Opinion on Ghanaian football: How politics snatched defeat from the jaws of victory

ACCRA, August 10, 2019 – It’s been 14 months since the premiere of Anas Aremeyaw Anas’s ‘Number 12’ expose on corruption in Ghanaian football forced the end of Kwesi Nyantakyi and his Ghana Football Association (GFA). The renowned undercover journalist played his part in exposing corruption in football in Ghana and Africa as a whole with his work. But instead of Ghanaian football benefiting and getting better on the pitch and also off it, the game in Ghana has still not recovered.

One year and two months on, Ghana has been burning with talk of the Black Stars’ poor performance at the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. As well as related matters like the controversial hefty budget for the tournament and how much was actually spent on the team in Egypt. But people seem to overlook the bigger picture which is that Ghanaian football has got worse since 06 June 2018 when the expose became the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The situation worsened because the authorities took the wrong decisions and steps in the aftermath and the blame should be laid at the doorstep of the country’s president Nana Akufo-Addo. He seemingly has abused his power with some dictatorial decisions across a wide range of fields of endeavour, football included.

Instead of leaving football and the football association alone and focusing on punishing or prosecuting Nyantakyi and others found out in the expose, Akufo-Addo, surely, had a hidden agenda. He decided to set our football and all of us back with those dictatorial decisions of dissolution and suspension at a time when Nyantakyi was gone, apparently because Akufo-Addo wanted his own people to get in there for him to directly or indirectly have control of football through them.

On his return from CAF official duty in Morocco, Nyantakyi was arrested and detained at the national police headquarters in Accra and questioned by the criminal investigation department in the wake of the expose’s premiere. But he was soon released and up to this day Nyantakyi has been a free man and still no one knows the outcome of that investigation.

Meanwhile, it’s football, not Nyantakyi, that has had to suffer, even incredibly in his absence after he had resigned his posts as GFA president, Confederation of African Football (CAF) first vice president and FIFA council member. Sadly and unreasonably, President Akufo-Addo rather chose to and insisted on liquidating GFA and suspending football in the country.

So why would Akufo-Addo personally be so interested and involved in football matters when there were so many problems in Ghana for him to look at as the new president of a struggling country? Is it because his name came up in the expose? Is it because Nyantakyi mentioned his name and spoke about their relationship; about how close they were and how he (Nyantakyi) financially supported his (Akufo-Addo) campaign to help him become the leader of Ghana and so on? Is it because Nyantakyi spoke about how very close he was to him and how he could easily get government contracts from him, and so on?

So is it because of all this that Akufo-Addo wanted to stamp his authority to clear the ‘mess’, and more importantly clear his name and show the world he was not friends with Nyantakyi by dissolving the GFA and suspending football, even when Nyantakyi was gone? The truth, hopefully, will be revealed one day.

Negative effects of no football in Ghana

We are all witnesses to the damage or negative impact the so-called suspension or freeze of football has had on Ghanaian football, with the Black Queens (2018 African Women Championship), Black Satellites (2019 African Under-20 Cup of Nations) and club side Asante Kotoko (2018/2019  CAF Confederation Cup) suffering the effects.

Without football and competitive games, players lose condition,  match fitness and competitiveness – and these greatly affect teams and their effectiveness. Unsurprisingly, all the Ghanaian representatives – Queens and Satellites – bowed out in the first round of their various African campaigns after poor performances, failing to grab qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and FIFA Under-20 World Cup respectively. Kotoko also couldn’t match up and fell short at the group stage of the Confederation Cup.

As for the Black Stars, almost all the players of the 2019 African Cup of Nations squad are foreign-based and so they are exempt. Just that the poor quality of the team led by an incompetent coach who – paraded the worst Black Stars team in recent memory – was the team’s downfall.

Sadly, 14 months after the expose, full domestic football is still not back in Ghana and players and clubs – right from colts (juvenile) through divisions three to one and premier- in particular have suffered the pain and effect as a result, with the so-called GFA Normalisation Committee (NC)- which has overstayed their initial six-month mandate and now only two months (August and September) away from its six-month extension – not really knowing what they were about and how to go to restore full football and its structures. Very sad.

All that premier and division one clubs have seen are two mini tournaments – the so-called special competitions (tiers 1 & 2) – to find Ghana’s representatives for the 2019/20 African clubs football, and these came almost seven months after the NC came into being in Sept 2018 and almost 10 months after the premiere of the expose.

President controlling football through NC

What FIFA hate and don’t want to see is political interference in football – for which reason they threatened, in writing, to ban Ghana for the government taking the GFA to court in the president’s bid to liquidate or dissolve the football association. But they (FIFA) ended up giving the Ghanaian government the green light and power for direct or indirect political interference in football by eventually accepting AkufoAddo’s desire to disband Nyantakyi’s GFA and agreeing to set up a NC – which was absolutely not necessary at all in the first place.

Through this useless NC, Akufo-Addo succeeded, through his government delegations’ trips to FIFA house in Zurich, to convince FIFA why it was so important or necessary to do away with the then GFA, thereby deceiving FIFA into agreeing to the setting up of a NC to have control of Ghanaian football.

The members of the NC that FIFA subsequently accepted and blessed to run football in Ghana were individuals appointed by the Ghanaian government, some of them with political appointments. The NC chairman, Dr. Kofi Amoah, has little football background or knowledge, is a known business man but also known to be a follower or sympathiser of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Ghanaian government’s ruling political party.

Later, former footballer Samuel OseiKuffour had to come in to replace one of them, making him the only true football person on the NC.

If, at the end of the day, the observation is not even true that Akufo-Addo has had indirect control of football in Ghana through the NC, we can’t run away from the telling outcome that the dissolution of the GFA for an eventual NC and suspension of football has greatly and undoubtedly taken Ghanaian football back.

The influence of those unpopular decisions has been enormous and a lot has been lost as a result in these 14 months of no proper football in the country and ten months of the NC which has done virtually nothing.

Ghanaian players celebrate equalizer against Tunisia in the AFCON 2019 Round of 16 but still got knocked out after the game ended 5-4 on penalties. (Photo by CAF/Facebook)

 

Egypt 2019

It must be said that Akufo-Addo made Ghana’s participation in Egypt 2019 a personal agenda in the bid for Ghana to win the trophy for the first time in 35 years to score political points and more importantly to justify his initial decision to dissolve the GFA for a NC.

Perhaps, that’s why he flew to Egypt to watch Ghana’s first group game against Benin, said nothing about the hefty budget of $6.3 million for the tournament (even though the eventual winner would get $4.5m prize money). He also personally intervened to speak to both former Ghana captain AsamoahGyan and the coach Appiah for Gyan to change his mind about international retirement to appear in Egypt.

Kwasi Appiah and the Ghana job

Ghana coach Kwasi Appiah has all along shown that he is simply not good enough and not capable of managing the Ghana team, with his latest poor performance and failure at the AFCON 2019 in Egypt where Ghana won just one game – against unfancied Guinea Bissau – in four matches to exit in the Round of 16 and record the country’s worst display in the competition in the last 11 years, and since 2006.

But it still beats imagination how and why he remains Ghana’s coach and even got a second opportunity in the first place to lead the Black Stars. In Ghana, politics, unfortunately and sadly, has become everything and it has extended to football with politicians, instead of the people who run football, now deciding who should be the Ghana coach.

The circumstance under which Appiah got the Ghana job again was very odd and unacceptable. This is a coach who had been sacked not long ago and he was made to return quickly to replace Avram Grant, who had  taken over from him, just because the Ghanaian government led by president Akufo-Addo insisted on him (Appiah) and the then GFA had no option than to accept it.

The above is backed by the revelation by Albert Commey, an executive committee officer of the former GFA, that they (executive committee members) did not approve of and thus rejected the re-appointment of Appiah as Ghana coach but his re-engagement still went through due to orders from above and outside the GFA.

It’s therefore no surprise, following calls by Ghana fans for Appiah to be sacked in the wake of the Egypt 2019 disaster, that Akufo-Addo, rather than the GFA NC or ministry of youth & sports, reportedly held a close-door meeting with the Ghana coach in his office at the jubilee house (the seat of the Ghanaian government) in Accra last week Tuesday over his future with the Black Stars.

It’s a week now after that secret meeting and with no news having come out yet regarding Appiah’s future, it is clear he will stay on to the end of his Ghana job. Of course, the father can’t do away with his son, no matter what. So it not surprising Appiah is still the Ghana coach.

It is worth noting that Appiah – who was sacked from his first Ghana stint in 2014 by the Nyantakyi administration following Ghana’s poor and disappointing showing at the Brazil 2014 World Cup – first got the job in 2008 on a similar silver platter – virtually gifted to him by the then Ghanaian government of president John Agyekum Kufour, who was the club chairman of Asante Kotoko when Appiah was a player and the captain of the Kumasi club in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

With his two four-year terms coming to an end, Kufour decided it was time to ‘find a job’ for his ‘son’ Appiah and decided to call him from greener pastures in the UK – where he was doing nothing as far as football is concerned – to replace SellasTetteh as Ghana assistant coach to the Serbian Milovan Rajevac. Thus, Tetteh was ‘demoted’ to handle the Ghana Under-20 team Black Satellites and as fate would have it he went on to become the first and still only African to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup after leading Ghana to victory at Egypt 2009.

Appiah was deputy to Rajevac for two years and also to Milo’s successor and compatriot Goran Stevanovic for another two years until he became the obvious choice to assume full responsibility and control of the Black Stars after Goran left in 2012

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