Beginning today, critical stakeholders in Ghana football will go to the polls at an Extraordinary Congress of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to elect a new leadership to run football’s governing body with all eyes on who becomes the new head of the football governing body.
It is unprecedented in the annals of Ghana football that a female lawyer, Amanda Akuorkor Clinton, is battling two former GFA vice-presidents, Messrs Frederick Pappoe and George Afriyie as well as Kurt Edwin Simeon Okraku, Nana Yaw Amponsah and George Ankomah Mensah for the highest office in Ghana football.
Five weeks of intensive campaign, a vetting process, grand manifesto launch by candidates, media engagements and a novel presidential debate last Monday will be put to test when 120 delegates elect the next leader of the FA to succeed Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi.
Mr Nyantakyi, the long-serving GFA president, was given a lifetime ban last year by football’s world governing body, FIFA, over ethical violations arising from an expose on widespread corruption in Ghana’s football administration.
Unlike previous GFA electoral contests, an initial six aspirants went through a screening process to ensure they met the eligibility criteria and most importantly passed an “Integrity Test”, which resulted in the disqualification of one of them.
The presidential contest has been as keen as it has been controversial. One of the aspirants, Mr Wilfred Kweku Osei (Palmer) is battling for his reinstatement after he was disqualified from the contest. He has petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Switzerland to have his disqualification overturned. A ruling by CAS is expected today and could have implications for the scheduled presidential elections tomorrow.
This afternoon, however, the delegates will elect among 36 strong candidates who are contesting for 11 slots on the decision-making GFA Executive Council (ExCo).
The new leaders will take over the administration of the sport from the GFA Normalisation Committee, which has been at the helm of football administration since September 13, 2018.
Barring any 11th-hour legal hurdle, the contest will reach fever pitch tomorrow, as six candidates, including a woman, battle it out for the GFA Presidency in what has turned out to be the hottest contest ever for the highest office in Ghana’s football administration.
In many ways, the elections today and tomorrow represent a watershed in Ghana football, after the difficult one-year journey by the FA’s caretaker body to reform the sport, culminating in the adoption of a body of statutes to govern the administration of football under a new leadership at a GFA Extraordinary Congress in Accra last month.
It is the first time ever that a woman is contesting for the highest position in Ghana football. Ironically, Ms Clinton had no previous association with football until she put on the gloves to fight the attempt by the government to liquidate the GFA. She also made representations to FIFA, on behalf of the football family, to contest the unpopular decision in the aftermath of the Number 12 expose on football corruption.
However, tomorrow’s contest will be keenly fought and could come with surprise results, especially with two former GFA vice-presidents contesting for the top post alongside the younger Executive Director of Dreams FC, Mr Okraku and the founder of Phar Rangers FC, Mr Amponsah, while the two lawyers, Mr Mensah and Ms Clinton are seen as outsiders.
Last Monday’s public debate was not just an interesting innovation but also provided the candidates, with the exception of Mr Afriyie who reportedly withdrew from the intellectual contest to attend to a business trip overseas, a last minute opportunity to drum home their ambitions in a frantic bid to secure extra votes as the day of reckoning draws near.
Personalities such as Mr Pappoe, who was GFA vice-president and chairman of the black Stars Management Committee which supervised two successive World FIFA Cup campaigns by Ghana in 2006 and 2010, is counting on his rich experience, achievements and a pledge to revive the GFA brand.
Similarly, Mr Afriyie, who was in charge of the Black Stars management team when Ghana finished as runners-up at the 2015 AFCON, is counting on his credentials as he pledges to restore Ghana football to its former glory.
Both Mr Okraku and Mr Amponsah are counting on innovative ideas to help turnaround the fortunes of Ghana football, among other strong marketing initiatives promised in their manifestos.
This morning as many as 36 football administrators, including a Deputy News Editor of the Daily Graphic, Ms Rosalind Amoh, will contest for 11 seats on the decision-making GFA Executive Council (ExCo) at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Ridge, Accra.
The electoral process, being supervised by the Dr Kofi Amoah-led Normalisation Committee and which started last Friday with the election across 10 regional capitals of 10 Regional Football Association (RFA) chairmen, is the clearest sign yet of the imminent restoration of normalcy in Ghana football.
And the excitement generated among the contestants and the public since the GFA Normalisation Committee opened nominations for the vacant positions and last Monday’s presidential debate in Accra is clear evidence that Ghanaians are eagerly anticipating the return of organised football.
As many as 120 delegates from the GFA’s constituent bodies will cast their votes for 36 delegates, comprising seven candidates from Premier League clubs who will contest for five seats on the ExCo, nine candidates representing Division One clubs who will vie for three ExCo seats, 10 RFA candidates for two ExCo seats and four female candidates representing women’s football contesting for one ExCo seat.
Many of the contestants in today’s ExCo election occupied influential positions during the 13-year reign of Mr Nyantakyi, including members of the immediate past ExCo.
The contestants include former football star, Justice Boison who, in his heyday, played for now-defunct Venomous Vipers and the Black Stars in the mid-1980s, and the highly respected Dr Toni Aubynn, the Board Chairman of Medeama SC and former Chairman of the Ghana Chamber of Mines.
Personalities such as one-time GFA Spokesperson and owner of Division One side Kpando Heart of Lions, Mr Ransford (Randy) Abbey; the CEO of Asante Kotoko, George Amoako, and Kweku Abaka Eyiah are among favourites to be elected back to the decision-making body.
Ms Amoh, one of the foremost voices on women’s football and immediate past Vice-Chairperson of the Women’s League Board, is also tipped for the sole ticket for women’s football as she contests against three other candidates -- Habiba Atta Forson, Evelyn Nsiah Asare and Edna Quagraine.
Ironically, three of the candidates, who are also CEOs of Premier League sides -- Messrs Albert Commey Aryeetey of Aduana Stars, Frederick Moore of Hearts of Oak and Amoako of Kotoko -- have been stripped off voting rights by their clubs and, therefore, cannot participate in the polls to even vote for themselves, as other delegates have been mandated to vote on behalf of those clubs.
The new GFA statutes have seen the number of seats on the ExCo reduced from 22 to 12, out of which one of those to be elected today will be eligible for selection as vice-president of the FA.
This is a departure from the past when the old statutes empowered the FA president to hand-pick his vice, as was the case of Mr Afriyie, who was chosen personally by Mr Nyantakyi in 2015.