The 1966 World Cup is the only World Cup to have been boycotted by an entire continent. But it is better known for England’s victory, a controversial goal in the final and the glorious displays of both Eusebio and North Korea. BBC Focus on Africa’s Piers Edwards takes up the story of a little-known boycott that changed football’s greatest competition forever.
Ghana’s Osei Kofi was once described as being the equal of the legendary George Best by Gordon Banks, a World Cup winner in 1966.
Given the Northern Irishman’s status as one of football’s greatest ever players, that was some claim.
But the odds are you’ve never heard of Kofi, who put four goals past Banks when they met in two club friendlies.
This would largely be because a player nicknamed “One Man Symphony Orchestra” or, less poetically, “Wizard Dribbler” never got to unfurl his wing play at a World Cup.
He was denied the chance when Africa dramatically boycotted the 1966 finals.
At the time, Ghana’s “Black Stars” were back-to-back African champions, having won in 1963 and 1965.
“We had the ‘Black Stars’ proper in those days,” Kofi, now a church minister, told the BBC in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. “We had the men, those who were strong and those who were intelligent.
“That’s why we could have got to the World Cup at any given time.”
But at the peak of their powers, the “Black Stars” were pushed down a black hole.
In January 1964, Fifa decided that the line-up for the 16-team finals would include 10 teams from Europe, including hosts England, four from Latin America and one from the Central American and Caribbean region.
That left just one place to be fought for by three continents: Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Within a month, Ghana’s Director of Sport Ohene Djan, who was also a member of Fifa’s Executive Committee, was crying foul. Read more