On this day 21 January 1968 (Exactly 53 years ago today) Congo-Kinshasa (now DRC) won its first Africa Cup of Nations title, beating Ghana 1-0 in the final of the 6th Africa Cup of Nations at the Haile Selassie Stadium, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ghana were beaten by their bogey side Congo- Kinshasa , in an action packed match which attracted nearly 25,000 spectators, including Emperor Haile Selassie and Sir Stanley Rous, president of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA).
Right winger Pierre Kalala, who had established himself as the most accomplished right winger in Africa got the winning goal for his side in the 65th minute, when he exploited a defensive blunder to slam in a perfect shot.
In the match of equals, the Congolese combined strength with skill and proved that the rarefied atmosphere in Ethiopia had had no effect on them at all.
Perhaps it was the long preparation they made for this competition, including overseas tours, that had toughened them so much.
The Black Stars played a spirited game, but although the spirit was willing the flesh was weak.
Goalkeeper Naawu, especially, was in top form and he made several brilliant saves but the sizzling shot by Kalala was too much for him to save.
Champions die hard and the Black Stars gave out a terrific outburst of attack after trailing 1-0, but the Leopards from Kinshasa, spurred on by a promise by General Mobutu, would not bulge.
In a bid to save a close range shot Congolese goalkeeper Kazadi was injured and was replaced by Matumona.
Ghana were on top at this stage but all the strength of Mfum and soccer wizardly of Osei Kofi came to nothing as the stalwart Congolese stood firm.
Ghana should have gotten the equaliser but the UAR (now Egypt) referee displaying obvious bias against the Stars ignored several infringements in favour of Ghana.
Osei Kofi was brought down twice in the penalty box but the referee failed to whistle.
The UAR referee’s shrill whistle saw the end of Ghana’s aspirations to win the cup for good.
This edition was the most historic of all the five previous editions. Contrary to tradition, the organising country, Ethiopia, did not even qualify for the final.
They were beaten 1-0 by the Ivory Coast in the third place match.
Congo-Kinshasa Line-up : Robert Kazadi/Bernard Matumona, Salomon Mange, Elias Tshimanga, Pierre Katumba, Albert Mukombo, Joseph Kibonge (C)Pierre Kasongo, Pierre Kalala, Raoul Kidumu, Jean Kembo,Léon Mungamuni.
Coach: Ferenc Csanádi (Hungary)
Ghana Line-up: John Naawu, J. K. Wilson, Ben Kusi, John Eshun, Charles Addo Odametey (C), Ibrahim Sunday, Osei Kofi, Frank Odoi, Jones Attuquayefio/Kwasi Owusu, Wilberforce Mfum, Malik Jabir
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil)
Referee: Mohammed Diab El-Attar ‘El-Diba’ (Egypt).]
NB: The referee for the final, Mohamed Diab Al-Attar, also known as Ad-Diba, was a footballer who played for the Al Ittihad Alexandria Club and the Egypt national football team. He later served as an international football referee.
He (Ad-Diba ) was top scorer of the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 1957, scoring five goals including all the four Egypt scored against Ethiopia in the final.
By George ‘Alan Green’ Mahama