Black Stars’ boss feels the heat
Harare – Four years ago, the Black Stars stood on the threshold of greatness, just a penalty conversion away from becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, which would have provided Ghana Football Association (GFA) president Kwesi Nyantakyi with his finest hour.
Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty, Uruguay got an unlikely lifeline and as they held their nerves to win the post-match penalties and take their place in the semi-finals, an entire continent cried for the Black Stars and felt the full impact of that doomed mission.
Even in failure, the Black Stars became the darlings of a continent desperate for football heroes and the painful nature of their loss endeared them to millions of fans across Africa, who stood in their corner when they arrived in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup finals.
But the Black Stars’ squeaky clean image, the innocence that attracted millions of neutral fans into their corner, has suffered a huge dent after they found themselves being splashed on the front page of a British newspaper which claimed GFA officials, including Nyantakyi, agreed to facilitate the team’s participation in fixed friendly internationals after this World Cup.
The story made headlines across the entire globe with the Telegraph and Channel Four, who worked together in this sting operation where their undercover journalists posed as representatives of an investment firm that wanted to sponsor the corrupt matches, even provided a video recording of their conversation with the GFA officials, which has gone viral online.
The undercover journalists promised to arrange international matches, where the Black Stars would participate in return of a £100 000 per game being given to the GFA, while the shadowy fake company made it clear that they would arrange the match officials and would be under instructions to ensure that the games were fixed in a certain way.
Two people – Christopher Anton Forsythe (a FIFA-registered agent) and Obed Nketiah (a Ghana FA official) – were the contact point men for the undercover journalists who then went on to discuss their deal with Nyantakyi in Miami, United States, where the Black Stars were having their pre-World Cup finals camp.
A contract, covering seven matches, was prepared and presented to Nyantakyi, who forwarded it to the legal team of the Ghanaian FA for scrutiny before it could be signed.
That this story broke out, just days after the Black Stars had cheered the spirits of millions of football fans with a strong performance to force a 2-2 draw against Germany in their World Cup group game, was not only disappointing but certainly damaging for a team that has seen its profile skyrocket after its super show in South Africa four years ago.
The Black Stars’ loss, in their first World Cup tie at the hands of the United States, was a huge shock across the entire football family but they recovered well to force a draw against a Germany side that had taken Portugal to the cleaners in their first game.
Questions have, inevitably, been asked why Nyantakyi, a lawyer, did not read the clauses, in the contract, which made it clear that this was a match-fixing deal and throw the contract into the dustbin, rather than hand it to the Ghana FA legal committee, while at the same time raising alarm.
He told the undercover journalists that there should be an “experimental” period of “arranging” matches after the World Cup and even appears to agree to a “trial” game.
Forsythe, though, appears to offer the biggest chunk of evidence, in the video, that he was ready to play a part in this match-fixing scam.
“Everywhere it happens,” Forsythe says in the video shot by a hidden camera. “The referees can change matches every time.
“(We can tell them) something is happening in the Far East … And then they will make it happen.”
But Forsythe was singing a different tune as it dawned on him that he had been caught out in a sting operation.
“To be frank, everything I told (the Telegraph) about the match-fixing was a figment of my own imagination because I am so naive that I don't even know how matches are done,” he said.
“They were promises just to be able to get something off you.”
But Nyantakyi is the man under the biggest spotlight because the fresh-faced Ghana FA boss has been seen as the rising star of African football administration with his impressive success stories since taking over as leader of his national association in 2005.
He led the Black Stars to their first World Cup appearance at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany where they made the second round and, four years later in South Africa, the Ghanaians came very close to reaching the semi-finals.
A year earlier the Ghana Under-20 side had won the World Under-20 Cup while FIFA recognised his rise by appointing him as one of the organisers of the football tournament at the London 2012 Olympics.
Nyantakyi was appointed a member of the CAF executive committee in 2011, the same year he replaced Amos Adamu, the Nigerian official who had been suspended by FIFA after being nailed by another sting operation, as head of the West African Football Union.
Last year he was elected unopposed, as Wafu president, for another two-year term.
He announced this week that they have called in the Ghanaian police to investigate the roles that Forsythe and Nketiah have played in this saga, suggesting that they had misrepresented the Ghanaian FA in their dealings with the undercover journalists.
Nyantakyi told the BBC that he was also going to take legal action against the Daily Telegraph.
“The report of the newspaper or the media house is entirely not accurate,” Nyantakyi told the Ghana FA official website – www.ghanafa.org.
“There is a representation of half-truths and half-lies. It's not true that we have agreed with match fixers or people who intend to organise matches of convenience between the Black Stars and any opponent in the future.
“The claim now been made is that, they got me to agree to offer them the right to organise matches and determine the outcome of these matches.
“I have still not received the response of the (GFA) Legal Committee which response was supposed to be forwarded to the Executive Committee for consideration and possibly approval or decline.
“There is really no cause for alarm as far as I am concerned because nothing untoward has happened involving me or the federation and all the noise been made is of no consequence.”
Nyantakyi said there were no full disclosure of the shadowy nature of the transactions that Forsythe and the Nketiah.
“They (two men) never told me that they were interested in fixing any game of the Black Stars. They presented a business proposal that sought to buy the rights.
I understood it in the context of what Kentaro used to do for matches involving Brazil,” said Nyantakyi.
“I said because it is a novelty, we need to take it to the Executive Committee.
“But never did I think that they had a premeditated plan to sell matches of the Black Stars which are gradually evolving from the reports that we are hearing.
“I told them I had not even read the contract. If I had agreed, I would have signed the contract. I did not agree and that is why the contract was unsigned and remains unsigned up till today.
“The truth of the matter is that I did not consider it a matter of urgency. I didn't see any real business interest that required the immediate attention of the FA. I pushed it over that the Legal Committee should to look at it”