The rise and tragic demise of Baba Yara, Ghana’s greatest footballer

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Baba Yara was a legendary Ghanaian international footballer
Baba Yara was a legendary Ghanaian international footballer

Baba Yara was a Ghanaian international footballer born on October 12, 1936 in Kumasi, Ashanti Region.

The legendary Baba Yara was popularly called ‘King Winger’ owing to his exceptional skills as a footballer.

He was the first footballer to be voted twice as Ghana’s Footballer of the Year as a result of his fantastic goal-scoring skill.

Baba Yara’s rise to fame was unprecedented as a result of his goal scoring skills; however, his football career was abruptly put to an end as a result of a car accident.

Yara started out as a horse jockey player as a youngster at the Accra Turf Club between 1950 and 1955.

Shortly after, Kumasi-based Asante Kotoko Football Club signed him in 1955 and after a few years, he became the greatest footballer of his generation.

He first made his debut as a member of the Black Stars in the same year of 1955 when took part in a match that saw Ghana put seven past Nigeria at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Baba Yara scored two and assisted four of the goals during the match.

A few years on, Baba Yara became a proud member of the 1961 Black Stars team and earned 51 caps for the national football team. He is said to have scored 49 goals which is quite a number for a winger and was thus nicknamed ‘King of Wingers’.

Yara played active football from 1955-1963, and was voted Footballer of the Year twice; the highest football accolade in the country.

While enjoying his illustrious career, Baba Yara suddenly sustained a spinal injury in a motor accident that occured at Kpeve in the Volta Region on March 4, 1963.

His team, Nkrumah’s Real Republikans, prior to the accident, were returning to Accra after a league match against Volta Heroes at Kpando when the accident occured.

The tragic incident, however, cut short Baba Yara’s football career while he was in his prime age of just 26.

He was flown to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the United Kingdom for treatment for a period of three months, but the young soccer hero only returned in a wheel chair.

For six years, Baba Yara was bedridden, and eventually died at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital on May 5, 1969. He was 33 years old.

In honour of him, the Kumasi Sports Stadium was on April 12, 2005 named after Baba Yara for his exceptional talent and immense contribution to Ghana football.

The stadium remains Ghana’s biggest sports stadium with over 60,000 seater capacity.

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