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Sports Features Sun, 14 Jun 2015

GFA's shattered shield

In 1920 the Gold Coast Football Association (GCFA) was formed. Some accounts say it was the first football association in Africa. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) is the successor to the GCFA.

The colonial government legitimised the association when in 1952, it enacted Ordinance 14, establishing the Gold Coast Amateur Sports Council, enabling the council to have the legal authority to control all amateur associations including football.

In 1930, Mr Richard Maabuo Akwei was elected the first chairman of the association. It was until 1957 when the GCFA was replaced by the Ghana Amateur Football Association (GAFA) led by Mr Ohene Djan as the General Secretary. A year later, the GAFA was affiliated with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) (in English, International Federation for Association Football).

After leading the association for three years (1957-1960), Ohene Djan was followed by Mr H. P. Nyametei who was in office from 1960 to 1966, and since then the association had 21 other leaders until December 30, 2005 when Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi became the leader with the change of designation from chairman to president.

With some players becoming professionals, the ‘amateur’ in the association’s name also vanished at some point making it Ghana Football Association (GFA).

Unlike other associations in Ghana, the GFA has been one of the most secretly run as far as its activities and public accountability are concerned. In previous times just as it is currently, each time there was a public outcry and demand for accountability, GFA officials ward off such demands using the FIFA as a shield threatening possible sanctions from the world body.

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In times past, the GFA was mainly known for the promotion of local football (all divisions including colts league). However, in recent years, the attention of the GFA has mainly focussed on the national senior team, the Black Stars, and its international engagements.

Currently, the local league does not attract any following and patronage at the various local stadia during league matches is nothing to talk about, yet it seems the GFA does not care about the disturbing situation.

The worse situation of the local league reflects badly on the national team whose players are about 90-95 per cent foreign based, yet the GFA had not done anything to change this situation.

Since 2006 when the Black Stars started participating in the World Cup the issue of accountability has always been a no-go area for the GFA, and anyone who demanded accountability automatically became an enemy who wanted to bring somebody down.

In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil both government ministers and GFA President Nyantakyi together with his team kept dribbling the public by refusing to disclose how much money had been made available for the tournament.

After the tournament it became clear to many that there had not been judicious use of state funds in Brazil. As usual, calls for accountability were fiercely resisted leading to the government’s setting up of the Dzamefe Committee to investigate issues relating to that tournament. Whether anything would come out of this investigation is another issue.

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The GFA, especially in the last 10 to 15 years had been run like somebody’s personal business. For obvious reasons, now almost everyone who eyes a position in the GFA tries to buy a football team to give them unfettered access.

The GFA is about one national institution which does not understand the kind of democratic practice blowing all over the world. But this is not strange because FIFA has never been democratic as people who get to its leadership positions want to be there for as long as they want. Not knowing until recently, their desire to stay as long as they want, was to enable them cover the high corruption many of them were engaged in as shown by recent events.

The FIFA sickness of close-dealings had affected almost all the regional football federations and national associations with people at the helm of affairs always trying to consolidate their positions to stay as long as they want.

For this reason many football lovers across the world have little knowledge about what goes on in their national FAs let along their regional federations. For Africans, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is Issaa Hayatou (the president) and vice versa, and for strange reasons our GFA officials, many of whom benefit personally from CAF, never see the need for any change in the status quo.

When FIFA, CAF, GFA and all the other regional confederations and FAs were still hiding behind the self-fortified walls, the United States did what many football fans had long wanted – smashing the shield and opening them up for investigation.

Interestingly, arrests were made only hours to the FIFA congress with top officials charged with bribery and corruption which in every sense affected FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Despite this, African FA Presidents including our own Kwesi Nyantakyi were publicly singing Blatter’s praises and eventually went ahead to vote for him to continue in office.

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Nyantakyi never realised that with such serious charges levelled against top FIFA leadership, including vote-buying for the award of World Cup hosting rights, it was not right to vote in the name of Ghana for Blatter, who could not excuse himself at least administratively (if for nothing at all) from the crime.

When he was asked why Ghana voted for Blatter, he arrogantly said on BBC Sports that "it's very irritating for someone to ask me why I voted for Blatter - why shouldn't I?"

He continued: "We take decisions on the situation on the ground by looking at the pros and cons before appraising it critically and whether it will benefit us one way or another."

So how critically did he look at the situation on the ground? And what benefit was he talking about? His personal benefit of becoming CAF president or that of Ghana?

The talk of Africa being honoured with the hosting of the 2010 World Cup is now baseless when it has emerged that top FIFA officials took $10 million bribe from South Africa before bringing the tournament to Africa. Therefore, where lies the favour Blatter does to Africa which deserves Nyantakyi and his African colleagues such a blind allegiance?

Again, Nyantakyi’s argument that embarking on any major changes within football's world governing body will cause more problems than they solve is sickening. Isn’t this shocking for our FA president to be thinking this way after serious charges of corruption, bribery, and money laundering had been levelled against top FIFA officials including a vice president and executive members?

One of Nyantakyi’s baseless statements over the resignation of Sepp Blatter which I am waiting for him to substantiate is his unwarranted accusation of the US government of “clandestine moves to destroy the image of FIFA”. Who has destroyed the image of FIFA than the corrupt FIFA officials, the sycophantic CAF officials and Nyantakyi who have over the years blindly supported Blatter.

I’m not surprise he speaks that way. As FA president, he was also the chairman of the Black Stars Management Committee, thus he reported to himself about the activities of the national team, yet when the management body could not manage the players in Brazil he never took the blame.

Nyantakyi and his team think because most of the funds the FA gets are from sponsorship, nobody has the right to question them to account for it. For this reason they do things the way they like.

During the Gyamefe Commission’s sitting some people were shocked to learn than in this modern day some FA officials were paid money without them signing for it, but this does not seem wrong to our FA president and his team. And we haven’t forgotten Nyantakyi’s “co-efficient theory” under which FA members who don’t appear anywhere near a tournament collect appearance fees.

The simple truth is that the shield Nyantakyi and his team including the arrogant public relations officer, Sani Dara, have been using to parry calls for accountability has been smashed, and there is no way FIFA would be allowed to operate like an inaccessible island any more. Nyantakyi and his team must therefore be prepared to open themselves up for scrutiny and stop attacking sports writers and commentators like Dan Kwaku Yeboah, Countryman Songo, and others who demand accountability.

After staying for almost 10 years what at all is keeping Kwesi Nyantakyi at the GFA? If he hasn’t been able to implement whatever programmes he has in 10 years, how many more years would he need?

Source: Frankie Asare-Donkoh