Ben Koufie lived for football

BY: Williams Brown Snr
The late Ben Koufie, who died on July 4, 2016 at the age of 84, devoted his life to football, a sport Ghanaians are passionate about
The late Ben Koufie, who died on July 4, 2016 at the age of 84, devoted his life to football, a sport Ghanaians are passionate about

The late Ben Koufie, who died on July 4, 2016 at the age of 84, devoted his life to football, a sport Ghanaians are passionate about.

After formal education at the AMA Zion School and Aggrey Memorial College, both in Cape Coast, he and a close friend, the late Duncan, alias Mojo, one of the safest hands Ghana football had seen, joined Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs in 1950. But after a period of inactivity, he left for the rival team, Venomous Vipers , in the company of Duncan and later moved to Kumasi in 1952 together with him.

After they settled for Evergreen Football Club, a third force in Kumasi, there Ben, a full back and Duncan a goalkeeper, had full playing time, and attracted the attention of football fans and authorities, as they were selected to play for Kumasi Town Eleven. Koufie played alongside C.K Gyamfi, James Adjei, Kwamena Appiah, Asebi Boakye, Rockson, R.M Aggrey alias Young Aggrey ‘Midget Made Man.”

He was part of Team XI listed by Kofi Badu, a veteran sports writer, to face Nigeria in October 1955 at the Accra Sports Stadium – the result of that match ending in the slaughter of Nigeria by 7-0. 

He was also a member of the first Black Stars to be camped at Adoagyiri at Nsawam in 1959 in preparation for the Jalco Cup, which was won for good. Mfum, Addo Odametey, Aggrey Fynn, Kwaw Baffoe, Dodoo Ankrah, Ben Sissuh, were some of the members of the group. 

In 1961, when the then Sports Administration under Ohene Djan, a great administrator, decided to improve sports development by way of good coaching, some young men, including Ben Koufie, were sent to Prague, the Czech Republic for training. Others were Tim Darbah, Ben Sissuh, Kwamena Appiah, Solomon Gray, A.K Ekudi, Asebi Boakye.

On their return to the country, they were sent to the regions and Koufie was posted to Koforidua in the Eastern Region. He was later sent to Kumasi and Accra after  12 years and appointed deputy national coach, rising in 1970 as the national coach till 1973 when he left the National Sports Council.

When in 1965 the initial Black Stars was dissolved due to aging of the players, Koufie was secretary to a committee appointed by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) under the late H.P Nyemitei to select players for the national team. The exercise was completed in August 1965 and he was made to be in charge of preparations for the defence of the African Cup of Nations trophy won in 1963. This was successfully accomplished in far away Tunisia in November 1965 under his guidance and in partnership with the late C.K Gyamfi.

On November 10, 1965, he left Accra with the team ahead of the tournament – won the AFCON for the second time running and for the first time, breaking tradition, a heroic feat.

This was followed in January 1968 in Ethiopia, manager of the team. But this time, Ghana lost narrowly in the final match to the host country, and repeated it in Sudan in February 1970, with Koufie still the team manager.

Before the fifth AFCON, he, with his partner, had led the national team to win the Azikiwe Cup by beating Nigeria 4-0 in Lagos and 3-0 in Accra in October 1965.

In January 1971, in Congo Kinshasa,  Kumasi Asante Kotoko won the African Club Championship, the first time ever by a Ghanaian club, by beating Engelbert of Congo. But in preparation for the final of that continental encounter, the Kotoko team were camped  together with the national team under Ben Koufie and Aggrey Fynn (now deceased), then assistant to Koufie. 

On this feat, Ibrahim Sunday, then captain of Kotoko, was quoted thus: “Ask Ghanaians to give thanks to the coaches – Ben Koufie and Aggrey Fynn, for making it possible for the club to win the African Club Championship trophy; players were grateful for the professional and efficient manner in which they handled us.”

The late Ben Koufie in 1973, left for Cote d’Ivoire to continue with his coaching career, and subsequently to Gabon, Zambia, Zimbabwe from where he toured Ghana with his club during off season. He was reported to have rendered assistance to the technical team led by Coach Sam Arday then in charge of the Black Starlets, the national Under-17 team, at the World Youth Championship held in Ecuador in 1995, when Ghana won, as he happened to be there with his team taking part in the tournament.

He returned home in 2000 but continued to work as a Technical Director with FIFA. In 2001, he was made the chairman of the GFA, a role he performed creditably and was acknowledged.

It was during his tenure that the Prampram Centre of Soccer Excellence, a football training facility, was started. He continued to be involved in activities of the centre until early 2015, when he retired from active football affairs.

The late Ben Koufie was very disciplined, and hence, enforced it among his charges, many of whom were not comfortable with him. He believed in long term planning as a system in yielding good results and, therefore, practised it.

Koufie, aside from the school days, served football for  over 63 years as a player, coach and manager. Thus, he had contributed to the development of football in the country and Africa. 

Hence, it is suggested that the GFA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports will honour him by naming the Prampram Centre of Excellence after him.