Opinion: 2014 left a sour taste in football

If you are an ardent and loyal reader of Ghana’s number sports website, allsports.com.gh, this wouldn’t be news. There is a very educative column,spearheaded by a colleague,Thomas Freeman Yeboah dubbed ” Today in History”.

On the s last day of 2014, he reminded us the day our incumbent Ghana Football Association president, Kwesi Osman Nyantakyi was given the mantle of leadership to steer the affairs of Ghana football.

On Friday December, 30, 2005, then banker and lawyer, young exuberant football administrator, Kwesi Osman Nyantakyi who was the acting Chairman of the Ghana Football Association after the resignation of Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe, defeated experienced football administrators, Ade Coker, Vincent Odotei-Sowah and Kojo Bonsu in an election to be become the President of the Ghana Football Association.

Ghana football skyrocketed immediately, his new ideas of management paid off, and the country booked qualification to her first ever World Cup in Germany 2006. We bought into the notion that new ideas are required to always get good days back – his first year in office is one he will look back and smile, tell his wife “I was the first man to lead Ghana to a world cup after 49 years.”

He will call himself the “king” of football administration in the west African country. In his administration, Ghana became the first African country to lift gold at the U-20 level in 2009; a year later, his administration achieved their initial feat, and only Luis Suarez’s cynical handball prevented the team from making history in South Africa 2010.

In his first tenure in office, the world fell in love with Ghana football at almost every age level – there came the impression that Ghana was favourite for every tournament at any age group. The West African country spearheaded Africa’s entry into elite countries.

The years from 2006 to 2010 were the good times. Hardly did you see or hear people calling on Nyantakyi to resign.

There were no questions over whether Kwesi should be given the mantle for the second time. Delegates vested their faith in the Wa All Stars bank roller to keep the driving seat.

In his nine years of leading Ghana Football Association,  2014 began on a high note, but became a year GFA will wish to forget easily. The events that unfolded will have Nyantakyi cursing his stars.  It is a year any football fan or administrator wish never existed.

After two admirable world cup campaigns, 2014 was a year we entered with much expectations since it was a world cup year – and in its early face, the Local Black Stars compounded our expectations by going all the way to the finals of the third edition of the CHAN tournament- a competition for home-based players, though they lost 5-4 on penalties to Libya, it gave us confidence that our league was getting back to its hey days since the exodus of Ghanaian players quest for professionalism abroad.

Our thirst and hunger to see our league recognised came to pass when the Confederation of African Football, gave the country four slots in its inter – club football competition. But they failed spectacularly and we’re back to where we’ve been for years. Two slots in Africa.

There came the moment we all wanted, the world cup.The tournament staunch believers said Black Stars worst place should be the last four.

Instead, it became a period no Ghanaian, especially, the GFA would want to be reminded.

Instead of playing football, Kwame Nkrumah’s country sang shame, danced shame and sold shame to the world.

The Black Stars held the nation to ransom for their appearance fees. The players agitated without fear or favour. The didn’t care what Ghanaians were going through. They chose dollars over pride, they preferred dollars over patriotism. Slapped management members [Muntari v Parker], swore at coaches [KPB v Appiah] and refused to warm up for the last group game [Essien v Technical team] which resulted in indefinite suspension of Sulley Muntari and Kevin – Prince Boateng from the team.

It took 3 million dollars plus, cold cash, packed in chartered flight from Ghana to fly over continents to Brasilia to settle the agitating players to line up against Portugal in their last group game.

We dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons – we had a world-wide audience mocking and ridiculing Ghana.The country’s hard-earned reputation was battered, prompting the man who auctioned the release of the money to set up a committee, before transforming it to a Commission of Enquiry to investigate  into the debacle that ensued in the South American country. A poor definition of management.

The FA was initially against a Commission of Enquiry – I smelled a big rat when the FA said they preferred Committee of Enquiry, to Commission. FIFA wrote to Ghana; they kept reminding us the repercussions  of investigating the FA.

The Commission of Enquiry, was established and revealed the underground stuffs at the FA. There were ghost names who were paid appearance fees… we all know the rest.

And, finally, Ghana’s world cup participation money arrived, GFA moved swiftly to settle government the money they collected to pre finance the Black Stars. A row ensued between Justice Dzamefe led commission over who should keep the money.

When the team returned, the ‘kings’ lost their national adulation . It diffused, evaporated  into thin air. The boys were condemned for their avarice attitude. The overlord king of the Ashanti Kingdom, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II in his supreme wisdom told the players to accept to serve Ghana or get out when they had they endured a hostile reception in the Garden City.   They were booed and jeered by the same people who made atmosphere fearsome for visiting teams.

As if what we went through in Brazil wasn’t enough, Kwasi Appiah was fired barely two months after renewing his contract with the FA to spark up another debate.

To add salt to injury, founder and bank roller of King Faisal Babies,Alhaji Karim Gruzah, rised in search of justice for his club, after his team finished in the bottom three at the end of the 2013/2014 season.

He secured an Interlocutory injunction on Ghana Football Association (GFA)’s annual congress, the powerful decision making body, to confirm his club relegated. He had earlier petition the FA to deduct points of Aduana Stars after they failed to pay a fine imposed on them by the FA within a stipulated time of two weeks.

His petition was thrown out and he sought for fresh hearing, but the GFA gave him no listening ear.

Securing the interlocutory injunction meant, the Ghana Premier League went to sleep indefinitely, and young exuberant journalist like myself, hopes of getting a job went crumbling.

However on December 22, which was my birthday, an Accra Human Rights court gave me a best birthday gift – the court ruled out King Faisal’s plea to place an injunction on the GFA congress, permitting the GFA to hold congress and subsequently fix a date for commencement of the Premier League.

Hope finally glittered but the harm was done; it caused: financial strain on the local teams and players; and deprived local players the platform to compete for a place in the Black Stars.

That was a major hiccup for Ghana football.
Many ex-footballers began to call for Nyantakyi’s head; he didn’t lose the opportunity to remind some of them, notably, Osei Kuffour, telling him he knows nothing about management and should shut up.

And when we thought the next generation of players to take to the pitch to announce the presence of the red, gold and green, the continent’s football governing body,the Confederation of African Football (CAF), kicked our ass for age-cheating.

CAF banned Ghana after it emerged that Isaac Twum was above 17 years. The starlet failed MRI scan, but still featured as Ghana beat Cameroon in two legs to book a ticket to Niger for the African Youth Championship.

“Everyday for the thief, one day for the master.”
And finally, there was the appointment of Avram Grant to lead the Black Stars to Equatorial Guinea 2015. It is early days to say his appointment was the only positive thing which the happened in the 2014.

2014 left a mark on Ghana Football… The Ghana FA was exposed – and the country need former GHALCA chairman, J.Y Appiah who led the group which promised to uproot Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe like ‘cassava’ to do same to make way for another fresh ideas.

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