The Black Stars 10: No 10, Samuel Kuffour- A legacy beyond that faulty back pass

Published on: 02 November 2020

Starting today and running for next 10 days, ‘The Black Stars 10’ series will give the reader an idea of the greatest players to illuminate the Ghana national team in the past 20 years.

You might disagree with some of the picks, and most likely wouldn’t also agree with the order, but the aim is to ensure you enjoy the stories. You can read more about the introduction to the series here.

"I don't regret my mistake. As a footballer why would you regret one bad game?" Sammy Kuffour stated on Joy FM.

"I was a professional so I wasn't bothered because I had done so many mistakes in the past. Why should I still be thinking about it?"

"How many players scored an own goal at the World Cup, six, and one of them went on to win the World Cup. I remember Messi missed a penalty against Chelsea at a crucial stage in the Champions League, did Barca fans kill him?”

Sometimes one pass is all it takes to make or break you in an unforgiving sport such as football. Unfortunately, Sammy Kuffuor was a victim of the latter.

A surviving member of 1990’s Black Stars squad, Kuffuor had the privilege of playing with two completely different eras in the national team.

What should have been a rousing conclusion to his international career after helping Ghana qualify to its first ever World Cup, became a gloomy disconsolate moment for the former Bayern Munich defender.

The stage was set, a historic day beckoned for the Black Stars as they faced Italy in their first match at a World Cup.

The streets of Hannover were filled with elated Ghanaian fans who couldn’t hide their joy at being at the world stage. Then known as the AWD-Arena was filled to capacity with 43,000 fans attending the game. Ghana came into the game as underdogs but showed the heart of belief as Italy struggled to breakdown the debutants.

Well, Italy did struggle for chances just up to the point when Iaquinta pounced on an underhit backpass from Samuel Kuffuor to put the game beyond the Black Stars. Three points lost on the night, but for Kuffuor that was the end of the road as he was replaced in the starting XI and never featured for Ghana.

It’s easy to remember Kuffour for his mistake but one thing remains clear, and that is although he regrets it, he isn’t sorry. That embodies the type of player Kuffuor was; always remained positive and wanted to take responsibility even from the back.

He says: “You show your leadership on the field of play.” Kuffuor was born a leader and learnt at an early age the need to sacrifice. At age 14, he was polishing shoes in Kumasi to ensure that he survives. Kuffuor never gave up on his dreams and played bare-footed until his mum sold the family television to buy him his first pair of boots.

It was Kuffuor’s knack to take initiatives and sacrifice that saw him appointed as captain for the Black Stars in the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations. The same vocal qualities that earned him the captaincy saw him dismissed from camp after the first game in that competition.

It was reported that Kuffuor had broken camp rules, but the former Ghana international says he just spoke against the difficult living conditions at camp.

“They even said I went to the night club which was not true because there was no night club even at where we were staying. I never regret being bold because I was concerned that some of the players could even catch some serious disease.”

Kuffuor with his robust mentality never looked back and returned to the national team setup to help the country to qualify to the World Cup in 2006. This feat was attained at the back of what was an extremely difficult period for the Black Stars; bowing out of the 2002 AFCON in the quarterfinals and failing to qualify for the 2004 edition. However, Kuffuor helped steady the ship especially in the first half of the qualifiers after the team had lost its first game against Burkina Faso.

Kuffuor was a unique defender with a powerful physique which made him very strong to beat. With over 50 appearances (25 coming in the 21st century) under his belt for the national team, his consistency and dedication makes him one of the true greats. He continued to shine even when the national team was stagnant as he was crowned Ghana Player of the Year, [BBC] African Player of the Year and the Ghana Sportsman of the Year in 2001.

There are two sides to this story, a young player who burst onto the national team scene and made his mark or an experienced defender who made a mistake on his biggest night and never got the chance to make amends. No matter which side you choose, one prominent feature will be a defender who gave his all for the Ghana national team.

Source: Owuraku Ampofo (Joy Sports)