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Sports News
Ghanaian football''''s early years 3/9/2007
As Ghana celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, one of its first sporting heroes has been remembering the role he played in the nation''''s early identity.

Joseph Agyeman-Gyau was a striker in the Ghanaian side that won its inaugural Nations Cup title in 1963, just six years after the country''''s independence.

"That victory was very good for Ghana because it united the whole country," the sexagenarian told BBC Sport.

"One of the purposes of (Ghana''''s first president) Kwame Nkrumah was to tell the whole world that we can do things for ourselves and achieve positive results.

"All those ingredients were there and because of that, the country was in jubilation for months."

Agyeman-Gyau started playing for Ghana in 1960 and gained caps until 1968, when he left to play in the United States.

In that time, the Black Stars won two Nations Cup titles - in both 1963 and 1965 - in a decade often touted as the golden age of Ghanaian football.

The 1960s were a very different era to today''''s football, ranging from the players'''' equipment to the huge salaries the sport''''s leading practitioners earn today.

"I left for the United States so that I could play professionally," explained Agyeman-Gyau, who has since returned to live in Sunyani.

"We never got paid in Ghana because we were amateurs."

Not only were worlds apart in terms of the financial benefits gained from playing the game, but the attitude to the sport was also very different in an era before trial-by-television.

Agyeman-Gyau earned very little for playing football, unlike Michael Essien

"I remember an international against Senegal: their goalkeeper was very good so we had to plan how to get him off."

"Our strategy was that whenever we took a corner, we should balloon it because when the ball is skied it takes a few seconds to drop.

"During that time, all of us would move into the net and we would move anything in our way - he was one of our targets.

"Unfortunately, he got injured and was out," laughed Agyeman-Gyau without a hint of regret.

As he recalled the early days of Ghana''''s early years, the former international credited football with putting his homeland on the map in the years after its independence.

As ever, publicity was the best way - and what better fashion to attract attention than to play arguably the most famous football club on the planet?

"During those days, we were not known but we were able to put Ghana on the map," he recalled.

"In 1960, the Black Stars played Real Madrid. At the time, the Spaniards were both the European and world champions but we drew 3-3 in Accra.

"The whole world couldn''''t believe it but it was a fact."

"Football is one of our cultures. You should use whatever you can to rally people, so that we will see the purpose of strength in unity."

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