In March 1987, Ghana was with Sierra Leone in the qualifiers for the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations. Sierra Leone we’re supposed to fly to Accra then but the country was in a serious economic crisis.
Then-President Saidu Momoh advised Sierra Leone Football Association to forfeit the match due to lack of funds. The Black Stars of Ghana had already grouped in Accra including professional players.
Sierra Leone, we’re counting on philanthropists to donate towards the team’s trip to Accra. But four days later, the team had not received enough funding for the trip, and then serious doubt was cast over the match.
The Ghanaian team under the German Coach Rudi Gutendorf continued training and three days to game, Ghana’s legendary sports administrator, Ohene Djan died. The whole country was thrown into a state of mourning.
J.J Rawlings, Ghana’s Military leader by that time announced that the match with Sierra Leone will be used to honor the late Ohene Djan. Rawlings wasn’t aware of Sierra Leone’s situation, he was later briefed on the country’s struggling situation to raise funds to travel.
Rawlings got in touch and said he is willing to help Sierra Leone. In 1982, 6 years before this period, Muhammad Gadafi former president of Libya funded Ghana’s trip to the Africa Cup of Nations because they were in a similar economic crisis.
During that period, the aircraft that lifted Ghana’s team and media personalities to Libya was a Libyan Military Aircraft. This time, Rawlings sent a Ghana Military jet to pick Sierra Leone, it left in the morning hours and returned with 18 players and 5 officials.
The Ghanaian government also offered accommodation to Sierra Leone at the then Republic Hotel and free meals were served to the Sierra Leonean team.
On Monday, March 30, 1987, Ghana lined up versus Sierra Leone, the Accra Stadium was full, everyone was expecting a massacre. Gambian referee, Samuel Coker blew the whistle to start the match, in just four minutes after the start Sierra Leone had two corners.
By the 6th minute, Sierra Leone captain John Dumbuya scored the opening goal. The match continued, Ghana pressed and pressed but no goal came from their side. Later in the 38th minute, Sierra winger Siaka Camara’s volley hit the upright bar, but it was not a goal.
The first half of the game ended and Ghana was one goal down and Sierra Leone Was in control. Hopes are still high that Ghana will equalize and turn the fire on the guys they’ve fed, literally.
The second half of the match started, by the 55th minute Sierra Leone scored again via a counter-attack, and Accra Stadium was quiet. In the 80th minute also, Abdul Razak got a consolation but it was too late.
In 90+4 minutes the match ended and Ghana lost on a day they expected a massacre on Sierra Leone.
Fans were in shock, the angry ones started cursing authorities for using taxpayers’ money to fund Sierra Leone.
Ghana would have been handed three points if Sierra Leone had abandoned the game but it was something else.
In the return leg, Sierra Leone held Ghana to a goalless draw in Freetown. Ghana failed to qualify for the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.
African brotherhood means Ghana helped Sierra Leone to beat them, so Libya helped Ghana beat them in 1982.
AFCON is more than a Tournament.
Credit: Saddick Adams