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Sports Features of Monday, 11 August 2014

Source: Listowell Yesu Bukarson

The “monstrous” FIFA letter;-GFA’s much ado about nothing!

The Freemasons’ Tavern in London in 1863 saw the first laws of the game of football. That memorable meeting, to set laws for the game, also saw the inauguration of common rules for the sport.
This was after undergraduates at Cambridge had made an earlier attempt to achieve a uniform standard in the late 1840s - albeit still allowing the ball to be caught - it was not until 1863 that football, a sport played down the centuries in often-violent village contests and then embraced in the early 1800s by the English public schools, had a fixed rulebook.
These laws were triggered when one club represented at the Freemasons' Tavern, Blackheath, refused to accept the non-inclusion of hacking (kicking below the knee) and subsequently became a founder of the Rugby Football.
However, the others reached an agreement and, under the charge of one Ebenezer Cobb Morley, 14 laws were soon penned for a game that would, in the following century, become the most played, watched and talked about activity on the planet.
Football fast became as popular elsewhere as it had been in Britain and in May 1904, FIFA was founded in Paris with seven original members: France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain (represented by Madrid FC), Sweden and Switzerland.
There was some initial disquiet in the United Kingdom to the idea of a world body governing the sport it had created rules for, but this uncertainty was soon brushed aside.
Former FA board member Daniel Burley Woolfall replaced Frenchman Robert Guérin as FIFA President in 1906 - the year the FA joined - and in 1913 FIFA became a member of the IFAB.
The Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904in France and based in Zurich. It has 209 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football. FIFA employs some 310 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and committees (assisting the Executive Committee).
FIFA's administration is carried out by the General Secretariat, which employs some 400 staff members in Zurich, Switzerland. At its head is the FIFA Secretary General, who is responsible for implementing the decisions of the Executive Committee.
The Secretary General is also responsible for FIFA's finances, international relations, the organisation of the FIFA World Cup, and other FIFA football competitions.
The General Secretariat is comprised of divisions dealing with development, competitions, football administration, finance, business, personnel, services and communications.
The Ghana Football Association is one of the 209 FIFA memberships.
For the records let me take readers through the history of the GFA as well.
Ghana Football Association is the successor of the Gold Coast Football Association which used to be the governing body for football in Ghana, as well as, one of the oldest football association in geographic Africa founded in 1920. Records indicate that Cape Coast, the capital of central region of Ghana and Accra, Ghana's capital are the first colonial cities in sub-Saharan Africa to host a formal league in the Gold Coast.
After a weak start in 1915, the league kicked off in 1922 with Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club emerging as winners, taking the coveted Guggisberg shield, named after the progressive British governor of that period.
It is on record that the game of Football was introduced into the Gold Coast towards the close of the 19th century by Merchants from Europe, who had then invaded the coastal areas and built forts and castles to enhance their trading activities either in merchandise or human cargo. The sailors at their leisure times played football among themselves and sometimes with a select side of the indigenous people.
The popularity of the game spread like wild fire within a short time along the coast culminating in the formation of the first football club, EXCELSIOR in 1903 by Mr. Briton, a Jamaican born British, who was then Head Teacher of Philip Quaque Government Boys School in Cape Coast. As the popularity of the game grew, other clubs along the coast, namely: Accra Hearts of Oak, Accra Standfast, Cape Coast Venomous Vipers, Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, Sekondi Hasaacas and Sekondi Eleven Wise all amateur clubs were formed.
In 1952, the Government of the Gold Coast enacted Ordinance 14, establishing the Gold Coast Amateur Sports Council, which gave it legal authority to control all amateur Associations including Football. Indeed, as the popularity of the game spread throughout the entire country, the then existing clubs, towards the tail end of 1930, met and elected Mr. Richard Maabuo Akwei as their Chairman.
However, towards the middle of 1950, the clubs, spearheaded by Mr. Ohene Djan accused Mr. Richard M Akwei of maladministration, and a Chairman who was not up to the task of transforming Gold Coast Football to greater heights. They therefore addressed petitions to the Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Gordon Arden Clerke and the Pioneer Sports Organiser, Mr. Joseph Ranadurai, a Jamaican born British on the mal-administration of the Amateur Football Association headed by Mr. Akwei. While the petition was being addressed, Mr. Ohene Djan spearheaded a “Football Revolution” and succeeded in toppling the Richard Akwei Administration in 1957.
The die was cast; Football Administration was given a new lease. Mr. Ohene Djan was elected General Secretary of the Association by the clubs. The Ghana Amateur Football Association was officially founded. Forward looking and dynamic as he was, he affiliated the Association to CAF and FIFA in 1958, in the same year respectively. He was instrumental in getting a Pharmaceutical Firm Merrs R.R. Harding and Company to sponsor the first FA cup competition among 8 clubs. In the same year he succeeded in securing the services of an ex-patriate Coach, Mr. George Ainsley for the National Team. Then in 1959, he succeeded again in organising the first National league before Ghana became a Republic on 1 July 1960.
Folks, i guess, up till this point, in reference to the historical backgrounds of FIFA and the GFA, the former should not entirely dominate the later and other members of the 209 Association of FIFA. Because as an association, the GFA has come a long way through the toil and sweat of our forefathers.
But sadly, that seem to be the case as FIFA, at least up till this point seem unimaginably powerful, so monstrously powerful so that, even within its corridors it is touted as the “United Nations of Football” With over 60 Football Associations joining FIFA between 1975 and 2002, how else could it be that powerful?
But how powerful can FIFA be? How monstrous can FIFA be? To the point that the sovereignty of a member nation could be under siege?
And that drifts me to the case in point. The story of the Ghana Football Association.
The GFA walking under the corridors of its umbrella body, FIFA has assumed same monstrous posture in Ghana. The GFA is expected to be autonomous. So autonomous so that, it lacks respect for the Ghanaian football addict. Government can go to hell because its attempt to scrutinize the game in order to instill discipline is termed, “interference” Which “interference” FIFA frowns upon.
The Ghana Football Association has come to the cross roads. This I say because it is torn between the devil and the deep blue sea of whether or not to respect and appear before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, composed by the President, H.E John Dramani Mahama under article 278 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.
The GFA has desperately tried for reasons known to it alone, to avoid this quasi judicial body with powers of a High court within the Republic.
And that has openly heightened the sense of skepticism regarding whether or not the GFA has something to hide.
Until last Friday, when as Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Journalist Association, I had the honor of leading members of the Commission of Inquiry to call on the Ashanti Regional Minster, Hon. Dr. Samuel Sarpong and the Mayor of Kumasi, Hon. Kojo Bonsu and subsequently partaking in a media interaction in Kumasi, that I got some hope that, FIFA, after all is not that monstrously powerful to intimidate the Commission.
Lawyer Moses Foh-Amoaning assured that, “we are bent on preserving the sovereignty of Ghana in the face of this exercise and we won’t be intimidated by any power anywhere on this earth”
“Ghana belongs to Ghanaians and we deserve the right to inquire into matters of public interest and not even FIFA can stop us” he affirmed.
Lawyer Foh-Amoaning, opined that, “We are a fact-finding Commission and not a witch-hunting commission, and so we have nothing to fear in this assignment given us by His Excellency the President”
He stressed that the commission will also be seeking to make recommendations on principles and policies that underpins the systems and structures of the administration of not just football, but sports in general in Ghana.
Is it not amazing that two days after the Commission was inaugurated that FIFA is said to have written to the GFA, threatening to sanction Ghana if the Commission went ahead with its job without recourse to FIFA’s position against government interference?
Anyway, let’s even try to ascertain the authenticity or otherwise of the so-called FIFA letter purportedly written by the Deputy Secretary General of FIFA, Markus Kattner and addressed to the Ag.General Secretary of the Ghana Football Association.
I say the FIFA letter was purportedly written by Markus Kattner because firstly, the letter is not signed and any official letter not signed cannot be said to be authentic.
Folks, I dare question the authenticity of the FIFA letter because apart from it not being signed, the letter is deemed to have been faxed, if it was faxed, has anybody seen the FIFA fax number anywhere on the letter as is normally the case with faxed documents?
A coarsely look at the logo raises questions as to whether the letterhead is genuine, let anyone take the pain to contrast this supposed FIFA letter with the original FIFA logo to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of my observation. I could be wrong though.
All senses of ambiguities aside, the supposed FIFA letter, after all does not seek to scare the Commission away from carrying through its mandate.
Paragraphs six and seven of the letter makes me think that the FA misinformed FIFA into writing the said letter. Even then FIFA did not oppose the setting up of the commission. Neither did it caution Ghana nor ask the GFA not to appear before the commission. I produce portions of the said FIFA “warning” letter:
“According to the information that you have provided to us in your letter dated 4 August 2014, we understand that the GFA does not receive public funding for its work and that public funds allocated to the national team are managed by representatives of the government of the Republic of Ghana. As such, the officials that would be competent for the usage of public funds do appear to those of the GFA”
“We are confident that you will reach an understanding with the Commission and that you will collaborate as long as the autonomy of the GFA is respected”
Clearly, the GFA and its rented press have succeeded in painting a very gloomy picture of the setting up of the commission. Ostensibly to win public empathy but it’s too little too late.
The content of the letter is extremely coherent and unambiguous. With the little knowledge I have of the queen’s language, FIFA did not “WARN” Ghana in anyway whatsoever.
Rather, it is asking the GFA to “collaborate” with the Commission as long as the “autonomy” of the GFA is “respected”.
Do we cross the river when we have not reached it? And so I ask, “why is the GFA creating a storm in a tea cup? Indeed the “Monstrous” FIFA letter, the GFA’s much ado about nothing!
The GFA is crying wolf where there is truly is none. And that smacks of suspicion. Why don’t the FA appear before the Commission, advance its submissions as a commitment to reviving the sport that we all so dearly love?
Well, there are unsubstantiated reports that, officials of the technical team received one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) and refunded some to FA capos, I hope that’s not true because if it were true, disaster for the GFA. Are these rumors why the GFA is fighting to resist attempts at appearing before the Commission?
Well, the Commission, with the powers of a High court will cause all appearing before it to swear before giving their testimonies. And so, one will be compelled to speak nothing but the truth, otherwise perjury.
And so, if the Commission has wink or traces of these reports, it will ask the questions to ascertain the facts or otherwise of these rumors. This may likely lead to the unraveling of some facts, which will be inimical to the office of some FA gurus. The Pandora box will then be opened and the webs in the cobweb will be exposed.
Hell, surely will then break lose. And hell must break lose at the Commission sitting if it’s to the collective interest of Ghana Football rather than to the interest of a few greedy Ghanaians at the FA.
For me, until the dust hovering around the dismal performance of the Black Stars at the World Cup is settled with the commission have finished its work, the fuss by the GFA regarding FIFA ”warning” letters and looming sanctions, as William Shakespeare’s book, thought to have been written between 1598 and 1599,puts it is “much ado about nothing”.
Folks, Sports is Huge!
The Writer is a Sports/Political Freelance Journalist.