“Miracle of El Wak” - 1977 . . . Accra Hearts-of-Oak vrs Mufulira Wanderers

Last week could doubtlessly, be described as a “Football-Week” in Ghana. The termination of the appointments of the Black Stars head-coach and his two assistants made headline news! This sent me down memory lane.

In the mid-1980s when I arrived in Canada, the first African I met on campus as I offloaded my boxes from the taxi was Henry. Henry was from Zambia and in the second-year of the same Masters’ programme I had been admitted for.

Mufulira Wanderers

As we had dinner that evening, Henry out of the blues, shot at me saying,

“You Ghanaians, you like football too much! You even cry when you lose a match! What is wrong with you? Is football a religion in Ghana?”

As I wondered the basis for his claim, Henry went on to explain that in October 1977, he watched the first-leg of the African Club Championship semi-finals between Zambian champions Mufulira Wanderers and Ghana’s Accra Hearts-of-Oak in Zambia! After the Zambians had beaten the Ghanaians by 5-2, Henry said he saw some Ghanaian supporters crying! He asked himself “how on earth can adults cry because they lost a football match?”

“Miracle of El Wak”

The return-match two weeks later was on 6 November 1977 at the El Wak Sports Stadium, Accra. Having lost by 5-2 in Zambia, Hearts-of-Oak had the seemingly impossible task of winning by 3-0.

After a goal-less first half, Hearts-of-Oak’s “fearsome-five” of Mohammed Polo, Peter Lamptey, Anas Seidu, Robert Hammond and Adolph Armah, cheered on by their fanatical supporters, moved into higher gear! In the 59th minute, Anas broke the deadlock by shooting Hearts into the lead scoring the opening goal. Peter Lamptey’s second goal shook El Wak as the crowd cheered wildly.

However, with five minutes to full-time, Hearts led by 2-0, not enough to qualify them for the finals. Then in the 88th minute, Anas Seidu rocked the stadium again with the third goal to qualify Hearts on the away-goals rule, hence the “Miracle of El Wak!”

Now, to the Black Stars!

Black Stars

“Four-times African champions,” was what we prided ourselves with until the last victory in 1982. Now, Egypt has won it seven times and Cameroons five times.

Having won it the first time in 1963 under skipper Aggrey-Fynn with Mr Ohene-Gyan as the Director of Sports, Ghana again won it in 1965 under captain Addo-Odametey. Then young (Rev) Osei Kofi was part of the 1965 squad and so was the Kotoko mid-fielder Kwame Nti. So versatile and ubiquitous was Kwame Nti that, a commentator’s description of him on the field as

“Kwame-Nti here, Kwame-Nti there, Kwame-Nti everywhere” entered Ghanaian football parlance!


Next-year 2022, it will be forty years since Ghana won the African Cup! Why? What have we successfully failed to do so well that, we have not been able to correct it in forty years. I have difficulty subscribing to the “NATO (No-Action, Talk-Only)” theory so easily given for our failures. If we know talking, and not acting, is the cause of the forty-year drought of winning the African Cup, why have we not corrected it? People are paid to think out solutions, not explain failures!

I concede I am not a Football/Sports Administrator and therefore will humbly defer to those learned in that field.

Zambian Tragedy-1993

In 1993, the Zambian National Football team was to play Senegal in a FIFA qualification for the 1994 World Cup. The Zambian Air Force plane on which they were travelling had a stop-over in Libreville, Gabon to refuel. Soon after take-off, the aircraft plunged into the sea killing everybody.

From the ashes of the 1993 tragedy, the 2012 African Cup Finals hosted by Gabon and Equatorial-Guinea, saw the Zambian team, Chipolopolo rebound like a phoenix, emerging champions of Africa beating the favorites Ghana, Senegal and Ivory-Coast.

Way Forward

As a foreign General told me in the early 1970s during my cadet training outside, Ghana abounds with talents in all fields. In football we proved it in the early 1960s to 1982. So, what went wrong, and why have we not corrected it in forty years?

During the over-forty years that I soldiered, I learnt what has become a cliché “Leadership is cause, the rest is effect!”

During the Brazil 2014 World Cup, $US3million got hurriedly and embarrassingly flown from Ghana to Brazil to appease mutinying players! No heads rolled!

As has just been ruthlessly demonstrated in Ghana football with the Black Stars’ head-coach, so must it boldly be done to future failures in all spheres of Ghanaian life.

Leadership, lead!

Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!


Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)

Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association

Nairobi, Kenya

Council Chairman

Family Health University College