By Peterking Quaye – One time Benin history making coach and Onetime Black Star coach, Sir Cecil Jones Attuquayefio in 2003 ,was no doubt like the popular Biblical saying, “a prophet is without honour in his own country”, when he sent Benin to probably their first African Cup of Nations games . ‘Sir’ Attuquayefio, as he is affectionately called, qualified the Benin national team for the first time in their history to the 2004 continental showpiece. They have never made the World Cup but have reached three recent African Nations Cups – 2004, 2008 and 2010.
‘Benin a country we Ghanaians do not count among the big soccer nations has been able to look beyond what our short sighted officials could see and employed the same person to achieve results for them. For their tolerance, Benin is now rejoicing and justifiably made Jones a national and instant hero not in his own country’ saying by many in Ghana.
News of the toll that throat cancer had taken on the legendary coach has raised public concern in the past weeks after the story of his deteriorating health was published by Globe Newspaper in Ghana narrating his ardile and from his look the former coach looked weak and spoke with difficulty. He kept shifting about in his chair to ease the pangs of pain that struck his nerves intermittently without warning. Virtually every sentence he spoke was accompanied by a painful cough. “It is unfortunate that in football, we do not have any future,” he said, adding that “My main source of surviving is my own personal savings which I was able to save during my coaching career. It is known that the national hero has been totally forgotten at this time he is suffering and down with an agonizing throat cancer, which has forced him to cut short his career as a coach. For those who have not seen him for a while it would be difficult to make frail looking Attuquayefio out in his recent state of health.
He is now a direly sick man and has been battling with the throat cancer for the past two years and has so far undergone three medical operations. The barely audible coach said “When I heard the story that they were raising funds on my behalf to enable me get better quickly, I was a little bit skeptical but on second thought, I said well, let me see how people will react to this when he was visited recently. Research also has it that such health complication leave a patient crippling with grip as throat cancer precariously oozes health out of him with each passing day.
The authorities in Benin and even Ghana appear to have turned a blind eye to his plight, virtually ignoring the man who returned Ghana to the African soccer heights after a long absence. Attuquayefio, in an interview at his residence in Accra said that he has had no support from the nation in battling his ailment and the situation is the opposite for some of his contemporaries who are also battling cancer.
The ailing coach has been presented with a ¢7,600 cheque donation to assist him financially for treatment. A local station in Ghana, Citi FM has gathered support to go to his aid, Attuquayefio was aptly responded to by various individuals and bodies, including Kasapreko Company Ltd which donated ¢3,000 while Danex Pharmaceuticals Company limited, donated GH¢1,000. Other corporate bodies like UT Bank donated GH¢2000 and GH¢900 was offered by staff of Cal Bank. Among individual donors was the headmistress of Sap’s School, Mrs. Same Chuku who donated GH¢100.
Apparently no help has been received from Benin, as we have seen and attempts to confirm this with him has been unsuccessful. Benin has to also come to the aid of the coach, as it is said’give a man his flower whilst alive’ receiving the cheque, a visibly elated Jones Attuquayefio expressed his sincere gratitude to all who donated to him. “To be honest with you, I am overwhelmed by the affection people have shown me.” He also showered praises on the following persons “Liberty Professionals Football Club has been very instrumental in paying for my hospital bills, but the majority of the bill is borne by me. If anybody will offer me support, I will receive it wholeheartedly but I wouldn’t ask anybody for anything because I think that I served my country, I served clubs and if they deem it fit or necessary to offer me any support I will be willing to have it but for now there hasn’t been anything. ”
The flag bearer of the main opposition New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, who was a childhood friend of Attuquayefio visited the former coach at his residence earlier in the year, to wish him speedy recovery from the illness that has kept him at home for some time. Nana Addo at the time donated some items and cash to him. “I developed other complications recently and the medications given to me were very expensive,” he complained. “What I have realized is that most of the medications I receive are not covered by the National Health Insurance. My treatment is routine which makes the situation very difficult. ”
He praised the late Alhaji Sly Tetteh, describing him as “one man who showed so much care”. “Alhaji Tetteh helped me consistently with my hospital bills. He was here with me on the Friday before he died on Saturday. He visited me more than anybody else I can think of and was more concerned with my problem than anybody I can think of. “He invested so much in my hospital bills and it came as a great shock when I heard about his death,” a sad Attuquayefio said with his head bowed down. “Sly was a man of vision and I know his spirit will live with the team and provoke the interest of the team.”
Sir Jones Attuquayefio’s legendary achievements include being the only man to have won the domestic treble with Accra Hearts of Oak, and going ahead to win the CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup in the year 2000. The former Accra Hearts of Oak and Liberty Professionals coach was a member of the Black Stars team that won the African Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1965.
Credit : Globe Newspaper- Nana Afrane Asante.