first meeting with Charles Kumi ‘C.K’ Gyamfi occurred under curious circumstances in November
I had entered Achimota School a year
earlier as a lush green 14 year old, naïve and diminutive, who was still very much obsessed with football – a game I fell in love with during the 2002 World Cup.
It was within the calm, shady expanse
of Achimota that I developed an aspiration to become a football coach. My life
up till then had been dominated by a wide range of dream occupations. I had
once wanted to become an action movie star, as crazy as that sounds, harbouring wild hopes of getting to emulate all my heroes; from Bruce Lee to
Jet Li, from Jackie Chan to Chuck Norris, from David Hasselhof to Wesley
Snipes. Later, I ditched it when I discovered that I loved writing.
I started writing from around age 10,
amid the playful distractions of primary school. My infantile, fantasy-themed
writing explored mostly subjects that I saw in blockbuster movies: Kung-fu, rattling machine guns, kidnapping, revenge, the underdog stories, and of course, the raging feuds between the good guy and the bad guy. I remember just how happy all that deliberately constructed chaos made me, and how I yearned to create such worlds through words. My dream, therefore, was
to become a prolific author of fiction, and so I churned out story after story
with boundless enthusiasm.
Later, after my heart sealed its vows
with the beautiful game, I dreamt of becoming a footballer. I would spend days
on end playing, practicing. But, by the time I entered Achimota, I had somehow become
disillusioned with the idea of becoming a footballer. I don’t remember exactly
why that was, but I remember starting to drift away from active play, suffering
an inevitable consequence of piling on weight.
A decisive moment at Achimota came during a cold,
quiet January night in the course a prep
session in my classroom. My mates were busy studying, their heads buried
in their books – as it was supposed to be. But I, on the other hand, was seated behind my desk, absentminded, my mind’s stubborn excursion into
the realm of dreams refusing to be disturbed by the croaking crickets.
While everyone else was racking their
brains around figuring out math equations, I was way detached, off curriculum, stacking my brain with wishful
thinking, all in a bid to figure out one thing: what I wanted to be in the
Then it happened. An epic epiphany. I wanted
to become a football coach. The whole idea of influencing the game through defined ideas
and strategies excited me. I had read about the game’s most successful coaches, most especially the Dutch master Rinus Michels, who managed the Netherlands national team in the early 70s and the late 80s, reaching the World Cup final in 1974 and winning the European Championship in 1988, achieving all that with a groundbreaking invention called total
– a philosophy that changed the face of the sport. I was intrigued. I wanted in.
That same night, I drew up a list of my
life’s goals in a small notepad which I have kept till date. Among other
ambitious bullets, I wrote that I wanted to become one of the most successful,
most celebrated coaches in history. It was an exciting dream because I found
that there had not been a single black man mentioned in the same breath as the great
tacticians in the game’s history. I was baffled by it all. Why weren’t black
people cutting it in coaching? I dreamt of changing that.
My Dad, Kwaw Anaman, who was just about
the only person in the world who didn’t see my dream as laughable gibberish,
told me that he wanted to take me go see a man called C.K Gyamfi. “I attended
school with one of his eldest sons and I’ve gone to see him before,” my Dad
assured me. “I’m sure he would tell you a whole lot about coaching.”
I had, of course, heard of CK Gyamfi
several times, though I had never paid particular attention. He was embedded in my subconscious, mainly because there was no conversation about Ghana’s football history without his name popping up at a point, but I never was privy to the full extent of his achievements. I had heard him mentioned within a context of reverence, of deep respect, as one of the immortal legends of Ghana’s over 100-year-old relationship with the sport, but little did I know that he had been one of the most successful personalities Ghana has ever produced.

I was in a phase in my life where I’d developed a frenzied addiction to curiosity, and so I did not waste time in commencing a hunt for information on him. The more material I devoured, the more I became excited by his career and achievements. C.K Gyamfi had been an accomplished footballer who had played for and excelled for both Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak – Ghana’s biggest clubs and two of Africa’s elite – which is a rare feat. In the 1950s, eventful years when Ghana was still known as the Gold Coast and football was played barefoot, C.K Gyamfi strove to play in boots, and was instrumental in the country’s adoption of the boots culture. In 1951, he had been the young star of the national team, the Gold Coast XI, when they toured the United Kingdom playing barefoot and selling Ghana’s widely hailed natural football talent through a series of trial matches. Two years later, he had become ‘Sports Man of the Year’, and seven years after that, the first African player to play professionally in Germany when he signed for Fortuna Dusseldorf. As if the feats chalked as a player weren’t enough, he went on to become equally as successful as a coach, winning three of the four African Cup titles Ghana has won as a nation, an accomplishment that made him one of the most successful coaches in African football history. Here was a man of abundant substance and decoration, oozing inspiration.

During my second year at Achimota, just before the midterm break of the
first term, my father decided to take me to our
hometown of Winneba for the first time since the early years of my life. I was
beyond elated – but I would be even more elated when he told me we’d pass by C.K
Gyamfi’s house at Kaneshie on our return.
And so it happened. When midterm
arrived, my Dad turned up to whisk me away from my hall of residence at
Achimota, a building coincidentally named ‘Gyamfi House’ (though not in any way
related to C.K Gyamfi). After a brief stop at my Aunt’s at Achimota Mile 7, we
set off for Winneba.
In Winneba, my Dad took me to the
National Sports College, where we did a few inquiries and spoke to some people
about life there and the prospects. The idea, my father told me, was to equip
me with enough knowledge and present me with viable options just in case my
dream of becoming a coach was still alive by the time I was due to enter University three years later. That same Sports College, I learnt in the course of my
visit, was named after none other than the great C.K Gyamfi.
passed by C.K Gyamfi’s tidily kept Kaneshie-Swan Lake residence on our return
from Winneba. I remember that meeting so well. We sat with him on his porch,
where I remember being awed by a painting of a football pitch on the terrazzo floor
– a beautiful artistic piece that sadly perished when the porch was tiled some
years later during a renovation.
I remember him, in his peculiarly energetic old age, sporting a vintage hat, holding on to a stylish walking stick. He was a few months
short of turning 80 but he looked so full of life, so ebullient
in his outlook. I had been very nervous prior to meeting him, but his demeanor
proved more calming than intimidating. He was generous, and so our chat wasn’t
onerous.  He spoke to us as if he’d known
us all his life. I sat entranced by his stories, by his contagious love for
football conveyed in his passionate tone, by the depth of his knowledge.
With an exercise book and pen in hand, and
my father looking on, I wrote with voracious interest as the old man spoke. He spoke of his trade secrets as a coach: about how he got his players’ trust, how he got his players to work for him
and for the team, how he believed that the secret to successful coaching was a
healthy relationship with the players. “Be a friend to them,” he kept insisting. I
felt it was profound how he emphasized that bit of building solid relationships
with players, because I had been expecting a long, tedious lecture wading into
the sometimes superficial world of tactics. I got the sense that he essentially
thought creating that link with players was the foundation – and it had to
be done right to be able to hold the subsequent layers of tactical dynamics.
Before we left, C.K, by this time so
evidently engrossed in the interaction, told us that a book containing his memoirs was under
production, and that he hoped it would hit commercial shelves by the end of 2009. It was
such a refreshing thing to hear. I couldn’t wait to learn more about him, about
his story, about the way he thought.
When we left the compound, I felt like
the luckiest boy on earth. To have gotten to spend a
significant amount of time in the presence of such a monolithic monument was an opportunity so rare, and I
honestly thought it was going to be a one-off experience that I would cherish for the rest
of my life; one that, in the future, I would wax lyrical about to my children on a loop.
But little did I know that fate would bring
us together again.
I never met or spoke to C.K Gyamfi for four whole years after that meeting. The intervening years saw me lost in the lightning flight of time, events as blur as cars speeding past on a high way, but it saw me go through a lot of growth and changes. 
My dream of becoming a coach had
fizzled out over the years, and had been permanently replaced by an aspiration
to become a football writer. I had started to write about football during the
short break between Senior High School and University, a time I spent consuming
a lot of knowledge on my brother’s laptop amid the bliss of newly-acquired wifi
at home in Kumasi.
Football writing had basically been
born out of an experimental decision to merge writing and football, two things that represented what people around me claimed was my talent (the former) and what I was passionate about (the latter).
Months down the line, I had graduated
from being a modest blogger to being a professional writer.
The next time I saw C.K Gyamfi, July 2013, I had just completed my first year at the University of Ghana, along with being a freelance writer. This time, I had gone alone. This time, I had not gone as an early teen looking for coaching pointers, but a fledgling writer looking to interview him and tell his amazing story through a write-up. My idea of visiting, in fact, had been to have a conversation about the 1960s – a golden era in Ghana’s football history; an era I had grown so fond of with every piece of
information I unearthed.
In the course of our conversation, I
asked to record him, and he was most gracious to allow me tap into his
vast reservoir of footballing knowledge. I was so excited by the amount of
information I was able to extract from him that I suggested helping him
write his story in full.
“Oh don’t worry about that,” he politely
declined. “My memoirs are still in the works and I’m told it will be out by the
end of this year.”

I found it odd that his book had still not come out, four years since he’d raved about its imminent release, but that nonetheless, that piece of new information rekindled my excitement about getting to read about him.

I left his house feeling so fulfilled.
I held on to my nokia phone – which I had used to record him – like it was the Holy
Grail while I was in a commercial mini-bus, a trotro, headed home. I remember alighting at the Accra Mall bus stop, in the middle of the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange, and placing a call to my boss, Kent Mensah, editor of – where I was freelancing at the time. “Boss! You cannot believe this!
I got an interview with C.K Gyamfi!”
Kent was so excited. He congratulated
me and said he trusted that I’d take my time to write it the best way I could.
I told him I’d send the piece as soon as I was done. Later that night, and in
the subsequent days, I sat down to listen to a playback of my recordings, and
ended up writing and filing an over 2,500-word profile of him.
The piece did better than I had
expected. Many people sent me facebook messages complimenting the
interview, and that felt really encouraging. Among these messages, though,
were two distinct ones from two men whose surnames were ‘Gyamfi’. The first was
from Edwin Gyamfi, the second from Duke Gyamfi – both of whom, I later learnt, were sons of C.K Gyamfi.

Both were messages about how
they were glad that I had done their Dad proud with how I wrote the piece,
about how it was ‘the best interview about our Dad that we’ve read’. For me, that
was the ultimate compliment, a moment of fulfillment.

Later, Edwin kept in touch and, when he
came to Ghana on holiday sometime in March 2014, asked me to meet him for a
Our rendezvous, the Papaye (fast food chain) branch at the ever-nocturnal Osu, was emptying when Edwin walked in late in the night and introduced
himself. We went upstairs and had a sprightly conversation about my career and
how I met his Dad. He said he’d expected me to be a much more older guy, and
that he was surprised that I wrote with what he described as a ‘matured sense of delivery’. 

In the middle of our chat, he
mentioned his father’s memoirs, and I immediately made him know that I was
aware of it being in the works, though I found it a bit odd that it was still
not out five years after I’d been told it was coming out ‘soon’. I still really looked forward to it, I told him.

Edwin then sounded out a suggestion; a request, if you will, that would stun me. “My brothers and I would love for you to have a look at our dad’s original
writings and see if you can turn it into a book.” 
At that moment, I remember
thinking: “Wow, this isn’t happening!”
I knew how much of a big deal it was. I was being asked to author the autobiography of someone who’d come to assume heroic status in my life, and I was being asked to do so just two years into my career as a sports writer. I’d been lucky to have experienced many milestones unusual for my level of experience: having gotten to do work for global media giants such as SuperSport, ESPN, Telegraph and Goal, all on the back of me – an untrained (formally, at least) journalist thriving on passion and hunger – being barely two years old in my field. Weirdly, all of these rare, surreal opportunities had largely found their way to me, blindsiding me as they came along, and I always thought about them being as frightening as they were exciting; but perhaps their most important quality, for me, was their challenging nature. They carried an intimidating weight of responsibility –  a responsibility to exhaust my reserves of hard work and ambition to prove worthy of such early career blessings. To date, getting asked to ghostwrite the autobiography of someone who many consider as the most influential figure in Ghanaian football history represented the biggest challenge yet.

During that moment when Edwin offered me the opportunity, it also dawned on me how poetic it all seemed: the project that I’d been so eager to
read chose to find its way to me – not as its reader, but as its writer.

took many more months before things properly kicked off. That was when Edwin’s younger brother, Duke, came down to town from his Canada base. I first met Duke at his Dad’s at Kaneshie-Swanlake. Like Edwin, Duke also had that
look of bewilderment when I introduced myself as ‘Fiifi Anaman.’ “What?! How old are
you?!” he joked, both of us breaking into laughter. We had an even heartier
laugh when he offered me a beer and I told him I did not drink.
Duke’s visit was basically about
updating me on status of the book: how C.K Gyamfi started it, when it was
started, the state it was in at that moment, and how he – representing his
brothers – wanted things to be going forward. He then formally presented me to his Dad as the writer who was going to work on his memoirs. Because C.K Gyamfi, or ‘Nana’, as I affectionately called him, knew me already, he readily accepted me and pledged to give me all I needed to make his project a success.
It was not until a March 2015 that I
received Nana’s original scribblings: a close to 57,000 word account of his
professional experiences up until 1982. It was a gold mine, especially
given the fact that it was at a point where his memory was fast fading. He
could only remember selectively, or after long talk aided by pictures or texts.
Sometimes, I could see physical pain on his face anytime he tried to remember
certain things that happened in his event-laden life.
My original job, as prescribed by the
legitimate instruction of my contractors, Nana’s sons, was to put some flesh on
his blueprint of recollections, while delivering it in my own writing style.
Along the line, when the project’s
variables became more visible and an understanding of it became bolder, that
role gradually evolved. It became more complex: about leading the
production and artistic direction of a coherent story by using all available sources of
information – the most basic of which was the original writing. This meant that
I was to write the entire project from the ground up by conferring with the
information sources. In this regard, I was to determine how the story was to be
told, which topics to accentuate and which ones to tone down on, how the
narrative would flow, the chapter names, themes and scopes, the tempo of the
plot, possible asides to construct from my conversations with him, and many
other artistic factors. It was, admittedly, a mountainous task. An intimidating
one, too. It filled me with trepidation many times, because I’d been thrown in at the deep end, and my only snorkel was my talent.
There was a haunting fear of a
screw-up, an anxiety to do the subject the justice that it deserved, and this
influenced the whole process. It was a slow, conscientious one, involving a lot
of brain work and an obsessive attention even to the most irrelevant of details. I wanted to justify the honour bestowed on me, to step
up to the plate, by bringing something refreshing to Nana’s story. 

During the
time of writing I had stepped aside from my mainstream job, mainly because of school, and so had a lot of free time to read up
on a lot of art’s great minds – across writing, painting, music and film. What I
discovered of each master, was an ambition to be different, to translate influence to innovation, and to stay true to an
original feeling, an original goal. It resonated with my innate leanings. I had
been given a lot of freedom by Duke and Edwin with regards to style, so I planned to make this
empowering license worthwhile. And so,
rather than just being guided by the story, allowing style to be bullied by the
facts of the narrative, I decided to respond to my craving to be artsy by
constructing the story accordingly. Certain parts of the story feature puns and
alliterations and rhymes and many other literary instruments – some subtle,
others bold, all in an attempt to tighten the story being told. 

other sources of information aside the original writing were many. For
instance, in an attempt to fill in gaps, trying to bridge storylines and trying
to correct chronologies and factual errors appearing in his writing, I had to commit to painstaking
research. The research part, though heavily stressful, came easily to me, thankfully,
as I had been spending a lot of time at the Archives section at the offices of The Daily
Graphic since November 2014. I’d been going there to mine information on Ghanaian football during the 50s and 60s – an era that basically
had Nana in the mix of everything. This thankfully meant that I was well equipped with a
great deal of knowledge about him and about that era – which was so critical in
his story. This put me in a position to summon enough confidence to tackle the
I continued visiting The Archives, but
this time, went there with a particular target to dig up information related to Nana. The commercial transport route I would use – starting from Mile 7, passing through Lapaz and Kaneshie before the destination at Graphic Road – would see my trotro pass right in front of Nana’s house anytime I
went to do research. 

I remember staring at the house each time my trotro drove by, wondering what he
was up to. I would imagine the common sight: him seated in his specially designed chair
in his living room, his walking stick resting on his wizened legs, gazing
into his large, flat screen TV – which would either be showing cartoons, or
wrestling, or even the popular telenovela La
Gata – 
with a quietude that felt so therapeutic, especially given the air of
innocence that graced his face.

Sometimes, after each session, I would
pass by his place to have a chat and show him some of the images I took from
certain old newspapers. I remember how excited he was anytime he’d take my iPad
and glance through the images, nodding, smiling. Such moments, when the calm,
frail old age of his present became immersed in his youthful, glorious past,
were so beautiful.
Part of my process of exploring other
sources involved a series of interactions and transactions with Mr Harold
Akwetey Quartey, the nephew of Nana’s second wife, Mrs Valerie Quartey. Mr
Quartey was of immense help. He had known Nana since the late 90s and had been very
close to him, almost like his right hand man, and had started to help the old
man with his book along the line. In the process, he had rewritten parts of Nana’s original writing, stocked with additional information and research. When I was brought on
board to ghostwrite the project, he was kind enough to lend me his files to
scan through to use information that had not appeared in the original. I often
visited Mr Quartey at his office at Kokomlemle, and
sat across his book-filled desk to have chats about Nana and about certain portions
of the story where I needed clarification (he was in a position to say a lot as
he’d had infinite conversations with CK over the years, especially during times
when he could remember every detail of what he wrote originally and could give
additional perspectives). Our conversations were always so substance-filled and
helpful, just as much as his writing was.
Also, I figured I had to talk to the people close
to Nana, the people who knew him, to get information that could help building
his story. The principal source in this regard was the legendary Ghana defender
Dogo Moro, who played with and under Nana as part of the Black Stars from 1958 to
1963. I had struck a friendship with Alhaji, as I call him, when I first
visited him as part of research for a project I had started in 2014.
Alhaji gave invaluable insights into CK’s character and personality anytime I
paid him a visit at his Kenyase home during my Kumasi trips. Sometimes, when in
Accra and when distance did not allow physical meetings, I had long, rich
conversations with him on the phone.
strategy I adopted from scratch was to visit Nana as much as my time would
allow, to have conversations with him with the hope of salvaging whatever
memories he still had in connection with any part of his text. Luckily, it was always an exciting process, because Nana was always
very hospitable and eager to converse. 

Most of our conversations were not on
record, as he struggled to talk with the coherence and flow he would have had
no problem producing if he was younger and with a good memory. I talked with
him about many things and made notes of what he said – which I would later
construct texts out of, for incorporation into the story.

In all of this, the underlying aim was
about getting to know him, about becoming deeply acquainted to the workings of
his his thought process, his emotions, his demeanor and all the other
idiosyncrasies of his personality. This was important because I was basically
going to be him anytime I was
writing. I owned the words and the style, but the story, with its accompanying
thoughts and feelings, its soul, were solely his. And I so had to live him – to live his thoughts and experiences. I had to be a method writer anytime I sat behind my
laptop to do what I code-named ‘CK writing’. 

Such writing sessions were many,
spread across many months. There were times when I would sit for hours
and only manage to write one paragraph; other times when my creative juices
were most kind and so would translate to many words and pages. There was a lot
of rereads, a lot of back editing, a lot of rewriting – all in a bid to chisel
out the very best I could manage for Nana.

And boy, did he deserve the best. This
work had been in the infamous ‘pipeline’ for many years, and I got the unmistakable sense that its delayed completion worried him. Once, he even told me that he had almost given up on it, resigning himself to the feeling that it was probably never going to be published. In fact, during my research for the 2013 profile I wrote of him, I stumbled on an interview he’d granted the Ghana News Agency many years ago, in which he’d claimed his book was going to be on the market by the end of that year. It was in 2004. 
He always talked to me about how he had
started a long time ago, about how he’d been told it was almost done one too
many times, about how he really wanted it to happen. Anytime he said so, I felt
a conferment of responsibility, from his heart to my conscience, and I would,
without hesitation, promise profusely to do everything I could to make sure it
materialized. He would look me in the eye and tell me about how he believed
what I was saying. These conversations always felt like an exchange of trust,
an establishment of legitimacy, and it spurred me on during the lowest moments
of production.
Nana made me feel motivated with how he
opened his doors to me. Anytime I went there,
he looked so happy to see me and would ask about how school and work was
treating me. He always reminded me, with a sort of congenial curiosity, that I looked
familiar. I remember how he would joke about me having the same name as one of
his favourite grandchildren. Once, I heard him introduce me to one of the
ladies of his household as “my friend who is handling the writing of my book”. “I
trust that he will do a good job and all will be well in the end,” he had added. Friend. This was
from a man who was a good 64 years older than I was.
Anytime it was time to leave, he’d
thank me for the conversation, for keeping him company, then he’d make me
promise not to let too much time elapse until my next visit.
Indeed, who are we kidding? I was perfectly aware of the delicate underpinnings of
having such a young, relatively inexperienced writer handle such a high profile
project. And I’m sure Nana did too. But, interestingly, not once did he ever express doubt or
convey a sense of insecurity around me or about my being in charge of telling
his story. Duke would constantly remind me in our correspondence that he and his
brothers were totally sure of having me at the helm of such a project, not only
because of their claims of loving my style of writing, but also because they respected one of
their father’s most recognizable philosophies: giving young people a chance; investing confidence and belief in youth talent. During his years as a coach, he cultivated a stern reputation of being an overhauler of squads; someone who believed in discarding incompetent experience for competent inexperience. 
Indeed, having Duke, Edwin and the rest
of the brothers express confidence in my ability to deliver was great, no doubt,
but feeling that vibe from Nana himself was priceless. Nana always made me
aware of how he trusted that I would do a good job, and I would respond to this
vote of confidence by giving him an assurance. This assurance was basically
that I was doing the best I could to see to it that his dream of seeing his
story published came true before he checked out of his amazing life of earth.
I grew deeply fond of Nana and found
myself looking forward to our meetings, though they were, regrettably, few and
far between: well, at least not as much as I’d wanted. Nonetheless, I lived for such moments
like when he would burst out in laughter, almost to the point of tears, upon
recalling a particular memory – be it the beatings he endured from his father and elementary teacher, his days as a stubborn teenager causing havoc everywhere he went, and much later tales of how he would play deaf as coach anytime his players complained about his physically demanding training sessions, which would result in them surreptitiously slandering him and labeling him with hilarious nicknames. I remember, too, the purity and the
romanticist’s wonder that wrapped around his words anytime he talked about how
much football meant to him and how football had changed his life.


On a dry August afternoon, one of
Nana’s sons, named Nana ‘Egya Alonso’  Gyamfi, who had been in the country for a
while corresponding with me on matters concerning the book, asked me to sit through an interview his
father was granting to Top FM Sports – an interview that would turn out to be
his last.
Because of Nana’s feeble memory, he
struggled to have a firm grasp of the things he wanted to say, and so I was
asked – as his ghostwriter – to help clarify some of the things that his tired
mind was laboring to recall. He would listen intently, nodding with seeming
approval anytime I was asked to come in and throw light on what he was saying.
After the interview, he shook my hand, looked right into my eyes and said. “Oh
Fiifi, thank you very much. You’ve really helped me. If it wasn’t for you…” He paused suddenly and climaxed his incomplete speech with a smile.  
That moment – though occurring in just
a split second – represented something so powerful to my mind. I don’t think I
can ever explain why, and even more strange is the fact that I’m comfortable with leaving it at that: a soothing Je ne sais quoi.
I left for Kumasi soon afterwards and
so couldn’t stay in touch with him for about two weeks.
my return to Accra, I was unable to go see him immediately due to the
formalities of school reopening swarming me.

Then one night, while I sat behind my
desk in my room at Legon Hall, coincidentally working on the book, I got a call.
It was Mr Quartey. “Fiifi, I hope you are well. Nana wants to see you.”
“Nana Gyamfi?” I asked.
“No, not Nana Gyamfi,” he replied. “I’m
talking about the old man himself.”
I told Mr Quartey that I would steal
time the next day, Friday the 28th of August, to go see the old man.
That night, before retiring to bed, I
kept wondering why Nana had asked to see me. It was strange. I had heard him
ask of me, heard him send his regards, but he had never once particularly asked
to see me. Was something wrong? My instincts couldn’t shrug off the oddity.
I turned up at his residence the next
day, entered and realized that he was not seated at the Living room. That was
yet another oddity. Mr Quartey slipped into the hallway and later reemerged,
his face dead pan. “Let’s go in,” he said, tailing his words with a signal. “He
says I should bring you over. He’s not well.”
I remember seeing Nana struggle to get
up from his bed to take a seat by its edge. I had never been to his bedroom,
but I did not have time to steal a quick visual tour as I was so overwhelmed by
concern. I was asked to sit in a chair by his bed. He extended his hand, as
always with an accompanying smile, to shake my hand. “Ei Fiifi, how are you
doing? I didn’t hear from you again since that last meeting. Where were you
“Oh Nana, I went over to Kumasi to have
a little rest ahead of school. But I’m back now and I hope to spend much more
time chatting,” I said. “I’ll be in Accra till year’s end so we’ll chat till
you get tired!” I joked.
I asked if all was well and he told me
his leg aches had gotten worse, that he was unable to walk well. His face lost
its glow and his voice dimmed in liveliness while he slowly recounted how
unbearable the pains were becoming.

Then, he changed the topic. “Is
everything ok with the book?”
I sensed apprehension in his voice and
it unsettled me, so much so that I struggled to articulate a response. I think
what I felt in that moment was panic, because in truth, the project had
experienced a hitch at a stakeholders meeting shortly before I had gone to
Kumasi. And so things had stalled as I’d contemplated giving it up. And I felt guilty about it. He did not deserve that,
I thought.
Mr Quartey, perhaps noticing my
difficulty, cut into the conversation, offering a background of why Nana had
wanted to see me. Apparently, Nana was worried about progress on the book, and,
especially as he felt his health recede, wanted to know if everything was okay.
I felt even worse because I knew
just how much the book meant to him. And so, immediately, I assured him, almost
out of impulse – because I hated seeing him worried – that all was well. That
all was still on track. That I was almost done.

Then, again, I reiterated my regular
assurance, but this time with a sense of desperation. I really wanted to calm
his fears. “Nana, I know how close this project is to your heart and hearing
you say you want it done inspires me to carry on. I promise you to go through
with it, to finish it, to make sure you get to see it as soon as possible.”
After saying this, I felt a surge of
adrenalin, not least because I saw him nod. I felt renewed energy:  I wanted to get back to the project and get
done as soon as I could just so I could present it to him. I wanted to see him

I told him I’d come to see him early
the next week and he said he very much looked forward to it. He said his usual
thank you and reached for the parting handshake. I said my thank you too. “Your
legs too, will be well, Nana,” I said as I got up to take my leave. “I’ll be
praying for you.”
That was it. The last time I was
privileged to be in his presence.
morning. I logged unto facebook and saw a friend of mine post that CK Gyamfi
was gone.
I could not believe it. I did not want
to believe it. A day before, I had called Mr Quartey to seek clarification
about a discrepancy I had found while researching early 1972 to aid me in
writing a chapter about events at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. (Nana had coached the national team to the football tournament).

Before asking my questions, I asked if all was
well with the old man. “No, all isn’t well,” Mr Quartey said. His tone was plain. “His
leg pains got worse and we took him to the hospital.”

I told Mr Quartey, from whom I got a
sense of pessimism, that I did not
believe that the hospital thing was ominous, and that I was positive he’d get
well soon. I had, after all, heard Nana complain about his legs many times and
not once did I ever feel that it had the potential to be fatal. I always saw it
as ‘one of those things’, and indeed, we had once had a laugh about how he felt it was
a haunting hazard of his addiction to overhead (‘scissor’) kicks during his hey days.
He looked a fairly healthy, handsome
old man, all the time – even to the last time I saw him in his bed. I always got
the sense that he had so much life within him, though he exuded an aura of loneliness
And here I was, on a Tuesday morning, lying
on my bed, trying to convince myself that what I’d seen on Facebook was an
inaccurate report. Shortly before then, my body trembling with shock, I
remember exclaiming, cursing expletives of disbelief, thinking it was all a bad
dream. I remember some of my floor mates storming into my room to ask what was
wrong, but I could not utter a word of explanation. I did not have one.
I later called Mr Quartey. “Hi Mr
Akwetey,” I greeted, barely concealing my impatience. “Yeah, Fiifi,” he
responded.  His voice was solemn, a heart
breaking confirmation even before the inevitable words that followed. “Yes, it’s
true,” he said. “He passed around 2am this morning.”
Afterwards, I could barely speak in an
organized way. My questions were many and meaningless, and I remember wishing I
could be as calm and composed as Mr Quartey on the other end of the line. 

But I
just couldn’t. For me, his demise seemed too sudden, too out of the blue, and
though he was 86, I had never prepared myself for his exit. The shock rocked me,
dampening my mood for the next few days.

I entered a state lethargy, locked up
in a lull of constant reminiscing. Trying to recollect my encounters with Nana
was a painful exercise, because I realized that I had not paid particular
attention to many things, most certainly because of my misguided belief that he
was going to be around for much longer. I took many things for granted,
postponed many conversations, and I regretted them so much.
But, I realized – upon reflecting on
our last meeting – that he probably knew he was on his way out when he asked to
see me that Friday.

In hindsight, I deciphered that he
wanted to leave with an assurance that I was still committed to the project,
that I’d see it through to the end – even if he would not be around to see its
I’m glad that I was able to make a

NB: Beyond C.K Gyamfi’s death on Tuesday September 2, 2015, I managed to complete his autobiography, which is scheduled to be published late in 2016. I wrote this article in the weeks following his death, in an attempt to recall the full extent of my relationship with him. It was published here on December 31, 2015, my 22nd birthday, to accompany a press statement released by his family naming me publicly as his autobiographical ghost-writer. Knowing him and working on his story will remain an indelible honour that I will take to my grave.