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Soccer News of Thursday, 8 November 2001

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GFA to examine World Cup cash from Nigeria

Ghana's Football Association (GFA) said on Friday it would examine cash payments made to officials and players after a match which clinched Nigeria's place in the World Cup finals.

Yusuf Ibrahim, president of the GFA's executive council, said the council would meet later on Friday and discuss the matter after GFA Chairman Ben Koufie said he, other officials and players received a total of ?15,000 cash from a Nigerian state governor after the match.

'We need to get all the facts, and then determine whether it was a bribe or an innocent gift which maybe, for ethical reasons, should not have been accepted,' Ibrahim told Reuters on Friday.

Koufie said he now regretted taking the money on behalf of the team, out of which he said he had received ?250, after the July 29 African zone qualifier played in Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

The 3-0 win put Nigeria ahead of Liberia, guaranteeing a place at next year's World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.

'That's all I got, a mere ?250. I think I should have stuck to my guns when I rejected the money initially,' Koufie told Reuters at his office on Friday. He said he took the money at a banquet after the match.

'The Governor (of Nigeria's Rivers state), the deputy Ghana High Commissioner, all the people on the high table, they all said 'It's okay - take it. There's nothing wrong with it'.'

Ghana's parliamentary opposition has demanded a full inquiry into the payments and demanded the suspension of Koufie and deputy sports minister Joe Aggrey, who accompanied the delegation although he declined to accept any money.

Team coach Osam Duodu blamed the defeat, Ghana's first to Nigeria for 17 years, on foreign based players failing to turn up. Ghana had no chance of qualifying even if they had won.

'I'm very surprised about how things have turned now. We were not bribed,' Duodu said.

Nigerian soccer and government officials said they knew nothing about the payments.

'To the best of my knowledge, I don't think any money was given out to any team in Port Harcourt. This is a grave allegation,' Nigerian sports and youth development spokesman Victor Iroele said on Thursday.

However, Nigeria's top diplomat in Ghana, High Commissioner Sam Okechukwu, has said the money was 'a personal gift from the (state) governor, freely given and freely received.'

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