President John Dramani Mahama
President John Dramani Mahama has defended his government’s decision of squeezing over $3 million from the Bank of Ghana and physically transporting it to the Black Stars in Brazil last Wednesday via a chartered flight.
His justification of the move, described variously as ‘unprecedented in football history’ comes in the wake of widespread condemnation from both local and international critics.
In a written response to international newswire, Bloomberg, President Mahama said the move, though was ‘unconventional’, was ‘necessary’.
‘I believe valuable lessons were learned by all,’ Mahama said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News. ‘There was a problem with the initial mode of transportation for the payment and so we made other arrangements that, while unconventional, were necessary,’ he underscored.
Even with the huge dole-out which saw some of the players kissing their share of the money (appearance fee), the Black Stars bungled the chance to qualify for the second stage of the tournament.
Critics have questioned the rationale of the government physically transporting cash for payment of footballers’ entitlements when electronic means could have easily been deployed.
The world’s football governing body, FIFA, has also condemned the action of the Mahama government. ‘The sight of a cavalcade with police support ferrying the cash to the hotel where Ghana’s team was staying wasn’t a good image,’ said Secretary-General of FIFA, Jerome Valcke .
‘It would have been better to do it in a normal way, which means a bank transfer,’ Valcke told reporters in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian commercial capital.
Local and international critics have questioned the priorities of the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the Brazil saga.
According to critics, the airlifting of the colossal amount of money to Black Stars happened at a time the country’s economy is struggling – with the shortage of petrol as well as poor utility services.
‘Growth will ease to the slowest pace – since 2009 – this year because of power shortages, a slumping currency and falling commodity prices,’ the International Monetary Fund said last month. ‘The central bank financing of the budget deficit led Fitch Ratings to warn of even higher inflation in a country that already has one of the highest rates in the world,’ Bloomberg wrote.
Curiously, in the run-up to the World Cup tournament, Unibank, an indigenous thriving bank, was named as the official bank of the national team. Some arrangements were made between the bank and the team, including issuance of electronic payment card (Master Card) to each of the players.
The government, however, buckled under pressure last Wednesday when the Black Stars, scheduled to play their last group stage match against Portugal, threatened to boycott the match if their FIFA-sanctioned ‘appearance fee’ was not paid to them.
DAILY GUIDE gathered that apparently, the players had lost trust in their Ghanaian football authorities to pay up their fees and insisted on getting the money paid in cash after the authorities had failed to honour their obligations twice – before Ghana’s first match against USA and the second one against Germany.
The non-payment of the money caused serious rancour in the Ghanaian camp in Brazil, culminating in a free-for-all brawl that eventually led to the sacking of players like Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The Black Stars eventually lost their last game against Portugal, stalling their hopes of progressing to the next level of the competition.
President Mahama told Bloomberg, ‘Our elimination at this stage is not for lack of talent or effort. The Black Stars have given their all.’
The chartered flight departed Accra Kotoka International Airport (KIA) around 3:00 pm local time after initially encountering difficulties getting clearance for landing for transporting ‘unusual state-sponsored cargo,’ DAILY GUIDE gathered.
The chartered plane was said to have landed in Brasilia at 20:00 (local time) with a heavy police escort. The over $3 million was transported to the team’s Brasilia Palace Hotel amidst live telecast by Brazilian television channels and other international media.
Live telecast showed the aircraft landing on the tarmac; afterwards several suitcases of cash were seen being ferried out into two bullion vans amidst a heavy security presence.
Around 10:30 pm local time, approximately, 11 paramilitary vans were seen escorting the two bullion vans to the Brasilia Palace Hotel. The suitcases were offloaded and $100,000 cash was given to each player on ‘table top.’
Brazilian news agency Globo.com, has published exclusive pictures of Black Stars players receiving their appearance fees ahead of Thursday’s final Group G match against Portugal.
$1.5m For Officials And Supporters
DAILY GUIDE has gathered that indeed the amount flown to Brazil was $4.5 million, with $1.5 million allegedly set aside for the over 50 football officials that accompanied the team to the tournament.
Some of the money was also allegedly doled out to Ghanaian supporters – mostly NDC foot soldiers – who were denied decent treatment in Brazil, DAILY GUIDE gathered.
By: Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
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