By: Kwaku Oduro
Ghana Football legend, Rev. Osei Kofi has revealed that Ghana qualified for the 1966 World Cup but the nation was denied the chance when Africa dramatically boycotted the 1966 finals.
He told Sports24online that “at the time, we [Ghana Black Stars] were back-to-back African champions, having won in 1963 and 1965 and by virtue of winning the 1965 AFCON we were supposed to have represented Africa at the World Cup in England in 1966”.
In January 1964, Fifa decided that the line-up for the 16-team finals would include 10 teams from Europe, including hosts England, four from Latin America and one from the Central American and Caribbean region.
That left just one place to be fought for by three continents: Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Within a month, Ghana’s Director of Sports Ohene Djan, who was also a member of Fifa’s Executive Committee and a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was crying foul and Kwame Nkrumah, the president of Ghana then, who wanted to use football to unite Africa, told his appointee Djan to do whatever was necessary to put African football on the world map.
The late Ohene Djan and an Ethiopian called Tessema Yidnekatchew then assembled a convincing argument why the Fifa decision, which Tessema labelled “a mockery of economics, politics and geography”, was so unfair.
Rev. Osei Kofi also indicated a BBC reporter in England came to Ghana in 2016 to his [Rev. Osei Kofi] residence in Kasoa for more information and since he knew what exactly transpired, confirmed that, but for the Africa boycott he would have played for Ghana in the 1966 World Cup.
Our search on BBC on also revealed part of the copy of the memo CAF wrote to FIFA warning of a potential boycott and a memo in which FIFA rejected Africa’s demands leading to the boycott.
The legacy of Ohene Djan and Tessema Yidnekatchew lives on, as today, Africa has five places at the 32-team World Cup and briefly, when South Africa became the first African country to host in 2010, once had six.