Saturday, 15 December 2012

GFA stirs up controversy ahead of AFCON 2013

GFA President Kwasi Nyantakyi

Ghana’s build up for the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa next year has been anything but uneventful.
Close to a month ago, news broke that the Ghana Football Association had presented an $8 million budget to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to be considered as the proposed expenditure for the tournament (via a confidential memo that leaked).

The reaction, considering the heftiness of the sum, was more than expected. The public were quick to make their opposition clear, well; at least the majority voice was that of those who opposed it on the basis of it being overly extravagant. There were heated debates across board, on radio, television, in print etc. People argued that the Ivory Coast, who spent $10 million for AFCON 2012, were beaten to the trophy by Zambia, who spent less than $2 million. Essentially, the point was that spending big was not going to magically (or so to speak, automatically) end Ghana’s over three decade AFCON trophy drought.

Patriotism, deceit, blackmail
Moreover, others – more like the nationalists - argued that it would be unwise for the Nation to spend that amount on a football tournament, when it currently faces deep lying problems such as power inadequacies, unemployment, infrastructural problems et al. To be fair, the people arguing against made very logical points. Interestingly, it emerged that it was the players themselves who had actually demanded for an increment in winning bonuses, thus inflating the budget. "The figures we sent were based on negotiations with the players" GFA President Kwasi Nyantakyi told  And this was after quite a number of them had year in year out laced the ears of Ghanaians with sweet talks of being patriotic and ready to die for the nation no matter the cost – even if it meant doing so on insufficient wages. Basically, they had pretentiously tried to make Ghanaians believe that they were motivated by the pride, and not the money.

With time, startling revelations were made, which only went far to justify the concerns of the skeptics.

A staggering $1,06 million was budgeted for a plush training camp in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from 7-16 January next year. The winning bonuses, which was at $10 000 per match at CAN 2008, through to $12 500 for CAN 2012, was going to go up to $15 000 FOR can 2013. Each player and official- yes, and official - was to receive $17,500 at the quarter-final stage, $20,000 each at the semis, $22,000 each for a third-place playoff and $25,000 each should they reach the grand final in South Africa. Additionally, the budget made a $70 000 provision for media relations (and this was after media accusations of a $50 000 media relations designation for South Africa 2010 being unaccounted for). Even further, there was $15 000 for laundry services, $200 000 provision for unspecified protocol,  $100 000 for scouting, $20 000 for food and $5 000 for entertainment.

Conspiracy theories, Arguments
In the ensuing debate that erupted, many Ghanaians accused the GFA of trying to ‘twist the State’s arms’ by using the nation’s intense desire to taste continental success once more to make money. In all fairness, some of the amounts were(in comparison with previous figures, as well as in relation to the task they were ear marked for) ridiculous, even so much so that there were some people belonging to the in-support-of-the-budget minority who agreed to that fact.

The argument for was based on the fact that the players needed a kind of motivation that was ambitious enough to bring out the extreme commitment in them. Moreover, they argued, if it meant bringing the trophy back from South Africa was guaranteed, then why not?

No Guarantees
The fact remains that there are no guarantees about Ghana winning the tournament. Apart from the country’s own peculiar mistakes that have cost it the trophy over the past three editions, there have, is, and will always be the element of luck. No amount of money can buy luck. So in effect, the money could end up being practically wasted should Ghana miss out on the trophy. Also, the structure of the earnings suggested that the players could afford to reach, say, the quarter final only and still earn a substantial amount of money. That in itself sabotages the goal of going for gold. 

Sports Ministry, GFA respond
The Ministry of Youth and Sports overlooked the leakage and pledged to review the budget in a critical way to scale it down if possible. According to GFA source who spoke to SuperSport, the GFA owes the Ministry some $400,000, which they received during the AFCON in January, after players (again) demanded for increments as they progressed through the tournament. The Minister was going to "use as a bargaining chip to force the FA to consider the amounts they are demanding" the source added. Meanwhile, Kwasi Nyantakyi was accused by many for using the players and their reported demands for increments as a cover up for something they suspected was an attempt to benefit incessantly. He, naturally, defended himself and his outfit, as well as some of the figures, like that of the media relations :" We thought we were extending a helping hand due to cases we witnessed at certain tournaments where you would see journalists surrounding top officials requesting for money to support themselves"

The Ministry has since, via Deputy Minister Edward Omane Boamah, said they have reviewed the budget fully and have arrived at a figure left for the Government to approve. "The Ministry after its revision have arrived at a figure which is relatively different from what the Ghana FA presented. We analyzed what the state can pay and have arrived at this decision. Our findings have been contained in a document which has since been forwarded to the government" He said.

Good thing for Ghana, nonetheless
Regardless of the tension that this issue created, primarily via the manner in which the information broke out, the situation went a long way to promote transparency, and to some extent, accountability. Ghanaians were deservedly in the know with regards to how much their players and officials were going to earn – which is always a vital factor in ensuring that the whole nation is on the same page ahead of a tournament that will require full, unadulterated support from every citizen. The information in the public domain also equipped citizens with the confidence to participate in the debate, which by the way, was predominantly insightful and objective. Moreover, it heightened the anticipation for the AFCON, raising expectations as well as taking the whole nation’s mind off the intense politics that had enveloped the country ahead of the general elections – albeit for just a while.

Fiifi Anaman.

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