Sports News of Thursday, 26 April 2018
In hardcore politics, there rarely are friends.
Decisions taken are usually not personal. It’s just business. But occasionally, political bonds take on a new sheen and venture into the area of friendship. That’s when splits, if they do happen, become personal.
Since assuming power in late 2005, Kwesi Nyantakyi has shown that he does not have permanent friends. He’s a politician; he’s got permanent interests.
George Afriyie, for long an ally of the GFA boss, found himself removed as the body’s Vice President on Tuesday. But how did such a promising relationship, which reached its peak when Nyantakyi chose Afriyie as his vice in 2015, sour so much?
The simple answer: power, and money. The long answer is a bit more complicated: pettiness, power, money and plain old misunderstanding. This is the long answer, sourced from loyalists of the FA boss, those behind the now sacked Vice President, and neutrals with knowledge of the matter.
Exhibit One: 2016
The two men fell out spectacularly as they disagreed on strategy and financial matters. It took the intervention of experienced administrator J.Y Appiah and businessman Kwame Ofosu ‘Sikkens’ Bamfo at the Alisa Hotel in Accra.
Exhibit Two: AFCON 2017
The event was the African Nations Cup. Nyantakyi, as a CAF Vice President, had arrived in Libreville before the competition started, and was duly allocated a 4×4 vehicle for his official movement.
Meanwhile, Afriyie – as then head of the Black Stars Management Committee – arrived at the tournament a bit later, and had to be given an official car as well. As it turned out, the car to be given was that of his boss, who was not too happy to relinquish it.
Exhibit Three: Five months later
Last June, Ghana played Ethiopia in Kwesi Appiah’s first competitive game on his return as Black Stars coach, and won 5-0.
Two weeks later, Ghana was billed to play a double header of friendlies against Mexico and the USA. The games were controversial primarily because of their timing, which meant a lot of travel for the national team players. However, the FA was adamant that the financial rewards were good.
Organization did not go according to plan, with flight tickets and other arrangement being a mess. At least, two players were stranded, leading to an on-the-spot payment by Asamoah Gyan for their tickets. And when they got to the USA, a simple matter of where to sleep became an issue.
For some reason, the hotel allocated a suite to Vice President Afriyie, while his boss was given a normal room. It is under whether George knew about this, but the impression that went out there was that he wanted to outshine his master.
Exhibit Four: Another three months later
Ghana played a World Cup qualifier away in Congo, and won 5-1. Due to politics between the FA and the Sports Ministry, then led by Nii Lante Vanderpuije, players flights to their clubs were nearly delayed. Again, Gyan chartered a flight which brought the whole contingent to Ghana.
In both instances, Afriyie felt slighted his input had not been acknowledged as he had made personal financial contributions towards avoiding embarrassment. The seeds of discord had been sown.
Exhibit Five: The text message
Somehow, an explosive message Afriyie sent to Nyantakyi, accusing him of greed and callousness reached the media. This was in August 2017.
At an Emergence Committee meeting, Nyantakyi excoriated his vice for insubordination throughout the handling of the US and Mexico friendlies, among other things.
Specifically, Nyantakyi was still angry that Afriyie had looked on while Gyan had footed bills. In addition, the FA president accused his vice of being the source of increasing leaks of confidential information to the media during the friendlies.
George, who was outside the country on official duties, was duly informed of his boss’s remarks by his loyalists.
This prompted the fiery response sent via SMS and WhatsApp to Nyantakyi. In that message, Afriyie made it clear to his boss that he was fed up and was ready to relinquish his position as vice president.
Exhibit Six: the land sale
The Ministry of Sports, under Nii Lante Vanderpuije, was making life hell for the GFA. In May 2016, the minister openly challenged the FA to desist from organizing friendly matches without his outfit’s say-so. That was not the only issue. Vanderpuije was forcing the FA to declare financial details of previous friendlies.
According to Joy Sports information, some of the accounts for these games were not in order, a situation that needed quick resolution as the ministry’s noose tightened. Afriyie had to sell his land in the plush Accra suburb of East Legon, proceeds from which was used to settle that matter. The idea was that somehow, he will be reimbursed. And so, he waited.
Image result for gfa ghana
Exhibit Seven: The Glo refund
At the GFA, there are many ways to fund activities. Due to the fact that the association – by its very nature of formation – does not account to government, it is able to maneuver its way through many financial dealings. And with these dealings come the ability to make money go to places they were not intended to.
When Afriyie sold his land for the cause, the idea was to refund him through one of such ways. Joy Sports understands that FA officials had promised to settle him when Globacom paid up their debts.
The Nigerian telecom giant became headline sponsor of the Black Stars in 2008, paying $1.5 million annually. However, by November 2012, the company had defaulted on paying for almost two years mainly because the company’s operations were barely getting off the ground nationwide.
Eventually, the deal was abrogated and the FA went after the company for what was due them.
Glo paid $1.5 million as a settlement fee, and this is where it gets interesting. The money, all $1.5 million, was collected by an official who is now a General Secretary of the FA. He went for the money via motorbike, or what’s popularly called okada.
When George got wind of the existence of the money, he asked to be reimbursed. This discussion happened at the funeral ceremony of an FA official’s father at Dome, in Accra.
In frustration about the delay of the refund, Afriyie said some unpalatable things about his boss, who he thought could have facilitated the refunding process.
Exhibit Eight: The showdown
Informants of Nyantakyi let him know about Afriyie’s unhappiness. An Executive Committee was called to ascertain if George had, indeed, said those things about his boss. Several pro-Afriyie elements advised him not to attend this meeting, knowing it could be a political trap.
But he went, anyway. There, a witness to his utterances at the funeral was called to testify. Afriyie accepted the accounts given by the witness, Owoahene Acheampong.
By the end of that meeting, the battle lines were drawn; as Nyantakyi made it clear once again that he could not work with his vice any longer. It was not just a matter of time.
Exhibit Nine: The declaration
On March 16, Afriyie held a birthday bash at an East Legon hotel to celebrate his golden jubilee on earth. In attendance were the most important names in the football and sporting industry.
Afriyie surprised everyone by announcing his intention to contest next year’s GFA elections. He was clear to cite previous public declarations by his boss, Nyantakyi, that he would not go for a fourth term in office. Also there was Nyantakyi’s first wife, and her presence was taken as a signal of the President’s endorsement. Nyantakyi, himself, was out of the country on that day.
Exhibit Ten: Black Stars removal
Days and weeks after the bash, it became clear that Nyantakyi was not going to endorse his vice, and neither had Afriyie received his blessing. All this was read as a lack of respect for Nyantakyi, because many felt that the influence of the FA boss was (and still is) key to whoever will be the next leader of the body.
Sources say Nyantakyi was even angrier that his first wife was invited to the party without his knowledge.
And so it came as no surprise when, a few weeks ago, the announcement came from the GFA that a reshuffle had taken place, with the most significant change being the removal of Afriyie as head of the powerful Black Stars Management Committee. The position was given to Winfred Osei, previously Afriyie’s deputy on the committee. It is worth noting that Osei had, just days before, openly slammed Afriyie for prematurely declaring his candidacy.
Exhibit Eleven: The sack
On Tuesday, it all came to a head as Afriyie was given the sack. The communication was not even given the dignity of an official statement on the official GFA website. It was done via a terse statement on Twitter.
So, what’s next?