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Hidden Costs

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 2nd 2021)

The Sting

The spectacular fall from grace of the former President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and then 1st Vice-President of the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), Kwesi Nyantakyi is a sobering tale. Once the most powerful person in Ghanaian football, Nyantakyi was brought down by a documentary called Number 12 in a sting. It argued that corruption was the 12th player on football teams.

Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas spent two years gathering evidence – Nyantaki was his major target through a sting. Posing as an investor, one of his team secretly recorded meetings offering money. Nyantakyi accepted the money and his fate was sealed. His mention of President Nana Afuko-Addo in the secret recordings resulted in his arrest.

Ghanaian football was suspended. A Normalisation Committee was imposed and Ghanaian football had to be reorganised from top to bottom. It contributed to poor performances both at club and national level.

The Punishment

Nyantakyi was the President of the Ghana Football Association  (GFA) from the end of 2005 until his fall from grace in July 2018. He was initially banned for life from all football activities by FIFA’s Ethics Committee for corruption in October 2018, but after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in October 2020 his punishment was reduced to 15 years.

He had previously denied wrongdoing but in January 2021 the BBC and others reported that during his appeal a chastened Nyantakyi took some responsibility but far too late – the last day of the hearing and after having steadfastly denying guilt with a fabricated defence until then.

Nyantakyi insisted that the ‘sponsorship’ suggested in the sting was not his idea and that Ghanaian football desperately needed sponsorship at that time – the commissions that would have gone through his companies and alleged demands for money for others is another matter that sunk any credible defence.

Forgotten Icon

Nyantakyi’s sensational fall from the giddy height of the second most influential man in African football to the depths of ostracism from football hid a tragedy – the destruction of the very worthy and much needed Endowment Project. Nyantakyi had observed the suffering of sportspeople who had served Ghana.

Many were living in a dire condition, without the most basic of provisions such as healthy food and medication where needed. I observed it too. Former Asante Kotoko keeper Fuseini Salifu made history. He was a member of Fred Osam Duodu’s squad which won Ghana’s third AFCON title, allowing the Black Stars to keep the trophy.

Those AFCON winners, like the previous winners, were made promises that were not kept until it was far too late. I visited him a couple of times and was shocked to see the conditions that an iconic AFCON winner was living in.

Fuseini needed help. He got belated recognition of his plight from 1978 teammates Abdul Razaq Karim (Golden Boy), Hearts of Oak legend, Mohamed Polo and goalkeeping rival the iconic Joseph Carr.

Aware of the worsening condition Fuseini was in Polo sent a message to Fuseini. Carr went further, donating a signed bib to Fuseini and promising to help him with a match to raise funds. Sadly, it was too late to save Fuseini. He deteriorated, and had to have a leg amputated. He died the following day, but not before he saw first-hand that Joseph Carr and others had not forgotten about him – they cared. So did Nyantakyi and unlike many of his detractors he did something about it.

Interred

Clearly, Fuseini Salifu slipped through the cracks. He needed help. He deserved help but never received what was required. Too many are lost in tiny cracks that turn into chasms through neglect. That happened to Fuseini. He could have been helped. Prevention is better than cure, but Fuseini got neither prevention nor cure and he is not the only sporting icon to be treated in this manner.

Nyantakyi at least saw this and set out to remedy it. He persuaded the Ghanaian government to initiate a project to help sportspeople in need with food and medication – the Endowment Project.

Ghanaian great Al-Haji Ibrahim Sunday quietly distributed this aid himself. Sadly, Ghanaian media and football have done little to acknowledge the good Nyantaki did – it seems likely to be interred with his bones when his time comes. But it should not have happened. Either it should be continued or replaced. Nyantakyi deserves credit for devising the project and initiating it. But, what of his detractors? Their denunciations are loud, but how many Cesis have they offered for those Nyantakyi’s project assisted?

And where are the documentaries in Ghana telling of the plight of Ghanaian greats such as former Black Star skipper John Eshun, or Fuseini Salifu , both sadly no longer with us? The living require help too. Hearts of Oak greats, Mohamed Polo and Anas Seidu and Asante Kotoko legend Abdul Razak Karim all possess a wealth of football knowledge that is largely wasted. Ali Jarra deserves far better than he has received as well.

Meanwhile, those assisted by Nyantakyi’s vision must now fend for themselves and do so without the journalists who hurry to expose corruption seeing this as worth reporting.

For shame!

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