On this day 24 March 1963 (Exactly 56 years ago) The Republican Club suffered a misfortune with tragic consequences. The players were returning from Kpandu after a League match with relegated – bound Volta Heroes when the bus in which they were traveling ran into a ditch, as a result of which Baba Yara, the “King of Wingers” sustained a spine injury.
Eyewitness accounts said the 23-seater bus skidded off the road in a curve on a slippery road and hit an embankment. Yara, seated near the door, was thrown out of the bus and he might have been trampled by his colleagues in the stampede to get out of the bus.
Twelve other players, Agyeman Gyau, Kofi Pare, E. C. Oblitey, Dodoo Ankrah, Shitta, Edward Boateng, Carl Lokko, William Gibirine, Otto Odametey, S. Y. Tetteh, Salifu Musa and Dodoo Quartey sustained slight injuries. They were taken to Ho Hospital from where they were flown to the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. Most of them were discharged within a few days.
Yara, accompanied by Dr R. O. Addae, surgical specialist from the 37 Military Hospital was flown to England where he was treated at the famous Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
A week later, La Ronde Night Club, a popular joint in Accra, presented Yara’s wife, Patience, with an air ticket to visit her husband in the UK. Interestingly, the return ticket had been won by Yara two weeks before the accident when he was chosen the best dressed gentleman in a competition organized by the night club.
Initial reports from Stoke Mandeville Hospital said there was the possibility of the colourful football star ‘gaining a reasonable recovery within a period of four to six months’. This was not to happen and on August 14 1963 , Yara returned home in a wheelchair. After a quiet life, the ‘King of Wingers’ died on May 5, 1969.
It is really unfortunate that a great player of his type could have his colourful soccer career cut short by the awful catastrophe. There is no doubt that Yara left an indelible mark in the annals of Ghana football, and will forever be remembered as one of the cleverest players to lace on a pair of football boots. Think of Yara as he traps the ball, his “quartz”round eyes surveying the field. Think of him as he finally dashes forth controlling the ball as if glued to his feet, swerving and twisting around defenders, leaving them chasing his shadow and finally sending of that pinpointed pass to center. His wonderful displays of soccer artistry was the most fascinating thing you could think of in Ghana football during the days when he was active on the field.
His name alone pulled the crowd and he was one of the select few who gave the impression that our football had reached an implacable standard.
Yara, for many years, was closely identified with Asante Kotoko. Before he was picked to join the Republican Club, he was Kotoko’s captain. Even on his sick bed, he still retained affection for his mother club.
On 25 March, 1963, Asante Kotoko sent the Republikan Club the following letter over the signature of their Patron, Mr B. K. Edusei.
“On behalf of the executives and members of the Asante Kotoko Sporting Club, I have to sympathise with you for the misfortune suffered by our brothers the ‘Real Republicans’ as a result of an accident encountered on the Kpandu /Kpeve road on Sunday, March 24,1963, which has been greatly felt by all members and supporters of our Club. Please convey to them our sympathy and we wish the victims speedy recovery.
“A cheque for twenty – five guineas is forwarded herewith to be utilized for provisions and other comforts for the victims “.
By George ‘Alan Green’ Mahamah