Ahead of the first public screening of #Number12 on June 6, 2018, the feared, reviled, adored and abhorred investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas revealed he had been drawn to “scrape clear” a “tainted football system” for the sake of more sanity and transparency.
In a chilling end to a long article that mentioned almost every sports journalist in the country, the journalist-cum-lawyer who has taken on complicated tasks from dreaded prisons in Bangkok to the powerful judiciary in Ghana vowed that “the very foundation of Ghana football will collapse in a heap.”
There were those in Ghana football who said he was bluffing, those who said he had nothing, and those who mocked him. Now we know he was right and they were wrong.
Normally around this time of the year every four years, we are engrossed in sometimes pointless shouting matches over player call ups, radio discussions and programmes stirring false hopes about becoming world champions and player bonuses plus appearances fees with the world cup on the horizon.
This term, the subject has switched to a more damaging one; an undercover journalism piece that has created a leadership crisis in Ghana football claimed its top football executive and has brought football activities to a halt.
Dubbed “#Number12: When Greed and Corruption Become The Norm”, the two-hour documentary by Anas showed several referees accepting bribes to make favourable decisions in the Ghana Premier League sometimes with the collusion of appointing officials.
It highlighted and provided the most gripping evidence of an issue that sports journalists had insisted existed for so long. But its biggest catch is Kwesi Nyantakyi who for thirteen years was the President of the Ghana Football Association and at some point a CAF vice president and FIFA Council member.
In the video, Nyantakyi is seen packing what the undercover journalist says is $65,000 into a bag after he had discussed a proposed $5m a year-sponsorship deal for the league. In the same video, he provides a masterclass in how to set aside 20-25% of the revenue from the sponsorship so that everyone, as he said, will be sorted. In effect, the man charged with everything about Ghana football including raising revenue for it was actively planning how to deny it revenue.
He has since resigned from his post as GFA president and also quit his role as a CAF executive committee member and vice president. He has also resigned from the FIFA Council according to CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.
Those resignations leave Ghana without an influential voice at the highest level of the sport on the continent and beyond but the damage has been even more profound at home. When Nyantakyi left his post to widespread relief, he also left a vacuum in Ghana football. He had sacked his vice president a few months earlier in one of those moves that highlighted just much control he has over the body. His emergency committee which he handpicked too was ravaged as well with at least one of them implicated after stuffing cash into his jacket pocket in the video.
The next highest ranking official is Isaac Addo, the body’s general secretary who got the position on a permanent basis immediately after he finished serving a nine-month ban by world football governing body FIFA on sexual harassment charges. He had been picked by the badly discredited executive committee to head a four-member body that was due to meet government and deliberate on the way forward. He issued a statement rallying what is left of the football community and said they will “take all legitimate steps to restore confidence and trust in the beautiful game” and offered “unconditional apologies” to the country as a first step.
To restore confidence, the GFA has asked all officials, including four members of its flagship executive committee to step aside and scrapped the Referees Appointment Committees, which was one of the hardest hit bodies by the investigation.
The GFA hopes it is its ethics committee and the executive committee that will restore trust in the process. Anyone who knows and understands Ghana football will laugh at that. The same ethics committee that has hopped from one controversy to another and proved completely incapable of handling the most basic issues apart from hand out verbal warnings now has the trust to deal with an issue that has engulfed the whole nation and brought football activity to a halt.
In that pre-Number 12 publication, Anas claimed that when the foundation of Ghana football comes down, it will be rebuilt by sports journalists and honest football people who will be left standing. He is right and wrong on that. Sports journalists must remain as such unless they have the skill set for it. This will still require skills set that doesn’t come necessarily because you write well about football, talk a good talk and understand formation. It will require people who can build institutional blocks and people who have the integrity to put nation above the powerful attraction of green dollar notes for their personal bank account.
You can’t be sure about football people either. Kwesi Nyantakyi became a one-man Ghana Football Association because at every turn he was allowed to. At every point, there were those, some of whom has become his fiercest critics who looked on while he manipulated the system and worked it to their collective benefit until he stifled them out. He had four vice presidents and fell out with many executives. At a point, the executive committee offered no significant resistance as Nyantakyi successfully got Congress to pass amendments that gave him the powers to name his vice and name the emergency committee. He was effectively fully in charge of recruiting the most powerful men in Ghana football.
That wasn’t just it. Too many times, they sat in meetings and nodded and told us they had seen documents and details of proposed sponsorship deals when they had not. It seemed rather than put Ghana football first, the executive committee members constantly lived in the thought of their next election date, afraid to wrong the boss. Now there are many scrambling to fill the void and many who found their voices and asked “what locus has Nyantakyi got” when he ignored them in his last desperate bid to name a vice president.
After failing everyone badly, that locus question will be on our lips for a very long. It will be naïve to think Ghana football can chart a path forward by ignoring everyone who was part of a dysfunctional and now discredited system. But it will be prudent to ensure that we simply don’t recycle as we have done so inefficiently in the past.