Sports News of Tue, 24 Apr 20188
GFA Politics: Three things learned from George Afriyie's sacking
Finally, the die is cast.
The Vice President of the Ghana Football Association has been relieved of his duties following an Executive Committee meeting held on Tuesday.
It's interesting that the decision has come now, weeks after Afriyie announced at his 50th birthday party that he intended to contest in the 2019 GFA polls.
In the intervening period, the media waited for the blessing of Kwesi Nyantakyi for his vice. It never came. Instead, a loud silence filled the void, highlighting the rumoured rift between the two.
This rift, which had started months before when Afriyie had described Nyantakyi as greedy following disagreements over financial matters, has ultimately proven to have grown into Tuesday's announcement.
Last year, Nyantakyi had also mentioned at one meeting, at least, that he wanted his deputy out because he suspected Afriyie of conniving with Nii Lante Vanderpuije, an avowed critic of the GFA boss.
But what will be the domino effect of Afriyie's sacking?
Battle lines drawn
Before now, the line in the sand between the two men had been blurred. Now it's not, and both know where they are on the political divide. Without doubt, Afriyie will now be emboldened to go all out in his quest to wrestle power from the GFA boss.
Even though Afriyie has denied on several occasions that he was at loggerheads with Nyantakyi, the former's sacking has simply validated that rumour. This will pave way for the 50-year-old George, whose campaign team had already told Joy Sports that his plans for the future of Ghana football are ready.
But history is not on his side.
Fred Pappoe (sidelined in 2011), and Fred Crentsil (sidelined in 2015) are the two previous Vice Presidents who suddenly found themselves out of the position, and their subsequent career trajectories say a lot about Nyantakyi: he does not allow his former lieutenants to continue being influential in football circles.
But George has never been deterred by this, as he told Joy Sports following his announcement to contest.
“I think after serving on the Executive Committee for three terms and the role I have played in this current tenure, I have gained the experience needed as well as gone through the mill to and learnt enough to place me in a position to take over from my boss.”
“Irrespective of the numerous criticisms, I believe this administration under Nyantakyi has achieved a lot and I don’t think anyone is better placed to continue and build on the achievement than my good self," he said at the time.
Clearly, he was not singing from the same hymn sheet as his boss.
Relationship at the Executive Committee level
The Executive Committee (ExCo) is the second most powerful decision making body of the Football Association, after the Emergency Committee.
And since Nyantakyi announced he will not seek re-election several times within the last year, some names have popped up as possible contenders. None of those names were as high-profile as Afriyie.
This resulted in quiet division amongst the Exco – with some pandering towards him, while others felt Nyantakyi was still the right man for the job.
This toxic atmosphere at the helm of power needed to be fumigated. Trust Nyantakyi to deal with it, and he started doing so two weeks ago, when the FA announced that Afriyie had been removed as head of the Black Stars Management Committee. This position was one Afriyie had held since 2014, as a reward for his loyalty to Nyantakyi.
His removal was a clear signal that his end was near, and he knew. Last month, Afriyie told Kumasi-based Oyerepa FM that he was ready "to leave this position...because it is not for my mother or my father's lineage. Position is not possession."
If anyone was in doubt about the internal disquiet, some of Afriyie's own colleagues on the Exco publicly shamed him. These included Western Regional Football Association chairman Kojo Yankah, and Winfred Osei, who has now (conveniently) taken Afriyie's place at head of the Black Stars Management Committee.
“There is nobody in the country that has more experience in football administration in Ghana than Kwesi Nyantakyi. He is the CAF Vice President and FIFA Council member,” Osei said, effectively throwing Afriyie under the bus.
It is now clear that the relationships within the Executive Committee are frayed.
Nyantakyi will seek re-election in 2019?
The big picture of all this politicking has been because nobody is sure if Nyantakyi will go for his fourth term.
The experienced administrator has been at the helm since late 2005. Despite three straight qualifications to the World Cup, football in Ghana has not been at all rosy. Of particular has been the alarming decline in the Ghana Premier League by all stakeholders, and the death of the FA Cup for many years - until its revival some seven years ago.
Though Nyantakyi himself maintains the league is one of the best organised on the continent, the calls for change have always come from the general public, and not the so-called 'football people'.
However, the sacking of his vice has finally emboldened opinions that to save his legacy, Nyantakyi will have to seek re-election. For the first time since 2005, the existence of enemies rallying for his downfall is a clear and present danger.
But Nyantakyi did not get this far by chance. He knows the game. He's played it since his mid-twenties, and he will not be easy to uproot.
As George Afriyie himself said about why he wanted the top job after denying it for years, “only a fool doesn’t change his mind”.
We wait and see.