Ghanaian football faithful and sports enthusiasts have been hit heavily, after waking up to hear of the death of the legendary footballer and coach, C.K Gyamfi on Wednesday morning. Arguably the greatest coach in the history of African football passed on at age 85 at the Cocoa Clinic in Accra, following almost a decade of battling with a stroke.
Charles Kumi is remembered as the first coach in the anal of African football to win the African Cup of Nations on three occasions, before Hassan Shehata of Egypt equaled that enviable feat in 2010.
Early life and education
He was born in Accra to the late Nana Kumi Bredo I, chief of Okorasi in the Akwapim Traditional Area and the late Diana Dodoowa Dodoo from Accra in 1929. He is left behind a wife, Madam Valerie Quartey Gyamfi, a former national tennis player and eight sons who are all gainfully employed in Europe and America.
He spent his very early life in the Eastern region, before returning to Accra, his place of birth in 1944 and due to his prowess at football, he was admitted to Accra Royal School at the time when admission had closed and there was indeed no vacancy.
His favourite position was number 9.
CK has long been known for his achievements from the dugout, but unknown to many, he was equally as good on the pitch. His talent shown as early as when he was a seven-year-old playing with the senior team of his school. With his talent in hot demand, he would later represent Accra Great Argonauts, Koforidua Sailors Football Club, Accra Standfast, Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs as well as both of Ghana’s two traditional giants, Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak.
Charles Kumi Gyamfi began playing football when he enrolled at the Junior School at Okorasi in 1936 and when C.K as he was popularly known in football cycles got enrolled at the Accra Royal School in 1944, he became a regular feature in their school team at a very tender age.
In one of such matches for his school team, he was spotted by officials of Noble Arrics, the junior team of Great Argonauts and was persuaded to play his first club football for the Accra team.
When he completed school in 1947, C K moved to Koforidua in the Eastern Region and took up a job with A G Leventis. Anxious to continue playing football, he joined the local Sailors Football Club in 1948 and after excelling in a match against Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, at Koforidua, he was persuaded to join Dwarfs which was a much bigger club than Sailors.
Early in 1949, C K played for Dwarfs against Kumasi Asante Kotoko at the Old Fadama Park in Accra and his exploits compelled Kotoko officials to seek his services. Thus, he moved to Kumasi in1949 and worked for CFAO, while playing for Kotoko.
Through the instrumentality of C K, Mr. De Graft Dickson who was then the chairman of Kotoko bought boots for the entire Kotoko team but most of the players refused to use them and when they finally did, they played so badly that Kotoko lost the match.
He was sacked from from Kotoko after organising a group of Kotoko players to play a friendly game in 1954.
Gyamfi, following his dismissal from Kotoko formed his own club, Gt. Ashantis. This team is defunct, but are remembered for playing in FA Cup final during the early stages of the competition.
Hearts of Oak
C.K Gyamfi returned to Accra and played for Accra Hearts of Oak in 1956where he chalked many successes with the club, including winning the Tate and Lyle and the League Cups in 1958.
Playing days with the Black Stars
Whiles at Kotoko he played alongside national team players and actually earned his first cap in 1950. In 1951, CK travelled with the Gold Coast XI team that toured England and Ireland. On the tour, the barefooted, Gold Coast team scored a total of 25 goals and C K accounted for 11 of them.
Move to Germany
After playing for the national team against the visiting Fortuna Dusseldorf team from Germany, the German team offered C K the opportunity to play professional football in Germany. In his debut, he scored a goal for the German team and the fans soon nicknamed him “Tunda Vita” which means Thunder Weather due to his shooting power.
His professional career was short lived as he was called back home in 1961 to help in shaping the Black Stars. C K became the assistant national coach, helping Hungarian Joseph Ember. In 1962 Ember left and the mantle fell on C K to prepare the Black Stars for the African Cup of Nations, which the country was to host the following year.
In June 1962, CK was sponsored to go and study the training methods of Brazil’s National team – a team including the game’s greats such as Pele, Garrincha and Didi, who had won two World Cups. Ghana’s football top hierarchy wanted to know what the Brazilians had done to become so beautifully dominant. They wanted in on some success too.
His first major test was the Uhuru Cup in Kampala to usher in Uganda’s independence and the competition featured Kenya, a team from England and the host nation Uganda.
C.K Gyamfi guided Ghana to their maiden triumph in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1963 as host and again masterminded another victory for Ghana in 1965, by beating host nation Tunisia 3-2 in the final.
He missed the football scene after the military take over of government in 1966 and surfaced only in 1972 when he was appointed by CAF to manage the African XI in a tournament in Brazil which involved Japan, Argentina, France and Italy.
At the end of the tournament he joined GIHOC and developed a soccer team, which became a fearful side in the country.
In 1981 he went to Brazil for a refresher course and returned to take the Black Star to the Cup of African Nations (CAN) in Libya in 1982. He won his hat trick of African titles at this tournament edging the host Nation Libya on a penalty shootout to enable Ghana to become the first country to win the competition on penalties.
After his triumph in Libya, C K sojourned to Somalia to take up appointment with the Municipal Club and guided them to their first league title in 1983 and repeated the dose the following year. Impressed by his performance, the Somali Federation put him in charge of their Youth Team for the African Under 21 competition. Though the team lost narrowly, 0-1 to Nigeria in Lagos after eliminating Kenya, C K was commended for developing the team.
Love of adventure and challenges took him to Kenya from Somalia and he soon announced his arrival by steering the Leopards to win the league title. Despite his success in Kenya, patriotism compelled C K to return to Ghana in 1991 with the intention of coaching the Black Stars for Senegal 1992.
Unfortunately, those who were in charge of appointing the national coach preferred Burkhard Ziesse to the treble African champion who was rather made the head of the technical directorate of Ghana Football Association. During his time as the technical director he made a controversial call by striping Kwesi Appiah of his captaincy position to Abedi Pele’s favour prior to the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations, with the reason that Abedi could speak the two widely spoken official languages on the African continent, that is French and English and that most of the referees and nations involves were from Francophone countries.
Goldfield (Now Ashgold)
C.K Gyamfi took charge of Obuasi Goldfields and supervised the team to win the first professional league in Ghana in 1993.
CAF and FIFA appointments
He retired from active coaching after the league triumph with Goldfields and was appointed a CAF Technical Instructor in 1994. He also served on the FIFA Technical Committee from 1998 to 2002.
In 1999, the people of Okorasi in appreciation of CK’s contribution to social mobility and in conformity with his royal status enstooled him a chief with the stool name of Nana Gyamfi Kumi I.
The government named the Winneba Sports College after Charles Kumi Gyamfi, (now known as Nana Kumi Gyamfi I) former captain and coach of the Black Stars in recognition of his contribution to the development of football in the country. Below is the profile of the soccer legend
In 1951, when the Black Stars team returned to Ghana, C K and E C Bryant decided to play in football boots and they introduced the boots in Ashanti and the Southern Gold Coast respectively, thus copying the players of Excelsior, the all-European team that was based at Cape Coast.
He is one of the only two coaches to win the African Cup of Nations three times.
C.K Gyamfi captained and coached the Black Stars, becoming the first person to do so and was recently matched by James Kwesi Appiah.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.