Golden Boy: Opoku Afriyie deserves state burial

Author: George Ernest Asare
The late Opoku Afriyie

Ghana and Asante Kotoko icon, Abdul-Karim Razak, has described his former teammate in Kotoko and the national team as “a legend and an extraordinary striker” who made goal scoring a hobby during competitive matches.

In their heyday, Razak and Afriyie were a class act and made things tick for the Africa Cup-winning Black Stars at the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Accra, with Afriyie scoring the goals that earned Ghana a 2-0 win over Uganda in the final.

Razak was the star of the tournament and later named 1978 African Footballer of the Year.

Paying glowing tribute to his friend and former teammate who passed on Sunday March 29,2020, Razak said Afriyie paid his dues to Kotoko and for Ghana, in particular, as a winner of the 1978 and 1982 AFCON and it was only befitting that he was honoured posthumously with a state burial.

Referred to as Golden Boy, Razak said his former teammate’s legacy would be cemented with a sports facility named after him just as was done for national icons such as the late Baba Yara and Robert Mensah who had stadiums named after them in honour of their contribution to Ghana football.

“Opoku was no doubt a Kotoko and Black Stars legend, despite playing briefly for Hearts of Oak. During the 1978 African Nations Cup which Ghana won for keeps, Opoku Afriyie scored the opening goal against  Zambia and again scored two magnificent goals in the final against Uganda that won Ghana the African Cup for keeps. He was an extraordinary striker,” said Razak during an exclusive interview with Graphic Sports Online.

“He was always busy on the field of play tormenting defenders, and in terms of proficiency in goal scoring, no one can forget the potency of Opoku Afriyie.

"He was also a selfless leader on and off the field of play and fought for the welfare of his teammates all the time, so the nation should honour him with a befitting burial.”

Razak and the late national captain have come a long way since their playing days at juvenile level at the former Manhyia Park just behind the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi.

He recalls how the scoring instincts of diminutive Afriyie even at the early stages of his career earned him the nickname him “Nana Aggrey”, as well as Bayie (Wizard) at the prime of his career at Kotoko for the manner in which he made goal scoring look easy.

“When I signed for Kotoko in 1976, I realised that he was a born leader both on and off the field. He did not only turn half chances into goals during tough matches, but was  always motivating his teammates to go the extra mile to win their matches to broaden the smiles of our supporters.

“After retiring from active football, his managerial skills with the Black Stars was unquestionable. As the President of Asante Kotoko Old Players Association (AKOPA) he always sought for the welfare of his colleagues so his death  has hit us very hard,” Razak recalled.

Debunking the assertion by some club administrators that Afriyie was too outspoken, Razak said he was rather a man of principle who sought for his welfare and that of his colleagues.

“He was not afraid to fight for his rights and his colleagues. That was why they branded him as such, but we always supported his actions.”