Jon Benjamin – The tough-talking diplomat with love for Ghana football

Few people in Ghana attract media attention these days than H.E. Jon Benjamin who is not only the British high commissioner to Ghana but also to Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Having served as a diplomat for the last 30 years, Jon Benjamin is very careful with his comments on social issues but has never shied away from letting his opinion known no matter what the topic is.

He has made comments about one of Ghana’s most controversial and criticized ministers of the gospel, Bishop Obinim, and was recently seen smiling in a photo with iconic Ghanaian musician Shatta Wale.

However, none of his utterances in Ghana caused a stir like the ones he made on October 28 2015, when he quizzed what monies received by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) was used for in relation to the development of grassroots football in Ghana.

Five months and six days after his comments, the peace pipe has been smoked between the British high commissioner and the Ghana Football Association (GFA).

In fact, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) has even teamed up with the British High Commission in campaigning for peace ahead of Ghana’s Parliamentary and Presidential elections later in the year.

But Jon Benjamin’s questions on how football is being developed from the grassroots and how the FA uses monies received from FIFA are as important today as they were in October 2015.

In a full interview with the Tracker on Citi Sports, Jon Benjamin insisted that he has a growing relationship with the GFA although he contends that utmost transparency is the way to go in football.

“First of all we did meet. You know there was a public exchange although I have to say, I was not the one who indulged in personal insults. I just asked the questions,” Jon Benjamin told Citi Sports.

“I think it is regrettable that some of the responses were in the form of personal attacks rather than addressing the issue although we have all drawn a line under it.” We have decided to take our discussions offline and we have had some heart-to-heart talks.”

“But I think all football associations including the Ghana Football Association know in this new FIFA era of greater openings and greater transparency that all FAs need to get to that point and basically be more transparent.”

“It was very enlightening to me that one of the first things to happen under the new FIFA President was the salary of the new FIFA president that was revealed.”

Jon Benjamin in the studios of Citi FM.

Jon Benjamin in the studios of Citi FM.

“That had been treated like a state secret for the last decades and I think more of that will come. If you look at Transparency International’s report released, it was basically about the lack of transparency in not just the GFA but all football Associations.”

“I think football fans everywhere have the right to know what their associations receive, what they do with the money and how much the senior officials receive and what amount is invested in grassroots football.”

“You look at what happened to the last country in which I served in before I came to Ghana which is Chile; the President of the Chilean football federation whom I knew is now in a prison cell in Miami.”

“This is a worldwide theme and I believe the shakeup in FIFA means there is going to be a revolution in the degree of transparency that is required around the world.”

H.E. Jon Benjamin has grown to love football in Ghana and he is a close friend to most of the professional footballers in Ghana. The British government’s representative to Ghana says the nation is hugely blessed with some truly extraordinary footballers and he names Asamoah Gyan as his favourite.

“At international level, I have always liked Asamoah Gyan because of the commitment and enthusiasm he brings to the national team,” Jon Benjamin said

“Harrison Afful puts a lot in when he is playing for the national team. I think it’s quite a good team over all.”

At a time where 60-year-old Israeli coach Avram Grant has come under increasing pressure to stay in Ghana and monitor the local league, Jon Benjamin says the former Chelsea boss has done a decent job so far but the real test for Grant will come in a major competition.

“I saw Ghana play Mozambique in Accra and I must admit it was a hard game maybe because of the rain the night before.”

“Grant did well in the 2015 AFCON given that he had just come in but he has big team with players all over the world; some in Europe and even some in America.”

“It’s really difficult to melt all these players into a team when you have got access to them a few times.”

“That applies to all national team coaches. Grant has done well but the World Cup qualifiers will start and that is where the rubber will meet the road.”

“I know it will be a ferocious scuffle to qualify for the World Cup but I hope Ghana makes it.”

With Black Stars qualifying for the last three World Cup tournaments, it will not be the hope of only Jon Benjamin but that of 25 million Ghanaians that their national team qualifies for Russia 2018.

By: Rahman Osman/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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