How Anas has damaged the innocent

Fri, 22 Jun 2018 Source: Michael Quaye

In the wake of Anas Aremeyaw Anas's almost peerless forays into what is done and kept in secret, it may seem almost unwise to court his attention, and risk what some lawyers and critics of his methods have called ‘entrapment'.

Yet, for a curious observer still chewing on the content of this latest piece of investigative work, it has been difficult to yield to the temptation to let sleeping dogs lie.

For, while the emotional nerves of the majority of the nation have welcomed and embraced the audiovisuals as the ultimate job to redeem Ghana football from the so-called tyranny of Kwesi Nyantakyi's hold, dissenting opinions against Anas's methods, style, maybe even subject(s)/target(s), and other processes have had to contend with the popular feeling of the society.

It is undeniable that this work has hurt a few innocent souls and damaged some huge reputations – all perhaps inadvertently – in the supposedly genuine intent to expose corruption in Ghana football.

It is also argued that once the investigation employed a method that exposed inherent ‘corrupt' tendencies rather than existing ‘corrupt' acts, it compromised the integrity of serious business – including Ghana Premier League and MTN FA Cup campaigns – for which the football community had invested every resource; tangible and intangible, financial and non-financial.

And given that an aspect of the investigation has turned footballer Patrick Razak into an unfortunate pawn, it looks better to err on the side of the dissenting minority – at least on some specific areas – than to swim in the popular direction.

Questions about why the investigative team chose to influence the selection of Patrick Razak of all players into the B Team of Ghana has legitimacy. And what could be the motive or overriding consideration for the dominance of cases involving Hearts of Oak?

Razak, a quick-footed attacking player of Hearts of Oak, is one of the rare true talents to emerge on the local scene in the past three years or so. He is a stout player and stands just above five feet, but compensates for any deficiency in height with his strength, intelligence, speed and gifted prowess with the ball.

On his own, he has made and won matches for a very ordinary Hearts of Oak side. He is considered a frustrating nightmare for opposing defenders when he hits his elements.

At the 2017 special West Africa Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nation in Ghana involving only players based in the local leagues, he was primarily an impact substitute for the Black Stars B Team. The argument that he deserved to be in the starting lineup received ultimate justification in the final against Nigeria when he came from the bench to win two penalties as Ghana won 4-1.

On the strength of this profile, it is stranger to find Razak on the bench than in the starting lineup for Ghana at a tournament for locally-based players. But this was the player whose involvement in Ghana's matches was supposedly influenced by Tiger Eye PI, Anas's investigative company.

Was there some conspiracy against Razak that Coach Maxwell Konadu's hand needed to be forced to introduce him at some point? Were there players who deserved their places in the team more than Razak?

The dent brought by this revelation on his involvement in the national team could supply unfortunate ammunition against his person and confidence, and strip him of a legitimate claim to a place in any national team in the future.

Indeed, the revelation must have thrown a suspicious light upon him as though he never merited his place in the national team, and any future call-up would likely be viewed with this suspicion. Worst still, this damaged reputation may linger into retirement and discredit his true worth as a player who graced some of the biggest games and pitches in Ghana football.

As preparing an omelet demands breaking an egg, even a well-intentioned investigation into corruption in a field filled with emotions such as football was likely to cause its own damage. But this is a damage that consciously selected its victim without his knowledge, and made no provision for restitution.

As often asked since the airing of the secret recordings, would it have been better to use an injured player or one who had hardly enjoyed playing time at his club to test the true influence of bribery in football? Did the ‘bribe' really influence Razak's involvement in the tournament? In other words, would he not have played if the ‘bribe' was not given?

But Razak did not endure the misfortune alone. His club, Hearts of Oak, were also innocent accomplices to a dangerous plan that has since brought the game into serious disrepute.

Hearts were the supposed beneficiaries of majority of Tiger Eye PI's peep into the bribability of referees, which featured a controversial fixture against fellow giants Asante Kotoko in Accra which Hearts won 1-0.

According to the narration on the international version of the video aired by BBC, Referee Samuel Suker was influenced financially to help Hearts win the match.

While the truth or otherwise in the allegation lies with the investigative team and the referee, the doubt created over the award of a penalty in that match is most unfortunate.

If Anas's work has come under some scrutiny and criticism, the bit about Referee Suker's penalty decision justifies it. The video of the penalty award used in the premiered expose was from a convenient angle that gave credence to the bribery plot. But another version from a different angle shows a clearer penalty, upon which a panel of the Ghana Football Association exonerated the referee. That video exists.

By the emotions expressed by the public towards the characters “caught on tape”, a guilty verdict has long been passed, and whoever escapes may find that route through the door of legal technicalities.

That is why Referee Suker is being accused wrongly for the penalty decision. That is why Asante Kotoko have questioned the referee on his penalty decision and justifiably condemned the investigators for influencing the referee of a serious match against them.

But Hearts also lost a Premier League tie with WAFA 5-0 at Sogakope although the investigative team was supposed to have ‘bribed' the referee to favour Hearts. So did the ‘bribes' actually sway the referees?

An investigator bears responsibility for his style and/or method, and Tiger Eye PI will take responsibility for the fallout from their investigation. This includes the damaged integrity of the last league competition.

If reports suggesting that Anas is seeking to nullify the 2017 league competition at the courts are true, what remedy exists to cure the wasted investments into that league competition? How do individuals and corporate groups who pumped money and emotions into the league recoup their investment? Or is it that the ultimate benefit of the investigation outweighs any damages it has left on local game?

Perhaps, this could explain the criticism of the method of ‘bribery' as being in itself a problem-causing prescription rather than a curing dosage, particularly when some of the scenes and ‘culprits' on the tape look very much like the by-product of the investigation's narrow view.

After all, the many FIFA officials busted for their corrupt deeds in football were not baited with new bribes, but exposed by existing deals and deeds.

Source: Michael Quaye
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