It didn’t look like things could get any worse for Ghana football fans when the national side failed to qualify for the Russia World Cup at the end of last year, writes Adwoa Korkoh
But following the airing of an explosive documentary last week exposing widespread corruption in the local game, the head of the Ghanaian Football Association (GFA) has been sacked and the organisation dissolved.
In the documentary made by investigative Ghanaian journalist Anas Yeremyaw Anas, Kwesi Nyantakyi is secretly filmed stuffing $65,000 “shopping money” into a plastic bag from an undercover reporter pretending to be a businessman keen to invest in Ghanaian football.
The film, titled Number 12: When Misconduct and Greed become the Norm, also shows more than 100 referees freely accepting cash “gifts” ahead of domestic and international matches despite rules strictly forbidding such practices by football’s world governing body Fifa. Altogether, money changed hands on 150 separate occasions.
Fifa Council member and World Cup-bound referee, Adel Range Marwa from Kenya, was also caught out in the sting operation after being filmed receiving $600 from an undercover reporter posing as an official of a top Ghanaian football side. He has since resigned his position.
Ghana’s information minister Mustapha Hamid expressed “shock and outrage” over the expose. “As a result of the pervasive nature of rot… involving top GFA officials, top NSA [National Sports Authority] officials, match commissioners, football administrators and referees, government has decided to take immediate steps to have the GFA dissolved,” he added in a statement.
Nyantakyi, who as vice-president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) is a leading member of Fifa, has been GFA chief since 2005 and is credited with powering Ghana’s national side, the Black Stars, to its first World Cup appearance in 2006. It went on to appear in three successive tournaments but failed to qualify for this week’s Russia World Cup following a lack lustre performance in the qualifying rounds.
Suspicions of poor GFA management were raised after the team boycotted training during the Brazil tournament in 2014 in a protest over pay.
In Anas’ documentary Nyantakyi, who pledged to fight corruption in the game when he took over the GFA, is filmed in a plush Moroccan hotel signing a sponsorship deal, invented by the reporters, which could have enabled millions of dollars supposedly destined for the GFA to be diverted to one of his own companies. All in all, he would have been a few million dollars richer.
He apologised “unreservedly” for a “series of errors of indiscretion” after Fifa launched an ethics probe last week.
Much of Anas’ investigation involves referees accepting relatively small amounts of cash with little persuasion ahead of multiple domestic Ghanaian and international games. One was due to officiate in a match last year between Ghana’s two top clubs, Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko. Although it is not clear if the match was influenced by the cash payment, a penalty awarded to winning side Hearts of Oak was thought controversial at the time.
A game in African football’s most important club competition is also highlighted. Cote D’Ivoire referee Denis Dembele accepted $700 ahead of the Round of 32 clash between Ghana’s Aduana Stars and Algeria’s Entente Setif in the Champions League in March. Aduana Stars won 1-0 after benefitting from a disputed penalty awarded by Dembele.
In another segment, the undercover team is filmed handing over money in the referees’ changing room just an hour before kick-off of a match in the regional West African Football Union Cup between Ghana and Mali. Charles Dowuna, a technical instructor for the competition from Ghana, facilitated the encounter. Dowuna received, funds totaling some $2,500 during the 16-team tournament.
Anas took two years to complete his film. His footage now forms the basis of the BBC’s 50-minute documentary, Betraying the Game, so giving the allegations wider exposure. Anas, who has never revealed his identity, appears in it with his face veiled.
He has been accused of using entrapment and enticement to gain results. “It is wrong to induce somebody by an enticement of some lucrative – some big money or whatever – and then turn around to say the person is corrupt,” said Accra lawyer Charles Bentum.
“Indeed, for law, the giver is as guilty as the receiver. So, you cannot exonerate their enticer and condemn their… victim.”
Anas said in response. “The ethics are clear how a referee is supposed to behave. So if you are seen tilting the scale of justice in favour of one team it’s wholly unacceptable, let alone stretching your arm to collect money.”
Caf told the BBC: “Our Confederation will not under any circumstances tolerate corruption, manipulation, bribery or any form of violation of our Statutes, Rules and Regulations.”
Fifa said it was investigating and has asked its investigatory and judicial bodies to follow up on the allegations. It said it was a priority for Fifa to protect the integrity of competitions.