubs of Kumasi – Evergreens, Highlanders and Dynamos —were supposed to form an amalgamated unit and to be call themselves, Kumapim.

A club like this, rising from the ashes of nothingness and with a background of public distaste and bitterness, was bound to fail in its mission.

It would need a very popular soccer figure who had sufficiently identified himself with the soccer populace of the Ashantis and, more especially, with the Kumasi fans and this Sports Director Ohene Djan understood very well.

The mantle thus fell on popular bull – dozer Wilberforce Mfum and he was to be appointed the captain of Kumasi Kumapim.

A club like this, rising from the ashes of nothingness and with a background of public distaste and bitterness, was bound to fail in its mission.

It would need a very popular soccer figure who had sufficiently identified himself with the soccer populace of the Ashantis and, more especially, with the Kumasi fans and this Sports Director Ohene Djan understood very well.

The mantle thus fell on popular bull – dozer Wilberforce Mfum and he was to be appointed the captain of Kumasi Kumapim.

Mfum was in Accra for national assignment and he was rushed to Kumasi abundantly equipped with boots, jerseys and funds.

Kumapim were due to play Kumasi Cornerstones in Kumasi on March 19, 1961. But the little voice and might of Mfum could not persuade his determined colleagues. Tried as he did, he utterly failed in his mission.

The confusing situation got worse confounded when another leading football club, Kumasi Cornerstones also threatened to follow the footsteps of Asante Kotoko —by boycotting the national League.

Their chairman, Mr. S. K. Danso, had issued a statement to this effect, arguing that their condition was not against the formation of the model Club but rather they against the “poaching” of individual star players from the clubs without consultation.

Mr Danso further pointed out that Osagyefo did not state categorically that star players should be picked from the leading clubs to form Republikans.

He went on: “Republikans should not be formed at the expense of those clubs which have sacrificed so much to see their players blossom into such great heights. “

In short, he wondered why the Sports Director could not start from the scratch.

Already, Cornerstones’ set of jerseys could not be traced and it was considered as a sign of non– cooperation from their Executive.

But Ohene Djan supplied a new set of jerseys to their captain, Kwame Appiah, when he called to inform him about the missing jerseys, and Ohene Djan assured Appiah of any aid from the police on the day they were due to meet Kumapim.

It was indeed a clash between defiance and determination on the other hand and power and officialdom on the other.

However, the match between Kumapim and Cornerstones scheduled for March 19, was wisely called off by the then Regional Commissioner, Mr Owusu Afriyie, because it was feared that there might be fighting among the supporters of Kotoko and the newly formed Kumapim.

The following report dated March 20, and published by a Kumasi representative of the Daily Graphic vividly portrays the feeling in the Garden City.

Tension was high in Kumasi at the week-end following the announcement that the Central Organisation of Sports had withdrawn its recognition of the Asante Kotoko Sporting Club, and that the new Kumapim Club was substituting for Kotoko in this year’s national football League.

“And the League match between Cornerstones and the new Kumasi Kumapim Sporting Club, scheduled for yesterday, had to be postponed to Wednesday as a result “special intervention ” by Mr. Owusu Afriyie, Regional Commissioner for Ashanti.

“Mr A. E. Sampson, manager of Kumasi Sports Stadium, told the Graphic that the Regional Commissioner told him judging from the tension in Kumasi he would not recommend that the match should be played.

“The Commissioner later met Sampson, Mr J. K. Senya, Regional Sports Organiser for Ashanti and Mr Kwame Frimpong, chairman of the Kotoko Club at his residence to find a solution to the crisis”.

On the following day, about 3,000 members, supporters and sympathisers of Asante Kotoko met at the Jackson Park, Kumasi, and passed “an unflinching vote of confidence in the Chairman, Kwame Frimpong, and his officials.

They also resolved NOT TO TAKE PART in the League until Ohene Djan “sees eye to eye with us.“
Tension, indeed, was soaring high and the future of C. O. S. was being seriously challenged.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Kwame Frimpong said amidst cheers that the only person who could intervene in the dispute between them and Mr Ohene Djan was Osagyefo the President.

He added that the Club would leave no stone unturned until President Nkrumah had heard their voice.

“We want the public to understand that our controversy with Ohene Djan is that the Central Organisation of Sports is without constitution and club representation and, therefore, cannot be said that it is a democratic organisation. It is one- man affair,” said Frimpong.

“Instead of Ohene Djan admitting his fault and setting his house in order, he goes on aggravating the situation by threats of expulsion.“

“You all know that I have never in my private life been charged with lack of courage. Cowardice, if it is a word of action, is not in my dictionary of action.”

He said he gained no material benefit from football and served his country in several other ways than being chairman of Asante Kotoko.

“But“, he said, “the pages of history are replete with examples of men who have fought and sometimes died for a cause or a principle. That is how I conceive the present situation,“ he ended, amidst thunderous applause.

The following day, 21st March, the Ghanaian Times in an editorial headed “Ghana Football” also had this and among other things to say:

“The football dispute has been allowed to drift to the stage which now calls for hard words. And for this, we lay the blame firmly and squarely on the shoulders of Mr Ohene Djan, Director of Sports.

“Mr Djan has apparently been so obsessed with the mania of authority that he has closed his eyes to the need for all men in positions of responsibility to show tact and good sense in their relations with others.

“The result of this unbridled show of power drunkenness has been the creation in Kumasi of a tension which has evoked from the regional commissioner the warning of a ‘serious conflict that will transcend the confines of sport’.”

Another offshoot of this has been to bring to question the golden idea of Osagyefo the President that model Club be formed to offer leadership and inspiration to other clubs in the country.

“Neither of this can be viewed with anything less than serious apprehension. Mr Ohene Djan perhaps forgets that in a world so closely intertwined, the little slips in sports can have boundless repercussions in other spheres of life.

“He forgets too that Osagyefo who gave him the authority to preside over the organisation of sports is the first advocate of the use of tact and an understanding of human relations.

“Osagyefo has constantly advised his ministers of State and other political functionaries that might or force, at their best, only has temporary values and that the requirement of our age is persuasion.

“This deep feeling of Osagyefo is highlighted by the principle of democratic centralism which has guided the actions of his Party and Government.

On March 16, a number of Republikan players were reported to have declared their support for any movement which subordinated the interest of individual clubs to that of the nation.

They declared: “We are proud to serve the needs of the national team more effectively and constructively through the Republikan Sporting Club.“

They also contented that as amateur players their transfer depended on their individual willingness that their former clubs had no right whatsoever to obstruct their transfers.

They finally congratulated Osagyefo the President “for having encouraged the formation of the model Club.”

Among the signatories were Edward Acquah, E. Oblitey, Baba Yara, Joe Aikins, Dogo Moro, Frank Crentsil, Ofei Dodoo, Addo Odametey, Kojo Appiah, Cromwell and Dodoo Ankrah.

Also, Kumasi Cornerstones in a resolution signed by the regular prayers and addressed to the Director of Sports, said:

“Be it resolved and it is hereby resolved that we completely disassociate ourselves from the trouble being manufactured in sports circle in Kumasi and declare our faith in and willingness to participate in the 1961/62 League fixtures”.

But, at last, the Government’s wise counsel poured oil on the troubled waters. On Wednesday, March 29, 1961, a statement issued by the Minister of Education, Mr A. J. Dowuona-Hammond, after an overnight cabinet meeting, said the players constituting the Republikans were “entirely free to revert to their former clubs if they so desired.”

The statement said the Government adopted the view that the formation of the Republikan Club was “an essential step in the soccer development of Ghana, and it should continue to play in the League.“

“However, the Republikan Club will participate in the League on non -competitive basis, that is, the club will play regularly in the League to enable the players to keep fit, but at the end of the League the points scored by the model Club will not count in determining the championship.”

Competing on the Government’s decision, the Ghanaian Times again in an editorial of March 30,1961, headed “Wise Solution”, wrote among other things:

“The Government of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah has taken the wisest possible step towards an amicable solution of the problems created by the formation of the Ghana Republikan Club. While recognising the desirability of the Republikans, the Government has decided that all the players be given the option to return to their clubs and, further, that the club should only participate in the League on a non-scoring basis.

“This is a commendable compromise which should please both the Asante Kotoko, whose persistent objection the methods employed in the formation of the Ghana Republikans created the present dispute, and the Central Organisation of Sports who have been given the backing for their model Club.

Some players of the Republikan Club, probably taking advantage of the Government statement, some few months later, left the Republikan Club for their former clubs and other clubs. They were : Dogo Moro, Cromwell and Joe Aikins.

However, although Asante Kotoko decided to join the National League consequent upon the compromise reached with the Minister of Education, another controversy soon gripped the two camps.

The Director of Sports ordered that Kotoko should adopt Nkawkaw as their home groundll. Kotoko viewed this as not only an insult but a deliberate hardship to the Club. The Director of Sports later announced on July 3 that Asante Kotoko would resume the second round of the League at Kumasi.

Welcoming the news, Mr Frimpong said: “Quite apart from the fact that many soccer fans in Kumasi and Ashanti generally are happy about Kotoko’s return to Kumasi as their home ground, we at Asante Kotoko Sporting Club have always held the opinion that it would be in the interest of the C. O. S. for Kotoko, which is by far the most popular and respected team in Ghana, to play in Kumasi because of the high proceeds to be realised from the gate.”

He added: “Whether Ohene Djan likes it or not he has to accept the principle that Ghana football cannot do without Asante Kotoko. “

This then explains how the controversial Real Republikans came to join the comity of National League clubs and, more relevantly, their impact on the history of Asante Kotoko.

 

STORY: GEORGE MAHAMAH


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