Soccer News of Friday, 9 January 2015
For good reasons and bad, all of Kwesi Nyantakyi’s 108 months – particularly the last dozen – as president of the Ghana Football Association have been quite memorable and remarkably incident-filled.
As a decade spent in Ghanaian football’s highest office dawns, Nyantakyi touched on some of the more pertinent issues that have come up during his tenure – concerning the past, present, and future – when Goal’s Sammie Frimpong caught up with him recently in a no-holds-barred dialogue.
He does have a lot to say, as you’d imagine.
To break the ice, Nyantakyi runs us through what his job as GFA President entails. As it turns out, it isn’t nearly as simple as many think or tend to portray it.
“If you look at the business of the FA,” he details, “we deal with issues about women’s football, colts, coaches, referees, sports medicine, the Premier League and various lower divisions, the national teams (eight in all), regional football associations, international affairs, marketing, IT, research, infrastructure, transport, property creation and management, the various GOAL projects, relations with CAF and FIFA, and several other pressing concerns. Each day presents its own challenges to deal with. As you’d imagine, attending to all of these consumes a lot of one’s time, and I thus have little time for myself.”
So, then, what motivates him to push through all that he finds on his plate, given that there is so much?
Says he: “It is basically because I personally don’t want to fail in whatever I do so I strive to apply myself diligently to work.”
For a fact, it would all have been relatively easier were Nyantakyi just FA boss. Instead, he’s much more; a family man, President of the West African Football Union (WAFU), a member of CAF’s Executive Committee, as well as holder of a seat on FIFA’s Associations Committee, et al.
And did you know he was part of the Organising Committee for Football at the 2012 London Olympics?
How Nyantakyi juggles all these balls on 46-year-old shoulders, though, only he can say. And, thankfully, he does when I do inquire.
“It’s all about time management, versatility, and efficiency that combine to achieve results. In football, all of the aforementioned roles I hold are interrelated. The activities of CAF Ex Co membership, as well as the FA and WAFU presidencies all have football policy at their core, namely, organising competitions, developing coaching, training referees, organising courses for your people, building infrastructure, empowering your staff and improving their conditions of service, etc. So when people say Nyantakyi has one job too many to handle [as they have so often in his tenure], they tend to forget that the lot are all connected in one way or the other.”
With that, the small talk is out of the way, and we now set our teeth into the really hard stuff.
Suffice to say Nyantakyi isn’t exactly the most popular figure in Ghana at present. He knows it. He admits it. But is he worried, though? Does he even monitor the serious allegations many make on social forums and broadcast media platforms, mostly about financial mismanagement at the GFA?
“I pay little attention to them, really,” he responds matter-of-factly.
“But, Mr President,” I quickly follow up, “is there really corruption at the Ghana Football Association?”
It is a question I couldn’t have asked more bluntly, yet one he couldn’t have handled more coolly either.
“No,” he replies, and doesn’t leave it simply at that.
“There is no financial mismanagement at the FA. Accusations of corruption and embezzlement of funds are always levelled against the GFA but there is little proof whatsoever. They only remain perceptions, not founded in fact. Our accounts are audited each year, and not once in the past eight years has the GFA Congress been alerted by the Auditor-General of any irregularities. People just wish to paint us black, and that isn’t helpful. If anyone possesses solid evidence of such mismanagement, they shouldn’t hesitate to notify the appropriate authorities for the necessary investigations to be conducted into the affair. Maybe they are seeing something the auditors miss.”
Still, corruption isn’t all the Wa-born has been charged with in recent memory. The latest has to do with the reshuffle of the various national teams’ management committees overseen by the FA’s Executive Committee earlier this month. Talk is that Nyantakyi’s influence on the Committee was key in placing men considered as allies on management committees of greater prominence, with others perceived as being unfavourably disposed to Nyantakyi (including one or two ‘rivals’) slipped down the ‘ladder’, all in an attempt to consolidate the bespectacled lawyer’s supposedly waning power at the FA.
To that, Nyantakyi has another strong rebuttal to offer.
“The only consideration in assigning these roles,” he proffers, “is competence. Once in a while, it is important to send people around to share experiences gained elsewhere. It has nothing to do with friendship or favouritism; it is all about competence. As Executive Committee members, we should be ready to work in every sector of Ghana football as we have supervisory jurisdiction over all the committees. It isn’t just about one’s preference or affinity for a particular area. Besides, the decision to reshuffle is taken by the Executive Committee, of which the FA President is merely a part of.”
Aggression and Media relations
Among Nyantakyi’s greatest critics, as indicated earlier, are elements of Ghana’s sports press. Against these, Nyantakyi, once the affable fellow with a warm smile for all, appears to have developed a certain aggressive stance. Granted, official press conferences graced by his presence aren’t any less feisty than they have always been. These days, however, the stream of fire no longer flows in just one direction. Is it a wholly bad thing, though?
Not to the man himself.
“Being aggressive is just a posturing,” he says. “It’s gone off for a while but I believe it is a natural reaction to the attacks I face without any malice intended.
“People attack you all the time and when you finally defend yourself some find it offensive? Some even call me arrogant and harsh in the manner I respond to criticism. They say I don’t smile so much anymore and that I look too serious nowadays. However, I do not think it is a bad posturing, merely a change in my demeanour.”
Yet while Nyantakyi’s relationship with the press has steadily soured, conduction of information between the FA itself and the media has improved considerably, a situation that Nyantakyi readily credits to FA spokesman Ibrahim Saanie Daara.
“Saanie’s presence has greatly enhanced information flow. His job has reduced the relevance of interviewing officials and players when the teams are in camp, a tendency that often posed a distraction in the past. He records and sends the necessary pre- and post-match comments to all media-houses at the same time without preferential treatment. There is much equality and parity.”
That notwithstanding, Nyantakyi concedes that more could be done to further bridge the once widened gap between the FA and the media.
“More than 200 media-houses in Ghana are on you [Saanie and himself] everyday seeking information and there are so few sources to tap it from,” he highlights.
“We need to create more avenues to make information flow freer and more regular than it currently is.”
Commission of Inquiry
Nyantakyi made the headlines for several reasons in 2014, quite notably for his adventures in – and out of – the presence of the fact-finding Commission of Inquiry established by Ghana’s President, John Dramani Mahama, to seek out the details of the senior national team’s disastrous campaign at the Fifa World Cup earlier this year.
For a while, speculation was rife as to whether the Commission had the right to summon and question the involvement of the “autonomous” FA and whether Nyantakyi – and the organisation he leads – were even obliged to make an appearance. After what seemed like eternity, he/they did eventually show up and gave a fairly satisfactory account of the FA’s version of events, but was there any apprehension at all from a personal perspective, considering all that had transpired prior?
“Oh hardly” Nyantakyi begins to answer, not without a well-placed chuckle. “Initially, we did hear some rumours that the Commission had a number of things in mind against us. When I appeared, though, there was nothing of the sort. I was relaxed and went through the hearing and I feel there was no problem at all. It was really cool.”
Nyantakyi’s submissions before Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Co. yielded a number of points, some of which remain subjects for heated debate nearly three months after he made them. Consider, for one, the small matter of ‘coefficients’ which he referenced in attempting to explain why the Stars’ management committee and others associated with the team’s successes deserved some financial due. Few, it seems, fully understood it, and even fewer were willing to accept what Nyantakyi elaborated on.
So, then, Mr President: for the sake of those who didn’t quite get it the first time, just what did you mean by the ‘coefficients’ line of reasoning?
“Well, the determination of how much is paid to management is made by the government. All that we [the FA] do is to make an input into the process which I explained as thus: the management honorarium is a lump sum which is based on a certain variable or number (the coefficient). Hence, if that number is seven (7), management receives an equivalent of what seven (7) players will take and that is shared by all members of the management. It is as simple as that.”