On this day 30 March 1958 (Exactly 61 years ago) Asante Kotoko made history by winning the inaugural edition of the Ghana FA Cup after beating Accra Hearts of Oak 4-2 in the Aspro Cup final at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Hearts, playing a brilliant game in the first half, scored two quick goals but poor finishing on their part in the second half enabled Kotoko to come from behind to win the trophy.
THE 1958 NATIONAL CUP
The year 1958 began with the most popular knockout competition, the “Aspro Cup ” championship. The coveted trophy donated by Messrs Aspro- Nicholas Limited and the winner was also to enjoy the accolade of “Champion of Champions “.
In the “Aspro Cup” preliminary rounds, both Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of were forced to a replay. Hearts were lucky to draw with Accra Great Olympics in their first match, but they came back in sparkling form to win the replay 2-0.
After that they just walked through Cape Coast Dwarfs 6-0.
Kotoko had an uneventful first round in Kumasi in which they beat Cornerstones 4-2 , but like Hearts they ran into trouble when they met Sekondi Hasaacas in the Semi-Finals in which they escaped by a fortuitous draw — thanks to James Adjei who scored a glorious equaliser; making it one all.
Referee Frank Mills who handled the match allowed twenty extra minutes but neither side was able to score the winning goal.
Ohene Djan, then chairman of the Ghana Amateur Football Association, said after the match that a replay would be arranged in either Kumasi or Accra. But Sekondi Hasaacas objected to playing in Kumasi again or in Accra. They maintained, and quite logically, that the replay should be on their own grounds.
Later, in a statement made by Ohene Djan, he stated that ” Sekondi is the automatic venue for the replay between Hasaacas and Kotoko”.
“We were trying to alter this for purely financial reasons knowing that the “Aspro Cup ” competition is to raise funds for the employment of a coach. But Hasaacas have quite legitimately insisted upon their ‘pound of flesh ‘. It is their entitlement and I accordingly confirm that the replay will take place at Sekondi “.
The replay found Kotoko in a sort of devastating form and they went through a startling ease by beating Hasaacas 6 – 2 . Salisu scored a hat-trick, with a brace from Adarkwa and a one from Baba Yara.
And so the Cup Final day came on 30th March, 1958.
It drew a large crowds because people had been starved of a competitive football for a long time. The scene at the Accra Sports Stadium was that of a mammoth victory rally. The stadium drowned in a sea of heads studded with wondering eyes to see the end of the “Aspro Cup “. And they were all satisfied : each according to as he paid to see Kotoko and Hearts of Oak.
Weeks before the match, it was the household topic. “Kotoko shall be victorious “, thousands chanted but they nearly swallowed their words when for good forty -five minutes during the first half of the match, Kotoko had no answer to the delightful and classic football demonstrated by the eleven heroes “with hearts as brave as an old oak”.
And as they sat, the thousands who backed Kotoko kept their fingers crossed, mouths shut and eyes glued to the playing field. They were wet with anxious fear. The loyalty of a few flagged. They thought the ship was sinking, and they began to desert it
Nana Yaw, who had gone to the Sports Stadium in his Kotoko uniform – red and white cap had this to say “As for me I came here to see clean and neat football and I don’t support either team”. But when Kotoko equalised, he was the first man to jump from his seat and throw his cap away in wild joy.
But Hearts were just being tantalised, two goals in the lead.
Baba Yara, Salisu and Asebi Boakye, who played the greatest game in their life, put their heads together and half an hour, they pulled out four rich goals to which they jealously and steadfastly clung to the end. Kotoko 4 – 2 Hearts
Here ace – writer, Kofi Badu, tells the story of Kotoko’s historic victory.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, DRINK TO THE TOAST OF KUMASI ASANTE KOTOKO, CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS, 1958!
“Yes, indeed, they are…. on this devastating form they showed beating Accra Hearts of Oak 4 – 2 in the “Aspro Cup ” Final at the Accra Sports Stadium yesterday.
“This was a Cup Final with everything in it… from modern crisp pass to the age – long high, long kick. It even had that rough, manly touch, not counting the cranky little tricks that went unnoticed by the tubby referee.
“Hearts lost by a margin of two goals… and it could well have been three goals had the referee not ruled out a Salisu goal which I thought was a perfect goal. But don’t please get off with the idea that they were beaten with their hands tied down. They offered great resistance. They seemed to have the game cut and dry with a two – minute blitz in which they led 2 – 0. Their forwards combined effectively. But absent was that fighting spirit in adversity, that steadiness of defence and, to a great extent, that capable goalkeeping you need to become the CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS.
“A feeling of excitement and expectancy ran through the sea of heads that filled every space in the 25,000 capacity stadium as, first, Hearts and Kotoko came trotting to the field. A brief knocking about, introduction to the national coach George Ainsley and the stage was set for the most dramatic match of the year. The kick-off and it was Kotoko feeling its way through, playing on the right where Baba Yara and Asebi Boakye were dominant.
“Two minutes gone, Hearts were defiantly the better side. Their moves were better planned and better operated. Insides Agyiri Fynn and Amadu Akuse combined nicely and Ofei Dodoo’s constant raids down the right wing threatened the Kotoko defence which held on gallantly.
” Ten minutes from the start, Hearts missed an open goal when Agyiri -Fynn, all alone with only goalkeeper Baffoe to beat, panicked and allowed the goalkeeper to dive into his feet and collect the ball. Two minutes later, a beautiful pass from Ofei Dodoo just missed Gyamfi but left winger Rafiu trapped it, feinted to beat Moro, put the ball ahead for Agyiri Fynn whose left footed drive just missed the net. Hearts were obviously on top at this stage and all the Kotoko supporters could thank themselves for the superb defensive work of center half Moro Gago. A short glance at the watch told me it was 4:31 p.m. Hearts attacking powerfully, had swamped all over Kotoko and Gyamfi from the left wing hit the inside of the cross bar with a hard shot. The ball bounced back into the crowded area. Baffoe fell trying to gather it and after a series of shot passes, Ofei Dodoo slammed the ball into the goal. Hearts one goal up and the start of the four minutes of tense drama in which three goals were scored. 4:33 p. — a long clearance by Addo Odametey brought another goalmouth scramble. Gyamfi collected the ball, feinted and, in a flash, banged it into the net.
“HEARTS TWO GOALS UP.
“4:35 p. m. —Kotoko, undismayed, attached strongly and forced a corner kick. Adu Darku headed away the kick, well taken by Kobina Badu but Salisu trapped it and with a first time shot put the ball at the back of the net.
Hearts 2 – 1 Kotoko, and you couldn’t have heard a hydrogen bomb explosion!
“Inspired by this, Kotoko continued to attack but soon they were pressed down by strong tackling by halves Addo Odametey and Adu Darku. Gyamfi, injured in a tackle, was limping on the left wing but there was still enough strength in the Hearts attack to give the Kotoko defence some anxious moments.
“As the whistle went for half time with Hearts still holding their 2 – 1 , fans wondered what the stage would be like. Could Hearts keep up their splendid display in the first half or would they melt under the usual Kotoko fighting finish.
“It did not take long to decide the second half. Just two minutes from resumption of play and, unfortunately, it took a penalty , barely given for accidentally handling, to break up all that Hearts had and gave Kotoko a firm grip of the game.Baba Yara gave goalkeeper Addoquaye Laryea no chance with a dynamic, low kick to pull level at two-all. Kotoko pilled on the pressure and Hearts’ attacks were limited to some spasmodic bursts. One of these looked dangerous when Gyamfi went through from the right wing but Moro Gago with a strong effort, dispossessed him of the ball. Kotoko came back strongly. Half back Opoku Mensah and Kobina Badu backed up the attack and Baba Yara went all over the field scheming. From another goalmouth scramble, Asebi Boakye drove a hard shot straight at goalkeeper Addoquaye Laryea. He failed to gather and the ball bounced his chest in to play. Baba Yara running on, failed to get it but inside left Kwakye was there, just in time to put his team 3 – 2 ahead
“Kotoko, with victory in sight, played clever, confident football but Hearts made two strong efforts to pull the nuts out of the blazing fire. Once Odametey made a 60-yard solo run, baffled the defence and shot hard at goal. Kwao Baffoe, displaying magnificent goalkeeping, saved it. Five minutes later, he made two almost superlative saves when Ofei Dodoo went all out for goals. \
” The score remained static until three minutes to closing time when another Kotoko attack, developed from the centre circle, finished with Asebi Boakye beating Addoquaye Laryea with a low shot.
“Four goals to two and Hearts, courageously though they fought , had been well and truly beaten. It was a superb match, worthy of the tremendous support given to it and victory came to the deserving team”.
This was the first match watched by Mr George Ainsley, a former Leeds United foward, who had been appointed Ghana National Coach. Ainsley said after the match that he was hugely impressed with the Kotoko boys. “For they possess strength, running, power, stamina and general kicking ability “. He said they displayed better team work and high level of clear intelligent thinking at all levels. He added that with concentrated coaching the future of soccer in Ghana would be very bright.
There are some memories of the match which brought Kotoko’s first ever Cup success, which will never fade. Before the match Excutives and the players of Kotoko, led by Mr Atta Mensah, paid a courtesy call on Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Dr Kwame Nkrumah told the players that sportsmanship on the field was of more value than goal scoring, and presented them with five guineas.
Two days before the match, Kotoko issued a statement that they had decided to charter a plane to fly their team to Accra. The Club’s plan was for the team to arrive at Accra Airport at 2:30 p. m., relax at a nearby hotel and drive straight to the stadium. This news shot interest in this match to the skies. The decision did not materialise, but strange to relate, at 3 p. m. there was the instruction by the American airship which passed over the Stadium during its cruise round Africa. And to the thousands of Kotoko supporters the roar of the plane over the pitch was an indication that the players had arrived from Kumasi, and the crowd went mad with joy.
A week after the historic match, April 6, Kotoko celebrated their victory in the “Aspro Cup ” final by thrashing Cape Coast Vipers 6 – 2 at the Jackson Park in Kumasi.
The Ghanaian Times called it a “wonderful performance “. G.. A. Sekyere, reporting for the Times, said in reference to Kotoko : “Theirs was a mature exhibition of pure football that cut poor Vipers to ribbons to the tune of of six goals to two and reduced them to the status of a selling platter that has strayed by mischance into classic company. This was football indeed”.
Kotoko still celebrated their victory, on April 28, beat Accra Great Olympics by 4 -1 at the Jackson Park, Kumasi.
By George ‘Alan Green’ Mahamah