Sports News of Friday, 18 October 2019
Sometime in May 2001, Coach Jones Attuquayefio was in a conundrum. He was bemused and confused at what seemed like a hopeless situation.
He was coach of the Black Stars and had been tasked with the responsibility of qualifying Ghana to the 2002 FIFA World Cup to be co-hosted by Japan and Korea. Big task.
Ghana as part of the qualifying series was to face sworn-rivals Nigeria at home. Attuquayefio had invited the very best of Ghana’s foreign-based players to come and help. And there was the problem. That was the peak of the No Money Syndrome at both the Sports Ministry and the Ghana Football Association.
Players had prior to the Nigeria game funded their own travel to come and play for the nation with the hope of getting reimbursed later but the reimbursement either took too long to arrive or never arrived. So, these players decided not to honour the game against the Super Eagles. No amount of pleas from Attuquaefio could convince them. They were resolute.
Jones Attuquayefio then had a bright idea. The previous year he had led a bunch of young, hungry and determined Hearts of Oak side to conquer Africa in the CAF Champions League. He had also beaten giants Zamalek in the Super Cup final.
That Hearts of Oak team, he figured was good enough. Brave enough and disciplined enough. He decided to parade those local players and a few guys players from Asante Kotoko as the Black Stars team to face almighty Nigeria with stars such as Nwankwo Kanu, Tijjani Babangida and Augustine Okocha.
The boys; Sammy Agyei, Mireku, Nettey, Tetteh, Agyeman Duah, Adjah Tetteh, Joe Ansah, Charles Allotey, Ishmael Addo, Emmanuel Osei Kuffour, Charles Taylor didn’t disgrace their coach. They delivered. Even though they didn’t win, they held the star-studded Nigeria side to a goalless draw in Accra. In truth Ghana was the better side that day.
The above story is an illustration of the character of Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. A strong-willed, fearless, ambitious, daring and no-nonsense man. A larger-than life figure.
Those who know him better and worked with him say it is his single-mindedness and courage to take unpopular decision is what separated him from his peers and brought him so much success.
Cecil Jones Attuquayefio is to Hearts of Oak what Alex Ferguson is to Manchester United or Arsene Wenger is to Arsenal.
He won every trophy imaginable at home and on the continent with Accra Hearts of Oak. From six successive league titles to winning the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup, Jones embodies the quintessential saying “I came, I saw and I conquered.”
His assembly of the fearful Hearts of Oak 64 Battalion Squad was a stroke of masterpiece and the envy of their teams.
Jones’ successes were not limited to Hearts of Oak. He coached almost all of Ghana’s national teams at various points and won laurels with some of them.
He also took his skills to other African countries, famously taking Benin to their first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004.
At the height of his career he was named African Coach of the year by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2000.
He also mentored a host of young coaches as captured by David Duncan in this Tweet.
Remembering what would have been the birthday today of my mentor and one of Ghana’s best ever ‘Total Football Genius’; Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio.
Keep Resting In Peace; Sir. pic.twitter.com/LkrOFqqn3c
— Coach David Duncan (@ddun1025) October 18, 2019
Aside his coaching greatness, Jones Attuquayefio was an astute football administrator. He indeed rose to become the Vice Chairman of GFA from 1982-1983 and the Deputy General Secretary of the same GFA from 1995-1997
Attuquayefio, who was 70, died Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra. He battled a prolonged throat cancer.
“For many years, there had been doubts about the capacity of local coaches to handle the national teams. Jones is one of the people who made mincemeat of that myth,” Former President John Mahama said of Jones.
“African football has lost one of its astute servants. From his playing era to his coaching days, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio left lasting memories in the minds of all,” said President of the Confederation of African Football at the time, Issa Hayatou.
He would have been 74 years today and his ever-present and infectious smile would have permeated through.
Rest Well, Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. The only Sir in Ghana Football.
Attuquayefio’s impressive coaching achievements
1996 Won bronze with Ghana Under-23
1998-99 Won Africa U17 title & placed 3rd at international level
1998-01 Won four leagues & two cups with Hearts of Oak
2000 Won the Caf Champions League with Hearts of Oak
2001 Won the Caf Super Cup title with Hearts of Oak
2003-04 Took Benin to their first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004