By John Vigah
On Saturday July 17, 2021, Ghana football earned rave reviews – not for its spectacular exhibition of the game, but for a despicable act that brought the nation’s image on its knees.
Though it was littered with few controversies here and there as regard pitch hooliganism and bout of controversial referee decisions, the immediate-past Ghana Premier League (GPL) season was largely well patronized and produced some bewitching demonstration of class football to the amazement of all.
Sadly, that beauty was to be marred by Ashanti Gold SC and already-relegated Inter Allies on Matchday 34 of the GPL played at the Len Clay Sports Stadium in Obuasi which ‘scandalously’ ended 7-0 in favour of the former (Ashanti Gold). Banging home 7 goals without reply in a game, is not new in Ghana club football at all, but the manner the rout was reprehensibly executed, sent tongues wagging as to what might have happened on that shameful day.
Indeed, 13 minutes before the final whistle, an Inter Allies player Hashmin Musah was introduced into the said game and intentionally scored two quick own goals, making the final score line 7-0. He was subbed off again moments later. According to the player, he had to score those goals to make nonsense of a wager that had been placed on the match.
“I heard it in our hotel that there was a correct scoreline of 5 goals to 1 against my club Inter Allies. I decided to ruin that bet because I don’t condone betting,” he told Kumasi-based Kumasi FM.
Calculatingly scoring own goals to prevent an alleged pre-arranged result, is simply unacceptable, inexcusable and highly suspicious. Eliciting information that a game is fixed – even when that is the case, does not warrant that off-putting act which, obviously, brought the game into huge disrepute.
The International media also had a field day on the embarrassing incident – and tore Ghana football into shreds.
It is the reason Ghanaians and football’s stakeholders descended heavily on the player, Inter Allies and Ashanti Gold SC, believing the game was fixed and urged the Ghana FA to conduct a snake-pit inquisition into the tie and duly punish the perpetrators.
The Ghana FA boss himself – Kurt Okraku, was outraged and rightly so – promising to chase out the “faceless cowards” involved in match-fixing.
“Our football has been attacked by faceless cowards. It is my responsibility and that of the Executive Council to defend the passion of the nation.
“Everybody who has played a part (in match-fixing relating to betting) will face it. We will clean our sport and bring confidence to a sport that feeds me and all of us; a sport that gives hope and aspiration to the entire 30 million people of this country,” the FA President told the media.
“If you are here and you know that you played a part, just be ready. Don’t call me, because you didn’t call me when you wanted to play that role. And those who are calling must stop. Those who are calling my phone regarding betting must stop.
“To quote a former President of America, we will chase them out of their hiding places” and bring them to justice,” assured Mr. Okraku, who was speaking at the launch of the Division One League Super Cup.
Without any shred of doubt, the FA capo’s words were as reassuring as motivating – proving to the world that he would not stomach anything that would affect the integrity of the game – or bring shame to the country.
However, it is a little over a month to the start of a new domestic season with no word from the football authorities as to the upshot of the case which investigations are said to have been completed.
The GFA Compliance and Integrity Officer and the GFA Prosecutors, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana wing of Interpol for the criminal investigation of the game, have all done their bit, and from indications, player (s), clubs and officials would not be spared.
Excruciatingly, it is rumoured that some prominent figures are pulling a few strings to ensure that their interests are safeguarded.
But the towering message to the FA is that nobody caught in the web must be spared in the interest of Ghana football. We shall be destroying our own football if we dare go that tandem.
As we speak now, the world’s eye is irreversibly emblazoned on us as far as this case is concerned. The global media is feverishly following the scandal and we cannot afford to play into their hands. If for nothing at all, Ghana football has suffered enough – and the FA President must put his feet down and ensure that the integrity of our game is fully protected.
In 2007, Okwahu United, Nania FC, Great Mariners FC and Tudu Mighty Jets were demoted to the fourth tier and fined heavily – after they were found guilty of match-fixing, having posted some outrageous score lines in their final league games for promotion into elite football.
Though the clubs’ punishments were later slashed upon intense appeals, at least, it sent some serious signals to the rest of the football world that such scandals have no place in Ghana football. That is the way to go.
Truth is that, if we do not take draconian measures now, we will witness this same sordid deed rear its ugly head again next season. That is why we must not spare anybody caught up in the mesh. Our game must be cleansed – and it is now or never!
Match-fixing is a huge threat to all sports at every level and the colossal damage it causes is clear. For governing bodies, fans and everyone in between, this form of corruption is poison – it is prussic acid, and must have no place in sports.
To attract sponsorship for our leagues, we must flush out any lingering doubts in the mind as regards its integrity. Matter-of-fact, a number of leagues and football associations have learned the hard way that by failing to put the necessary safeguards in place, they become vulnerable to incidents which can irreparably harm their public reputation, and damage their relationships with fans.
Yet, the reality is that with match-fixing, these reputational risks go hand-in-hand with very real financial consequences. And, at a time when the traditional TV broadcasting model, which has driven the financial success of a number of sports for decades, is under serious threat, maintaining integrity to help secure and retain long-term deals with sponsors and other commercial partners, is more important than ever.
The world is watching us. Let us stand up and be counted.