Sports Features of 2014-08-13

Much ado about nothing: Why the Ghana FA must be questioned

Fifa is a body founded in 1904 in France and based in Zurich, Switzerland. It has 209 member associations, and its goal, as enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football.

Fifa employs some 310 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body), and numerous committees that assist the aforementioned Executive Committee.

FIFA's administration is carried out by the General Secretariat has as its head, the FIFA Secretary General, who is responsible for implementing the decisions of the Executive Committee.

The Secretary General is also responsible for FIFA's finances, international relations, the organisation of the FIFA World Cup, and other FIFA football competitions. The General Secretariat is composed of divisions dealing with development, competitions, football administration, finance, business, personnel, services and communications.

The Ghana Football Association (GFA) is just one of the 209 FIFA membership associations/federations. Given the respective historical backgrounds of FIFA and the GFA, the former has not the right to entirely dominate the latter, for as an association, the GFA has come a long way on its own through the toil and sweat of our forefathers. Sadly, though, the very opposite seems to be the case as FIFA - at least up till this point - appears so unimaginably powerful that, even within its own corridors, it is touted as the 'United Nations of Football', such is its unbridled might.

And why wouldn't they?

Between 1975 and 2002 alone, over 60 independent football associations affiliated themselves with FIFA!

But just how more powerful could world football's governing body get? And just how monstrous can FIFA prove? Even to the point that the sovereignty of a member nation could be placed under siege?

That drifts me to the latest case in point: the story of the Ghana Football Association versus the ruling Ghana government. The GFA has long walked under FIFA's umbrella and is thus expected to be autonomous. So autonomous, in fact, that it lacks respect for the average, tax-paying Ghanaian football fan. Thus, the FA feels it could readily dismiss the national government's earnest efforts to scrutinize the domestic game in order to instill discipline as so-called 'interference' - 'interference' being a word FIFA very much frowns upon.

It is in view of these conflicting backgrounds that it can be concluded that the GFA has now reached crossroads, for it seems torn between the devil and the deep blue sea as to respect and appear before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry set up by the President,

John Dramani Mahama, under article 278 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. The GFA has desperately tried, for reasons known to it alone, to avoid probing by this quasi-judicial body, and that has openly heightened the sense of skepticism regarding whether or not the GFA has something to hide.

Until last Friday when, this writer, as Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association, had the honor of leading members of the said Commission to call on the Ashanti Regional Minster as well as the Mayor of Kumasi, and subsequently partaking in a media interaction in Kumasi, there was some hope that FIFA domineering authority was, for once, going to be limited. Lawyer Moses Foh-Amoaning, one of the three personalities comprising the Commission, assured that “we are bent on preserving the sovereignty of Ghana in the face of this exercise and we won’t be intimidated by any power anywhere on this earth [FIFA's included].”

Ghana belongs to Ghanaians," he continued, "and we deserve the right to inquire into matters of public interest and not even FIFA can stop us.”

Foh-Amoaning highlighted further that he and his appointed colleagues "are a fact-finding Commission and not a witch-hunting [one], and so we have nothing to fear in this assignment given us by His Excellency the President.”

He stressed that the Commission will also be seeking to make recommendations on principles and policies that underpin the systems and structures of the administration of, not just football, but Ghanaian sports in general. Is it not amazing, then, that just two days after the Commission's inauguration that FIFA is said to have written to the GFA, threatening to sanction Ghana if the Commission went ahead with its job without recourse to FIFA’s position against government interference?

Really, could the authenticity of the FIFA letter purportedly written by Deputy Secretary General of FIFA, Markus Kattner, and addressed to the Acting General Secretary of the Ghana Football Association, be properly ascertained? I say the letter was 'purportedly' written because, firstly, the letter is not signed and any official letter not signed cannot be said to be legitimate. That aside, the letter is deemed to have been faxed. If so, is the FIFA fax number seen anywhere on the letter as is normally the case with faxed documents?

Again, a cursory look at the FIFA logo on the sheet raises questions as to whether the letterhead is genuine; contrast it with the original FIFA logo to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of my observation. I could be wrong, though, but who is to say?

All such suspicions aside, the supposed FIFA letter, when thoroughly analyzed, does not actually seek to scare the Commission from carrying through its mandate. Paragraphs six and seven of the letter give the impression that the FA misinformed FIFA into writing the said letter.

FIFA, in its rather rash 'response', clearly did not oppose the setting up of the Commission, neither did it caution Ghana nor ask the GFA not to appear before the Commission. To that effect, I present excerpts of FIFA's 'warning' letter: “According to the information that you have provided to us in your letter dated 4 August 2014, we understand that the GFA does not receive public funding for its work and that public funds allocated to the national team are managed by representatives of the government of the Republic of Ghana. As such, the officials that would be competent for the usage of public funds do appear to those of the GFA.”

Further, it reads: “We are confident that you will reach an understanding with the Commission and that you will collaborate as long as the autonomy of the GFA is respected.”

From the above, the GFA has succeeded in painting a very gloomy picture of the Commission. If doing so is aimed at winning public empathy, it obviously is a classic case of doing too little, too late.

That said, the content of the letter is extremely coherent and unambiguous. Fifa never warned Ghana in anyway whatsoever. Rather, it is merely asking the GFA to 'collaborate' with the Commission as long as the 'autonomy' of the GFA is 'respected'.

So why cross a river not yet reached? And, just as importantly, why create a raging storm in a teacup? In the famous words of English playwright William Shakespeare, all this is indeed "much ado about nothing!" The GFA is only crying wolf where there is truly is none. And, boy, does that smacks of suspicion!

Why wouldn't the FA appear before the Commission and advance its submissions to show its commitment to reviving a sport that we all so dearly love? Well, for one, there are unsubstantiated reports that officials of the technical team received $100,000 and refunded some to FA capos. Now, if true, this could spell disaster for the GFA.

Are these rumors why the GFA is fighting to resist attempts at appearing before the Commission? Only time would tell.