The insider details of Ghana's disastrous showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
In Room 208 on the second floor of the Palace Brasilia Hotel, some officials of the Ghana Football Association were consoling one management member. The owner of the Medeama Football Club and member of the Black Stars management team, Moses Parker Armah, had just been brought into his room when the meeting on the ground floor ended abruptly following attack from one of the players, Sulley Ali Muntari. The room was locked because Sulley had sworn to follow up and beat up Mr Armah after the fight downstairs.
When there was a sudden knock on the door, the officials thought it was Sulley. But it wasn’t. It was Alhaji Lartey from the National Security. “Sulley will not come here,” he assured them and asked the officials to open the door. Besides him and one or two other officials from the National Security, the Brazilian security forces guarding the team were around so Alhaji Lartey didn’t think Sulley would carry out his threat. But he was wrong.
When Sulley charged into Room 208 like mad bull spoilt for a fight, Alhaji Lartey was the first person he floored before charging towards his prey, Moses Parker Armah. Sulley was wearing only shorts. He floored another person before he was overpowered. Mr Armah was whisked away but Sulley broke his Mac book, two phones before leaving the second floor of the hotel to the third floor, where his room was. Moses Parker Armah was forced to relocate to a different hotel that Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, the appearance fees for which reason the fight had ensued, arrived in Brazil from Ghana on the Presidential Jet. While the money was being shared that Wednesday night, a decision was also being taken on Sulley’s fate. He was to be expelled from the camp of the Black Stars. That decision was communicated to him Thursday morning, a few hours before the crucial encounter between Ghana and Portugal in the last Group G match. But, like a Liverpool fan, Sulley did not walk alone. Kevin Prince Boateng, who was involved in a number of misconducts, was also given the sack.
“Everything that went wrong in Brazil was mainly because of the delay in the payment of the appearance fee. Any other issue was secondary,” a source said. “If the appearance fees had been paid, this meeting which resulted in the fight between Sulley and Moses Armah wouldn’t have taken place.”
On Tuesday night the Black Stars called their management to a meeting to demand payment of their appearance fees. The team had refused to train and threatened to boycott the last group match if the appearance fees were not paid. At that meeting, the GFA President, Kwesi Nyantakyi, accepted responsibility for the delay, apologized and tried to persuade the team to focus on the next match. When the GFA President ended his speech, Moses Armah wanted to add his voice to the call on the playing body to reconsider their threat. This was what infuriated Sulley Muntari, who asked him to “shut up” before charging towards him.
Appearance Fees and Mistrust of Management:
In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Black Stars received their appearance fees before the tournament began. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the players again were paid their appearance fees before they played their first match. Those they received later were winning bonuses.
In the 2014 World Cup, however, this convention was not followed. A series of meetings and failed promises from management led to mistrust from the players.
In Holland, where the Black Stars played their penultimate warm-up match before the World Cup began, there was a meeting between management and the team. In that meeting, the players demanded their money before the start of the tournament. They had assurance from the Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, that they would be paid before the commencement of the tournament.
In 2010 the Black Stars were paid an appearance fees of $75,000. Initially, this was the amount which was earlier announced as the appearance fees for the 2010 World Cup. Sources say the GFA later increased the appearance fee by 10%. Each of the players was supposed to get $82,500. But at the meeting, the players rejected this amount, insisting they would not take anything less $100,000.
The players also rejected the idea that the money be paid into their account through the official bank sponsor of the team, Unibank. They also rejected the idea that the money be paid through electronic cards designed by the bank for the players. Sources say the players did not trust that they would get their money early enough if they waited until the tournament ended, and any other means other than cash payment could be subtle ways of delaying the payment.
Some sources also say the electronic card system was tested and there were problems. Some management members had $2000 loaded onto their debit cards to test and when they tried using the card for transactions, there were problems. The players heard about this problem and rejected credit card and said they would accept nothing apart from cash.
Deliberate Sabotage of Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah?
Some sources have suggested that the delay in the payment of the appearance fees was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Youth and Sports Minister, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, who had already incurred the wrath of the players after he promised them they would get the money before the tournament began. A day before Ghana played their first match against the USA, the accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports was spotted in Brazil. Word went round in camp that he had come with the appearance fees. But that wasn’t the case.
He said he thought the agreement was that money would be paid into the players’ bank accounts. Some sources say the players’ rejection of any form of payment other than cash had been communicated to him before he left Ghana so it wasn’t clear why he flew to Brazil without the cash.
Ghana played the USA on Monday June, 16. On Tuesday, June 17, the accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports was dispatched to Ghana, together with Chief Director of the Ministry, Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu, to bring the cash.
I am told they missed a connecting flight but arrived in Ghana on Friday, June 20. On Saturday June 21, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Henry Kofi Wampah, was in office by 7am. He supervised the withdrawal of $4.5 million. From the bank of Ghana, the money was taken to National Security, prior to airlifting to Brazil later in the day. The Black Stars had expected to receive their payment that Saturday before or after their game against Germany.
But the money didn’t go on Saturday. It slept at the National Security on Sunday. On Monday, the cash was still in Ghana. On that Monday, the team refused to train and threatened to boycott their journey to Brasilia to play their last group game.
Management persuaded the team to travel but they insisted they would not play if the money was not paid. On Tuesday the President called the team to intervene and promised they would get the money before the match. Later, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Joseph Yammin, announced to the shock of the world that government was airlifting the $3million cash to Brazil to pay the players.
On Wednesday June 25, Ghana’s Presidential Jet, the Falcon 900 EX, landed in Brazil with the cash. A popular Brazilian TV Channel, TV Globo, dedicated its airtime to a live telecast of what would become the greatest embarrassment to the nation in recent times. The TV station tracked the movement of the money with a helicopter and stationed secret cameras at the hotel.
In Room 301 of the Palace Brasilia Hotel, the accountant of the Ministry of Youth and Sports paid each of the 23 players their appearance fees. Ten (10) members of the technical and management team were also paid. In all, 33 persons were each paid $100,000. It is not clear where the difference of $1.2 million went because the money withdrawn from the Bank of Ghana was $4.5 million and not the $3million announced earlier.
TV Globo did not have access to Room 301 where the money was shared but they managed to fix their cameras at locations that enabled them to capture the ecstatic reaction of the players as they received their cash. Defender John Boye, for instance, was captured kissing his bundle of the $100,000. The following day, he scored an own goal, one of the two goals in our 1:2 defeat to Portugal. That’s how Ghana’s dream in the 2014 World Cup ended.
Some sources say the delay in transferring the money to Brazil was meant to sabotage the Youth and Sports Minister, who was in already there with the team. I have not been able to independently confirm this claim. I can, however, state on authority that Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah is not on good terms with some powerful forces within the party. This started after he set up a committee to investigate the GYEEDA scandal.
Kevin Prince Boateng’s Allegation and other Matters:
I can confirm that the wife and two young daughters of the GFA President flew to Brazil in the Business Class as Kevin Prince Boateng alleged. But that’s not the full story. Sources who were on the same flight said Mr Nyantakyi’s wife and daughters only occupied seats which the players willingly vacated. This is how it happened:
There were 18 seats in the business class of the chattered flight. There were 23 players and 34 officials travelling to Brazil. Before the trip, it was agreed the players would occupy 12 seats in the business class while officials occupied the remaining 6.
The officials who were in the business class were the Youth and Sports Minister, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, Coach Kwasi Appiah and the GFA President, Kwasi Nyantakyi. Three Management members, George Afriyie, Sikkens Ofosu Boafo and Yaw Boateng Gyan completed the list of the six officials.
The players presented their list of 12 members for the business class, which included Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan, Dede Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Adam Kwarasey. When they got into aircraft, however, the players realized there was so much space in the economy class that each player could occupy three seats. They could make the three seats into a makeshift bed, lie down and stretch.
The charted flight had a capacity of about 140 while the delegation was about 60. For this reason, some of the players who were selected to be in the business class, abandoned the business class for the economy class. Only Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien sat in the business class. Kwasi Nyantakyi’s wife and children therefore sat in seats the players vacated.
On issues of hotel accommodation, sources say FIFA selected the hotels for the teams which played in the World Cup. They maintain that there was nothing wrong with the hotels Kevin Prince Boateng complained about except the one. They explain that the hotel was not up to the right standard and the city had recorded its heaviest rain in 10 years before the team checked in. The sources say some of the rooms leaked so management appealed to FIFA to change the hotel.
FIFA officials, however, explained that hotels in that city were generally within the same standard, but the reason they could not change was the security arrangements. Apart from the armed security forces stationed around the hotel, there were many other security forces stationed at strategic locations around the hotel so any change could compromise security arrangements. Considering the high crime rate in Brazil, the Ghanaian team would be put at great risk. They, however, agreed to change rooms for the players, including that of Kevin Prince Boateng. Mexico also used this same hotel.
This is not the only hotel Kevin had problems with. He told management that one hotel was “bulshit” but sources say that was the same hotel which accommodated the Brazilian team when they played against Cameroon so it was not the case that the Ghanaian team was singled out and given hotels of low quality.
In Miami, where the team was not under any FIFA and security restrictions, the players rejected the Hyatt Miami Hotel after checking in so management had to settle for the luxurious St. Regis Hotel.
Some sources have blamed the indiscipline in the camp on the inability of management to tame Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari, who exhibited various acts of indiscipline from the beginning. For instances, sources say the two players went to the tournament with their wives and housed them in different hotels, where they sneaked out of camp to spend time and sometime nights with them. Even though the management team knew about this, they were very soft on the two players.
Other sources suggest the reason for that approach was, perhaps, because the two players were also vocal in the demand for the appearance fees and since it was not coming management appeared powerless in dealing with them for the fear of incurring their wrath. This is, however, not the first time Sulley Muntari has had problems in camp. A source said in the 2010 World Cup, the coach sacked him from the team but the GFA President and other officials pleaded on his behalf.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni is a senior Broadcast Journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org