A tearful former Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, yesterday told the Justice Dzamefe Commission of Inquiry that it took the intervention of Vice-President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur to resolve the protracted Black Stars appearance fees row in Brazil.
He said having come to his wits’ end during the unending negotiations with the players, he had no choice but to consult the Vice-President, who was then in Brazil to watch the Stars’ first match, for advice.
Approval of appearance fees
“I briefed the Vice-President who was then in Brazil to watch the first match and it was agreed that the players should be given the $100,000; so it was announced to them at training and they were so happy,” he stressed.
“That was after the coach (Kwasi Appiah) had told me that he thinks the issue must be resolved once and for all so the players could concentrate,” he noted.
Mr Ankrah, who was narrating what transpired in Brazil during interrogation by the Senior State Attorney, Mr Jonathan Acquah, disclosed that the Vice-President’s intervention arose out of a stalemate over negotiations for the appearance fees in Amsterdam.
He also informed the commission that President John Mahama personally spoke to the players on phone in the dressing room before the second group game against Germany, which has been adjudged as one of the best matches at the Brazil tournament.
The former minister told the commission that the issue of appearance fees officially came up for discussion while in Amsterdam for the Ghana-Holland pre-World Cup friendly in May when he met the Stars trio of skipper Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien to discuss the matter in detail in the presence of FA officials.
Stalemate in Amsterdam
According to him, the players indicated that the $82,500 which was approved by Cabinet was not good enough, since FIFA had increased the appearance fee for the Brazil 2014 World Cup, among other genuine reasons.
He pointed out that he also told them once Cabinet had already decided on the figure it would be difficult for it to be reviewed, considering the current prevailing economic conditions and public opinion on the subject.
“The players insisted that anytime we negotiate with them we win, so they must also win this time.”
Mode of payment
Asked why his ministry opted to carry cash to Brazil in a chartered flight instead of transfer, he said two days after the US match the GFA informed his officers that the players had rejected the card and transfer options and were then demanding cash.
“So I directed the Chief Director to go get them cash by whatever means,” he stated.
He said in the face of the dilemma, he spoke to Ghana’s Ambassador to Brazil, Brigadier-General Wallace Gbedemah (retd), for a way out but realised that the bank charges for transfers was 17 per cent, while Brazilian laws did not permit one to withdraw more than $10,000 from an account.
“At this point what I did was to engage National Security. I didn’t understand why they (players) were insisting on cash but it was a strong insistence.” Pushed further, Mr Ankrah revealed further that the first person he spoke to in the midst of the crisis was the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Kofi Wampah, but requested to give the details in camera and was obliged.
Justice Dzamefe’s explanation
At this point, Justice Dzamefe stepped in to explain that the commission was not ‘attacking’ the minister but were just asking questions to ensure that what went wrong would not happen again.
In a swift response, Elvis described his predicament as the mystery of life as he did everything under the sun to save the situation but to no avail.
And Minister wept
At a point the tough-talking minister could not hold back his emotions and eventually broke down in tears when Justice Dzamefe asked him about how he felt when he heard that the players had boycotted two training sessions.
“I was devastated when I heard that the players had refused to train…”, he was choked with tears and picked his handkerchief to wipe his tears. The commission chairman stepped in to console him, resulting in a five-minute hold-up.
When he mustered courage to continue with his evidence, the only answer he could give was that “it was horrible”.
Muntari, Boateng sanction
According to him, the Muntari incident had happened two days earlier, and also that he was only briefed about the suspension of Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng but did not know how the message was communicated to them.
As to whether he thought the timing of Muntari and Boateng’s suspension was right, Mr Ankrah said he saw nothing wrong with it if the decision was necessary in the view of the coach.
“To be frank some disciplinary measures should have happened earlier due to an altercation and verbal abuse between a player and the coach,” he stressed.
He agreed with the commission that players who contribute to the Stars’ qualification in future should be considered among the appearance fees beneficiaries.