Ekow Amoasi Writes: Why the unnecessary spending on Black Stars?
It came as a surprise to most Ghanaians when President Akufo Addo in his first meet the press encounter at the Jubilee revealed that he has forgotten the white paper on the 2014 World Cup Commission of Inquiry conducted by Justice Dzamefe. “To be honest we have forgotten the 2014 World Cup White paper but in due course, I will let my minister brief me,” the president said.
After the shambolic and abysmal display of the Black Stars at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the then President John Mahama’s administration on August 4, 2014, commissioned a three-man Committee, chaired by Justice Senyo Dzamefe, to find out the negative fallout from the Black Star campaign in Rio.
Established by Constitutional Instrument C.I 82, the Commission had Moses Foh Amoaning, a private legal practitioner and Kofi Anokye Owusu Darko, a Football enthusiast as the other members.
After the work of the three Commissioners, recommendations were made on how on how the government should finance the activities of the senior national team and other national teams.
Ghana over the past decade or more have always been tipped among the favourites to win the coveted African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy but has consistently failed to win the ultimate despite playing in three finals and emerging as six consecutive semi-finalists.
With some months for the start of the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, it was made known that President Akufo Addo was ready to sacrifice to ensure Ghana ends its 37 year’s trophy famine after several years of attempting to win the ultimate. As part of the preparations for the tournament, Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan were invited to the Jubilee House by President Akufo Addo to discuss how the country can win the tournament.
Shockingly, Board Member of National Sports Authority, Kwadwo Baah-Agyemang after the meeting told Kumasi based FOX FM that the players pleaded with the president to increase their winning bonuses from $5000 as it was recommended by the 2014 Dzamefe Commission of Inquiry.
“It’s true they (Asamoah Gyan & Andre Ayew, Black Stars captain & vice) met President (Nana Addo) to discuss winning bonuses and everything that would be needed to help Ghana win the AFCON.
“I wouldn’t like to put the cart before the horse so at the right time we will meet the press to make whatever decision we take public,” he noted.
A new management committee was named for the tournament as part of country’s plans to win the tournament. The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Commission, Dr Kofi Kodua Sarpong was appointed to head a five-member committee to manage the activities of the Black Stars. He was assisted by Deputy Youth and Sports Sports Minister, Perry Okudzeto, former Ghanaian footballer, Ibrahim Sunday, Mr Francis Asenso-Boakye and Madam Abena Osei Asare made up the team. The management committee was charged to supervise the activities of the Black Stars and collaborate with the technical team to facilitate all arrangements to ensure the team gets the best of preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Despite the captaincy row ahead of the tournament, Coach Kwesi Appiah stood by his decision and also had the support of the presidency in creating a peaceful atmosphere for the players before the tournament in Egypt. Before the 29-man provisional squad left the shores of the country for the three weeks camping in United Arab Emirates, President Akufo Addo in a presidential dinner with the players and implored the team win the tournament after winning the tournament in Libya in 1982.
One major call that most Ghanaian journalists were looking up for was the budget for the tournament. After accusing and branding the then Kwesi Nyantakyi’s administration of lack of transparency, Ghanaians were expecting the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Normalization Committee to announce the budget for the tournament but both parties refused to announce the budget for the tournament, leaving most of the online portals and newspapers to forged an amount as the budget for the Black Stars. Despite Ghana’s elimination from the tournament, Ghanaians are yet to know the actual amount that was spent on the Black Stars from United Arab Emirates to Egypt.
Ahead of the tournament, Africa’s football governing body [CAF] gave all the 24 countries participating in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations an amount of $6000 as participation money for the tournament which is worth $4.5m. However, before Ghana's 29 man provisional squad left for Dubai, reports emerged each player has been paid $80,000 as an appearance fee including the seven management members without the Ministry disclosing the actual budget for the tournament and to your surprise, this is the first time a huge amount has been paid as an appearance fee for the Black Stars players. Originally, Black Stars players were paid $1.5 as per diem but for the first time, the players and the management team were paid $500 as their per diem.
Again, it was agreed that the winning bonus for the team was increased from $5000 to $12,000 after meeting the president. Despite drawing against Benin, Cameroon and winning against Guinea Bissau in the final group game at the Suez Stadium, the players were paid $30,000 as qualification bonus despite winning a match in the group phase of the tournament. The players, however, insisted they must be paid $36,000 despite winning just a game because it was agreed with the president that their winning bonus was $12,000. After the Black Stars qualification to the round of 16, it was agreed that each player will be paid $15,000 should they win their round of 16 clash.
However, the Black Stars lost 4:5 on penalties to the "Eagles of Carthage" of Tunisia in the round of 16 to end Ghana’s hopes of winning the tournament.
The team spent 40 days from United Arab Emirates to Egypt for the tournament and to your surprise, over to $4m was spent on the team only to win a tournament worth $4.5.
One will ask, why will a country spend huge monies to win a tournament worth only $4.5m? Is it deliberate or because of politics? President Akufo Addo has consistently told the ordinary taxpayer that the public purse will be protected under his administration. If so, why should a player be paid huge sums of money before he plays for his own country?
As a Ghanaian, I support the president agenda of protecting the public purse because we have gotten to the apex where the truth must be told to the ordinary taxpayer. Why will a country who is championing beyond aid invest heavily in people who are not ready to do anything better for their country but always think about their selfish interest at the expense of the taxpayer? After investing a huge chunk of money in the Black Stars under the then Kwesi Nyantakyi’s administration since 2005, these Black Stars players have failed to win any major tournament and it is about the country to set its priorities right.
Is money the only solution for us to win the Africa Cup of Nations?
The Way Forward
The white paper of the 2014 Dzamefe Commission of Inquiry must be passed to ensure proper regulations on the government spend on the various national teams. A portion of the Commission’s work recommended that there should be a public interest committee which must comprise of three government appointees with one of them being the Chairperson, two GFA members with one of them being the Vice-Chairperson and quorum for meetings being three members. Interestingly, the John Mahama administration accepted that recommendation but have deliberately overlooked that and failed to institute that committee.
It would be recalled that when the Youth and Sports Minister, Isaac Asiamah was a parliamentary ranking member of Youth and Sports, he consistently called for the institution of the Public Interest Committee that was recommended by the Commissioners but his crusade did not yield any fruit.
However, Mr Asiamah is one of the people who called for the establishment of the Dzamefe Commission of Inquiry after the country's early exit from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
It will be prudent for Mr Asiamah to tell Ghanaians how much was spent on the Black Stars campaign in Egypt just like how he demanded accountability from the previous government and must make sure successive government will not repeat such deliberate mistakes.
Why Airlift Supporters to Egypt?
One of the major things this NPP government pledged not to do is to airlift supporters to support any of the national teams after the 2014 FIFA World Cup debacle Brazil.
After the Black Stars were crashed out of the tournament on Monday evening, reports emerged that supporters were airlifted from the country to Egypt only to support the Black Stars. Why would anybody decide to airlift supporters to Egypt whiles the group stage of the tournament was over? According to reports, Ghanaian supporters were heavily represented and on the day of Tunisia clash, over 100 supporters arrived in Cairo to support the Black Stars. Before that, journalists and supporters have been airlifted to Egypt before Ghana’s opening match against Benin and according to reports, should Ghana triumph over Tunisia in the round of 16, more supporters would have been airlifted to Egypt.
Meanwhile, paragraph 3.1.8 of the Dzamefe Commission indicates that the state should not commit state funds to send supporters to tournaments but will be accepted if the funding of supporters is done by a private entity.
The Youth and Sports Ministry has already denied publications that suggest that they contracted Gyankroma Akuffo Addo, daughter of President of Akufo Addo to airlift to supporters to Egypt.
According to the Sports Ministry, the organization of supporters to Egypt was done by a five-member committee set-up by the Sports Ministry, a representative from the office of the Chief Justice as well as the Attorney General department after a recommendation from the sector Minister Hon. Isaac Asiamah.
However, it has emerged that White Oak Limited was contracted by the Youth and Sports Ministry to take care of Ghanaian football supporters but the budget for the contract is not known, however, the Sport Minister, Isaac Asiamah, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwima Mponua, insists in press statement, he has saved the country cost, but failed to mention the amount. Interestingly, it is not clear, if the company; White Oak Limited, went through any competitive tender process ahead of its selection to take the supporters to Egypt.
The Black Stars players and management members arrived in the country on Thursday morning. Surprisingly, the supporter and journalists that were airlifted to Egypt are still there at the expense of the taxpayer.
Supporters and journalists have a return ticket of July 24 whiles the tournament will end on July 19. The Public Relations Officer of the Youth and Sports Ministry, Elvis Adjei Baah speaking to Kumasi based Nhyira FM said, “No supporter or journalist has been left stranded,” he said. “They are all in the best condition.
“They are always served three square meal a day and we are making plans for them to return on July 24.
Quizzed why supporters and journalists must arrive on July 24, he said, “The ministry was hoping Ghana will win the tournament so most of them have a return ticket of July 24. Should they return any moment now, the ministry will incur more cost so for us to protect the public purse, we have made arrangements for them stay and return on July 24,” he added.
One will ask, should Ghana even emerged as winners of the tournament, why should a journalist or a supporter who was sent on the ticket of the government overstay in Egypt and incur more debt for the country? Over 700 supporters were sent to Egypt to support the Black Stars and according to reports, $3.400 was spent on each supporter whiles the Dzamefe Commission recommended that no government should fund supporters trip.
The Sports Minister in an interaction with the supporters pledged to take them [the supporters] on an excursion in Egypt. However, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, a former Sports Minister condemned the Sports Ministry for airlifting supporters to Egypt describing the act as ‘criminal’.
"I wouldn't have sent supporters to Egypt if I were the Sports Minister, I would have respected the white paper," he told Asempa FM.
The vociferous MP says using taxpayer’s money to pay for supporters to Egypt for the 2019 AFCON is wrong following the recommendation of the white paper.
“The supporters went to Egypt as tourists but at whose expenditure? This means the Minister took taxpayers money to take supporters on an excursion,” the Odododoi MP said.
“We have over 1,000 Ghanaians living in Cairo alone, so why send supporters from Ghana? If this is the man who took over from me then we have gone back,” he said.
This means the Youth and Sports Minister, Isaac Asiamah must provide answers as to how supporters and journalists must overstay in Egypt and incur more debt at the expense of the taxpayer.
The Future of Coach Kwesi Appiah
Ghana’s obsession for Serbian coaches were taken to a different level as they engaged the services of Coach Ratomir Dujkovic for the 2006 World Cup, followed Milovan Rajevac who led the Black Stars to the 2010 World Cup and Goran Stevanovic who also exited after 2012.
Fed up by the consistent milking of the country by foreign coaches without producing any results, Ghanaians began agitating for the need to engage a homegrown tactician. Thankfully, that mantle fell on Coach Kwesi Appiah who had deputized for the last two Serbian trainers.
The 54-year-old entry was heralded with so much hope and confidence among many Ghanaians who threw their support behind him until what I perceived as his technical bankruptcy, denied the Black Stars the opportunity to play in the final of the AFCON 2012. Ghanaians had high hopes of winning the 2012 AFCON but Coach Appiah still lost to a 10-man Burkina Faso side in the semi-finals. Burkina went to the final and lost to a very deficient Nigerian side.
Upon his return, the former Asante Kotoko player would have been showed the exit but he was tasked to lead Ghana to the World Cup in Brazil. Over there, he didn’t just fail in his core duty as a coach but also showed his lack of control over the playing body. In the opening game, he rested his best players with an excuse of unleashing them on the USA in the second half. Shocking as it may seem we lost to USA who had never beaten Ghana in any competitive match.
Then Ghana drew with eventual winner, Germany in a game that was considered to be our best game of the tournament and lost to a very weak Portuguese side. It was reported that there was gross indiscipline in camp as players boycotted training before the match and even threatened not to play if their winning bonuses and appearance fees were not paid.
In the face of that disastrous showing in Brazil, Appiah still failed to resign upon his return until he was sacked by then GFA president, Kwasi Nyantakyi. The Black Stars abysmal performance led to the institution of the Dzamefe Commission.
Former Chelsea and West Ham manager, Avram Grant was named as the head coach of the Black Stars and steered the team to the final of the 2015 AFCON but sadly lost on penalties to Ivory Coast. It was this same team that had performed poorly at the World Cup in 2014 under Coach Appiah.
For them to have made it to the final of the 2015 AFCON just a year later summed up how Coach Appiah was technically inept. Surprisingly Coach Kwesi Appiah was reappointed when Mr Avram Grant exited in 2017. While my love for the team has never waned, I keep telling all who care to listen that we have a crop of good players but and a bad coach.
Appiah indeed proved me right when he drew with Benin and Cameroon in his first two games before beating Guinea Bissau to top his group in the ongoing AFCON in Egypt 2019.
At the 1/16th stage we had victory wrapped till our coach who was on the touchline as a spectator allowed just one Tunisian substitution to snatch victory from us. Ghana lost eventually on penalties to extend its trophy famine to 39 years.
Ahead of the tournament, the 54-year-old was given a clear mandate to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations or he will be shown the exit according to the Normalization Committee chairman Dr Kofi Amoah.
"Per the contract, if Kwesi Appiah doesn't win the AFCON 2019 he is gone. This is stated in his contract," Kofi Amoah said.
"The president of Ghana is ready to end the 37 years of trophy drought. I believe Coach Kwasi Appiah can win the AFCON with our prayers and support," Amoah added.
Because the country planned of winning the trophy, Coach Kwesi Appiah’s which ended in March was extended to cover Africa Cup of Nations but the extension has proved worthless.
Kwesi Appiah was spotted with his head in his hands in the team's bus after the team lost to Tunisia indicating that he has disappointed himself and Ghanaians which draws the conclusion that he must leave before he is being shown the exit. Despite being the first local coach to qualify Ghana for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Kwesi Appiah has done his best for the country and it’s about time he leaves for the country begin a new exodus.
The Future of Black Stars Players
We have gotten to a point where I think the Black Stars team must be dissolved and begin a new building process. After the team failed to qualify for the round of 16 in Brazil, the players never issued an apology to Ghanaians which made the team lost the trust and support of Ghanaians.
Ghanaians football-loving fans distanced themselves from the Black Stars due to the attitude of the players and the then Kwesi Nyantakyi’s administration after the country's exit from the tournament. Ironically, these same group of players who agitated at the 2014 World Cup are the same players that the country relies on today.
Former players, football-loving fans and ministers have called for the new a Black Stars team. One person who is championing this agenda is former Youth and Sports Minister, Nii Lante Vanderpuye. According to the Member of Parliament for the people of Odododiodio Constituency, Ghana will only win a major tournament until a new team is built.
"I think the Black Stars needs rebuild after this year’s tournament," he told Asempa FM. "Players who have played the Africa Cup of Nations four times must all stay away from the team to allow new players to take over the team.
"We have the likes of Yaw Yeboah, Samuel Owusu, Kwabena Owusu among other players that are ready to play for the country and when is done, trust me, we will do something magical on the continent."
Why will Ghanaians call for a new team? It is simple. These current Black Stars players have consistently demonstrated that they are only interested in milking the country and not to win a trophy for the country.
The likes of Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Zambia and Nigeria got rid of players with egos and most the so-called senior player and they were able to win the Africa Cup of Nations and I believe we should also make such drastic change if we are eager to win the Africa Cup of Nations. It has also gotten to a point where the U-20 and U-23 players must be properly groomed because they are the future of the Black Stars team. After winning the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Turkey in 2013, France promoted the likes of Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti, Alphonse Areola among other players to their senior national team and these same players played a key part in France winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Again, it is about time locally based players are being monitored closely. In winning Ghana’s four Africa Cup of Nations titles, the country couldn’t do without local-based players. The Ghana Premier League has produced some best players that have graced the continent and for us to get a proper and a solid team, local players must be monitored properly.
The likes of Osei Kofi, Baba Yara, Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Kwesi Appiah, Maxwell Konadu, Charles Taylor, Samuel Opoku Nti, CK Akunnor, among other players were all spotted in the Ghana Premier League and until these so-called senior players are excluded from the Black Stars, the country’s trophy famine will continue because other African countries have done it and it has produced the desired results by winning the Africa Cup of Nations. To your surprise, players who played for South Africa national 2019 Africa Cup of Nations are all home-based players. Why? Because the PSL is one of the best leagues on the continent and it keeps on attracting huge sponsorship. South African players are happy playing at home because the league is properly branded and very competitive.
When we have a proper league that is producing quality players that can compete with the foreign players, everything will be properly structured and these foreign-based players will not be able to dictate for the country or the management members. Bold decisions will be taken in terms of winning bonuses, appearance fee and players who deserve to play for the national team will be identified quickly. We will not have mediocre players demanding for huge amount of money before they play for the country.
Finally, the future of Black Stars now depends on the likes of Yaw Yeboah, Samuel Owusu. Kwabena Owusu, Thomas Agyepong, Alfred Duncan, Caleb Ekuban among other players. One major issue that must be settled is the issue of appearance fee and winning bonus. Moving forward, appearance fee and winning bonus must be fixed either $2000 or $3000 to cut down cost and by doing that, it will make the players sacrifice for their own country.
You know why? Because it is the national team that these same players use to exhibit themselves to get bigger contract in Europe so I don’t believe these upcoming players will agitate when they are being told they will be paid $2000 or $3000 as their winning bonus or an appearance fee. However, football fandoms have suggested that the government must take care of the player's tickets, hotel bills and when they are able to meet their target then the players will be paid any amount.
The country must stop the unnecessary spending on the Black Stars and rather focus on helping to rebrand our Ghana Premier League to attract players from other African countries. Priories must be clear because we can’t afford on always spending money without any results.
Ghana deserves better because we can't always spend huge amount of money and come back with empty hands!