Coach Arday Deserves State Burial

The late Coach Sam Arday

On Sunday, February 12, 2017, I was at the Accra Stadium enjoying the scintillating CAF Confederation first leg match between Bechem United and Mouloud Club of Algeria when I had a text message on my phone.

Bechem United had just gone up 1-0 from a penalty kick and we were all jubilating. I ignored the text message… Let me confess that in view of the fake stories, teasers and nonsensical effusions making rounds on Social Media, I hardly look at text messages on my phone.

To my annoyance, more text messages kept appearing on my phone. It was unusual so I decided to unlock my phone and here was a text message which read “Nana, sad news for you…. Coach Sam Arday is no more. He passed away this afternoon at Korle Bu”. The text message was from Frank Todd, a common friend of Coach Sam Arday and my good self.

Is Coach Arday dead? I muttered to myself. I was in the midst of hundreds of jubilant football fans and I just didn’t know what to do. I was devastated. Well, to avoid creating a scene, I left the stadium quietly.

When I got into my car, I called Coach Arday’s phone number and the one who responded from his phone was his son called Nii Arday. Sobbing as he spoke, Nii Arday confirmed that, indeed, his father had died few hours ago at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

Coach Sam Arday was many things to me – a true friend, a loving brother and a confidant. And we enjoyed each other’s company. In 1999, when my father died, Coach Arday accompanied by his late wife, came all the way to my holy home town called Akyem Asuom in the Kwaebibirem District of Akyem Abuakwa to mourn with me.

I was therefore shattered and almost collapsed when his son confirmed the bad news.

Today, still in my mourning mood, and having gone almost crazy, I ask myself if my good friend Coach Sam Arday knew he was going to die soon.

Is it just by coincidence that when I met him for the last time on Monday, 9th January, 2017, he spent almost the whole day bemoaning the sudden deaths of football coaches in Ghana and Nigeria?

He cited coaches Ofei AnsahJones Attuquayefio, C.K. Gyamfi, Ben Koufie, Fred Osam Duodu, Emmanuel Kwasi Afranie, Alhaji Shaibu and Stephen Keshi as celebrated football coaches who have died in rapid succession in the sub-region.

According to Coach Arday, except Coaches C.K. Gyamfi and Ben Koufie who lived longer to enjoy the fruits of their labour, all the other above-mentioned coaches died suddenly from heart-related diseases, such as severe strokes and fatal heart-attacks.

As for Coach Ofei Ansah, he suffered a heart attack at the touchline and died instantly following threats and insults from Accra Hearts of Oak supporters.

It’s a crying shame that Coach Arday has also died suddenly from a heart-related disease.

As you read this article, I have it on authority that Coach John Eshun, former captain of the Black Stars who took up coaching after his playing days is bed-ridden suffering from severe stroke.

Is Coach Herbert Addo still in hospital?

In a nation like ours, where football is a passion, a source of pride, pleasure and even pain for many of the citizenry, dealing with PRESSURE is the greatest problem for the coaches.

In fact, many chairmen of football clubs (especially, those who spend their own money) also suffer from hypertension and other heart-related ailments. As a football administrator myself, I have always held the view that football coaching is High Blood Pressure job and those who excel in that silent-killer profession must be celebrated.

I have read it somewhere that “No Man who is fit to live need fear to die. To us here, death is the most terrible thing we know. But when we have tasted its reality, it will mean to us birth, deliverance, a new creation of ourselves. It will be what health is to the sick man; what home is to the exile; what the loved one given back to the bereaved. As we draw near to it, a solemn gladness should fill our hearts”.

Like any other human being, Coach Arday knew he would die one day. But, it is quite clear from the way he worked so hard that he wanted to die as a football legend.

As a Coach, Sam Arday chalked many successes which stand him out as a true legend of the game.

In the late 1980’s, Coach Arday won the ECOWAS U-20 Tournament in Bauchi, Nigeria with a crop of brilliant stars which included Ablade Kumah, Shamo Quaye, Frank Amankwaa, Joe Addo, Isaac Asare, Joe Debrah, Michael Osei and Kwame Poku. It was this U-20 squad which held Cameroun’s National team led by Roger Milla to a pulsating 3-3 drawn game at the Kumasi Sports Stadium. Roger Milla and his colleagues were preparing for the 1990 World Cup tournament.

Coach Arday was the first ever black Coach to win an Olympic medal (Bronze) in football at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

In 1995, Coach Arday became the second Ghanaian Coach, after E.K. Afranie to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup title in Ecuador.

Until his death, the “Multi System man” was the Technical Director of the West African Football Academy; and a member of the National Technical and Development Committee of the GFA.

In 2006, Coach Sam Arday was decorated with an ORDER OF VOLTA AWARD in recognition of his meritorious service to Ghana Sports, particularly football by former President J.A. Kuffour.

On February 14, 2017, barely two days after his death, H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in a tribute described Coach Sam Arday as one of the most brilliant coaches Ghana has produced.

President Akufo-Addo was an active footballer himself. In fact, he played for the Academicals in those days when national stars were camped in classrooms. Today, can you camp the Black Stars or any other national team at Nsawam C.Y.O? Time changes indeed!

Coach Sam Arday’s sudden death has touched every lover of the game of football in the nation. And, it is my humble opinion that he deserves a fitting state burial at the forecourt of the State House.

Courtesy: Oheneba Charles