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This Is Why Ghana’s Footballers Are Known as the ‘Black Stars’

Ghana National Supporters Union cheer on the Black Stars against Guinea at the African Cup of Nations 2008
Ghana National Supporters Union cheer on the Black Stars against Guinea at the African Cup of Nations 2008 | © Jake Brown
Internationally known and idolised, the ‘Black Stars’ team has been Ghana’s senior national male football team since the 1950s. Though they didn’t make it to the impending World Cup, the Black Stars have graced the biggest stage of the sport a few times and performed spectacularly over the years. But why are Ghana’s prized footballers known as the ‘Black Stars’?

Accolades

The Black Stars team has won the Africa Cup of Nations four times (1963, 1965, 1978, and 1982) and has been runner-up five times (1968, 1970, 1992, 2010, and 2015). The team also reached the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. At South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup, they became the third African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, and 2014 was their third consecutive World Cup. The Ghana national football team won the FIFA Best Mover of the Year Award when they sailed through 2005 unbeaten.

Black Star coaches

Ghana’s national team has had local and foreign coaches over the years. C.K. Gyamfi became the first black coach of the Black Stars in 1961 and won successive African Cup of Nations titles in 1963 and 1965; he succeeded Englishman George Ainsley, the first full-time coach hired in 1958. Serbia’s Ratomir Dujković was the first coach to qualify Ghana for the World Cup in 2006.

The Black Star jersey

Right from 1957 to 1989, the Black Stars used a mostly-white and partly-black football kit. Between 1990 and 2006, the red, gold and green national colours were worn, and from 2006 till the present day the white-and-black jersey has been the uniform. BuzzFeed ranked the Black Stars’ football kit, sponsored by Puma SE, for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the best.

An overview of Ghanaian football

The governing body of the Black Stars is the Ghana Football Association (GFA). Founded in 1920, it is the oldest football association in Africa. The association has been the backbone of the Black Stars through several wins, losses and draws, harmony among team members as well as administrative scandals. We’ve seen Abedi Pele, Asamoah Djan, Anthony Yeboah, and other legendary players more than once on top of their game, finding the back of their opponents’ net to snatch a well-deserved triumph. On the list of appalling turnouts is the disappointment at the 2014 World cup finals when Ghana exited in the group stages due to poor planning and delay in payment of bonuses, and the recent ex-GFA president, Kwesi Nyantakyi’s scandal.

Sponsors

Primarily, the fans have been the underpinning for the Black Stars driven by the speed, the air, robust athletic muscles, the unyielding grace and the inspiration dancing through when a sharp shot finds its way into the opposition’s goal. Formally, from home platforms to the world’s biggest stage, the GFA is benefitting from a $15 million global headline sponsor deal with Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. Past sponsors include Ashanti Goldfields Corporation and Goldfields Ghana Limited.

Black Stars fans articulating carefree passion © Stig Nygaard

Ranking

Ghana, like Cameroon climbed one spot, and ended May tied in 50th place on the FIFA rankings. This is not the best ranking since the team has fallen continuously from 16th position when they secured a 100 per cent record in their qualification campaign, and was seventh best at the 2010 World Cup even though they were knocked out at the quarter final stage.

Legendary players

Ghana’s legendary past and present soccer stars include Abedi Pele, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari with the highest number of caps- 79, Ibrahim Sunday, Mohammed Ahmed Polo, Karim Abdul Razak, Tony Yeboah, Samuel Kuffour, Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan with the highest number of goals- 39. The top goalkeepers include George Owu, Ibrahim Dossey, Sammy Adjei, Richard Kingson and Fatau Dauda.

Ghana National Supporters Union cheer on the Black Stars against Guinea at the African Cup of Nations 2008 © Jake Brown

Black Star of Africa

The tag ‘Black Stars’ brings to mind the flag of Ghana and the national coat of arms. It holds centralised historic connections to the symbolic, economically independent 1919 Marcus Garvey Black Star shipping and passenger line. During the post-First World War era, Marcus ‘Black Moses’ Garvey created the largest African-American organisation with a core principle to instil black economic self-reliance and black people’s rights to political self-determination, and to promote the return of the African diaspora to ancestral territories. It’s more than just football: footballers who wear the Ghana jersey bear the motif that represents African pride, freedom, equality and justice.