The following is a translation of a Twitter thread by @KittoDario. We thank him for his research and thread.
Guy Kokou Acolatse
He was the first black footballer in Germany and humorously fought everyday racism at the “Gateway to the World.”
This is the history of Togo’s Guy Kokou Acolatse.
Guy Acolatse, born in Togo in 1942. He learned to play football in the provincial town of Kpalimé, near the border with Ghana. As a teenager, Acolatse played for the Republic of Dahomey (modern day Benin). One of the largest clubs in Lomé eventually brought him to Togo capital where Guy would attend high school. His footballing talents would soon attract interest from French and Belgian scouts who had begun systematically scouting the African continent.
Guy would initially decline all offers because of a fear of adjusting to the unknown in Europe. Otto Westphal was the first to convince him to move to Europe. Westphal was in charge of the national team of Togo, which was a former German Empire Protectorate (Togoland 1884 – 1914). He also acted as a helper for football development, which is where he met the attacking midfielder Acolatse.
Signing for St. Pauli
Acolatse, at aged 21, signed for F.C. St. Pauli. He would move to Hamburg which was developing into a cosmopolitan metropolis, rebuilding from the ravages of National Socialism and war. When Acolatse pulled up to the Wilhelm-Koch-Stadion (as the Millerntor was known then) in the summer of 1963, he was greeted by countless puzzled faces. A curious welcoming committee had developed to see the new signing.
“I asked Otto if there was a game, there were so many people there” remarked Acolatse.
“They are there for you.” Otto tried pulling him back into the car, but Acolatse was already out.
The crowd had gathered as a result of a BILD article reporting an “unusual transfer” weeks earlier. The club had provided the information to BILD themselves hoping for some publicity.
“He is black as night, as fast as an antelope and as powerful as an Elephant. He can write on typewriters and he can play football” is how BILD describe Acolatse.
“Because there was a lot of advertising before my arrival and because I was black, everyone wanted to see me. In the hotel where I was when I wanted to enter, everyone look and say “its black, it’s a black man.” I saw myself like an actor at the time. I am polite, respect and play with the situation. In the early years there were people who had never been to a game before and went to the stadium see the black player. Many had no idea what Togo or a black person was” Acolatse would recall later in life.
Acolatse’s first game at St. Pauli
His first game in a St. Pauli jersey was on August 4th 1963 in a friendly against Büdelsdorf. He scored in a 6-2 victory and showed his understanding of the game. His competitive debut came a week later agains Altona 93. BILD reported with cheer that “the boy is well on the way to becoming Hamburg’s man of the year.”
Acolatse: “At the time I was the only black person in Germany and the Togolese who player football here.”
Opposing fan encounters where not quite as amusing. For them he was not the “black pearl” but rather a “shit n****r” and a “black pig.” “They looked at me” he said “sometimes when people were playing they called out “monkey monkey.”
“Hey, if you touch me I’ll bite you.”
Even his own supporters would turn against him when his form dropped. “You don’t score goals. You get a banana you little monkey.” When it came to the racism Acolatse would consider it a provocation rather than a crime and would prefer to react with humour. “I think I am a good humoured guy. I would turn my head and look and scare them. When I played and opponents became insulting I would say: Hey, if you touch me I’ll bite you. The n****r bites. It never came into my head that they would like me less because I am black. Football was the most important thing to me. When I ell someone today I was in Germany in 1963 I am asked whether I could go to the pub alone. Yes I went to the pub alone and ordered an Alsterwasser.” With his humour and quickly acquired German language skills he soon found his way.
He took fears of his skin tone with humour. “When I wanted to get my drivers license from the authorities, the officer stared at me and I opened my eyes wide and slowly approached him and rolled my eyes. The man went back further and further but could not go any further for the wall. He was really scared. His colleague started to laugh. Then I went outside, got three coffees and drank them with them. We became friends. Then he took me to his parents, which was a surprise. He wanted to show his parents he had met a black man. When his mother opened the door she was really scared. Afterwards, she said she thought she must die down. When he informed her I played for St. Pauli she said she had wanted to take a look at it, but were a little scared.”
Playing against Franz Beckenbauer
Acolatse is particularly enthusiastic to talk about 1964 and the promotion rounds which St. Pauli took part in as North Champions. “I played against Beckenbauer who played his first game for Bayern at the time. It is unforgettable for me.”
The game was lost 0:4, with Beckenbauer scoring. The second leg was 6:1 to Bayern, but the St. Pauli goal was scored by Acolatse. Despite these result, he was satisfied with his life. “One work earned 400DM. With bonuses I earned 5 times more.That was a lot of money. I had an apartment and a small car, then I got my dream car, a VW 1600. I played with great players throughout my career. I played with Uwe Seeler who was one of the strongest strikers I’ve ever seen. I played with Beckenbauer and a training game with Puskás.
Westphal left St. Pauli after a year. Acolatse was less used under his successor Otto Corps because of the a change in footballing philosophy. “Football was played differently in Togo. If we have a ball we try and outwit the defenders.” After a year, Corps also left and was replaced by Kurt Krause. Krause similarly couldn’t find use for Acolatse.
After St. Pauli…
In three years for St. Pauli, Acolatse would play 43 games and score 6 goals. He remained in Hamburg and played for three years at HSV Barmbeck-Ulenhorst. In 1970, he would return to St. Pauli, this time for the Second team. He remarked “Somehow it was like my family. The board members and others often took me home for lunch and then brought me back to training after.”
Acolatse would even cause a stir in the Hamburg club scene. He befriended Gunther Sachs, Opel-Erbe and Lebemann and made a film with Danish icon Gitte Haenning. “People came to the club and asking if they could take me over the weekend. They had to leave their name and say when they wanted to bring me back. Mostly it was rich people who had invited their friends to introduce me to them. One invited me to his boat to show the others. I didn’t like it. I like talking to people, but I don’t want to do anything in that way. I was often asked whether I could go to the toilet with them to show them my penis.
Acolatse would date Greek singer Vicky Leandros for 8 months, but the relationship came to an end due to her father’s racism towards him. Before Vicky he was married to a woman from Hamburg, and had a son with her in 1965. However, their relationship came to an end due to his affairs and regularly changing acquaintances at his regular cafe in Pöseldorf. He chose to “swear off women” and settled in Bergedord. However, his voluntary abstinence was very short lived.
He met a Parisian girl who was studying law in Hamburg and was 21 years his junior. She became the love of his life. She fell pregnant two years later and he vowed “if it is a girl I will go to Paris with you.” Shortly after the birth of his daughter in 1980 he kept his promise and moved to Saint-Denis. There he trained for PSG’s third team while working full time at Ford.
Monsieur Guy the grandfather
Acolatse is now a pensioner in Saint-Denis, living off €800 a month. The love of his life died some years ago, but their daughter follows in her footsteps studying law. Acolatse spends his time training children from precarious backgrounds and teaches them German. Every Wednesday he plays football with the kids on a small artificial pitch. He is known only as “Monsieur Guy.” Especially as he works with people in more worrying financial circumstances than even his own.
Although he misses Hamburg very much he is glad to no longer be asked about his colour, or be called “little monkey.” Ultimately, he is happy. “I am healthy, sleep well and am now a triple grandfather.”