The President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Kwesi Nyantakyi, believes the wind of change that blew through the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was inevitable and that the change that has come provides a new lease of life for the game in Africa.
In an exclusive interview with Graphic Sports’ Rosalind K. Amoh, Mr Nyantakyi spoke on a wide range of issues – from his re-election to both CAF and FIFA, his chances of being a CAF vice president, and the fact that he would not seek re-election when his third term as GFA president expires in 2019.
He also spoke of his frustrations about not getting sponsorship for the Ghana Premier League and the need for Ghana to start preparations towards the hosting of the 2018 African Women’s Championship. Excerpts.
GRAPHIC SPORTS (GS): Mr president, congratulations on your re-election to the Executive Committee (ExCo) of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as well as a full four-year term on the FIFA Council.
Kwesi Nyantakyi (KN): Thank you very much. It is yet another privilege handed me by my association with football and I say, sometimes, it looks like a divine path because when I started off football was not top in my plans, but now look where it has taken me.
GS: The results of the elections looked easier, at least, compared to the first time, particularly, to the FIFA Council.
KN: Far from that; it was quite a tough task, given what went in. However, it is all over and I’m grateful to the delegates who reposed their confidence in me. I see it as an opportunity to serve football.
GS: The results of the election, particularly for the presidential, signalled the blowing of a strong wind of change in CAF. For more than two decades Issa Hayatou has been the most recognisable face of African football. Now he is gone with most of his team, and a relatively unknown face, Ahmad Ahmad, and virtually a new set of people take over.
KN: As for changes they always come. Change is the only thing that is constant within the human set-up so at every point in time you will see change in one form or the other in our various spheres of life. So the fact that Issa Hayatou is out of CAF does not mean the organisation is doomed or the future will be blighted. It is an opportunity for CAF to rebrand, reposition itself and take a giant leap into the future.
GS: What does this change mean to African football?
KN: The change signifies a new way of doing things. New strategies, new management, new policies, new direction, new strategy. The new team will do things differently from the way Issa Hayatou did things and that one can only expect that it will inure to the benefit of Africa in the short to long term.
GS: You think the new team has what it takes to lead CAF to that brighter future for CAF?
KN: Sure. I have no doubt at all about the abilities of the new president Ahmad and, together with members of the new Executive Committee, they will make Africa proud by leaving a lastly impression and footprints in the annals of the history of African football.
GS: It is being said that change that has occurred in CAF is an indirect outcome of the change that has occurred in FIFA. Is that assertion true?
KN: The dynamics of change blowing across the world not only in football, has had an impact on all spheres of our lives: Sports, politics and economics. Over the past two years, there have been changes in these areas and I think what has happened at FIFA and CAF is a matter of course.
I believe change comes at its own time and when change is coming there is nothing one can do to stop it. Whoever tries to stop it will be swept off by the change.
The mistake many leaders make is that they are unable to read and understand and appreciate that it is time for them to move on and I think the situation was not different from either Sepp Blatter or Issa Hayatou.
At the end of the day, it is the interest of the organisation that is paramount, not for any individual so if the change comes, it has to be embraced.
GS: It is being wildly rumoured that you are the next vice president of CAF. Any truth in that?
KN: (Laughs) It is said that there is no smoke without fire. Due to the calibre of people on the CAF ExCo, they have realised that I have the experience as one of the long serving members of African football, from the Member Associations (MA), I deserve to be vice president of CAF. I thank all those who have that confidence in me and are wishing me well.
GS: So has anyone spoken to you about it?
KN: Yes, we have had a lot of discussion on it among the stakeholders. The procedure is that the president will recommend the vice president to the ExCo for approval and that will be done at the next meeting.
GS: But would you want to be vice president? I remember in a previous interview with you when you first became a CAF ExCo member, you said you got into football by chance and didn’t know what was ahead of you. Now you know where you are heading to?
KN: Indeed, then I did not know what was in store for me. Now I think I have taken my time to be groom myself now that I know it is a path chosen for me by God.
Yes, I think I’m ready and I have the time, expertise, experience and energy to play that role as CAF vice president.
GS: And what would this mean to Ghana football?
KN: I think it means Ghana has taken her rightful place in international football and is at the helm of football affairs.
GS: Does it reflect Ghana’s status as a giant in African football?
KN: It is a recognition for Ghana and not me as a person, though it is my personal attributes that enhanced my chances, but my country and its pedigree as a strong football nation are important ingredients in my being considered for this privileged position.
GS: There is also a conversation that your new roles at these two international bodies will directly open doors of opportunities for qualified Ghanaians. How can that be?
KN: As part of the policy of the new administration of CAF, it is has been decided that we would integrate staff from other member countries from Africa. If you go to CAF headquarters right now, majority of the staff are Egyptians. The new executive want to change that and make it 50-50. There is a plan to bring other qualified staff from other member countries so they can also work and gain experience there.
Besides, there are other committees and organs within the organisation that provide an opportunity for qualified members to serve on. And given our track record in such things, once the opportunity comes and Ghanaians are qualified, why not, I would strongly recommend for their appointment.
It is indeed, a great opportunity not for only me, but other members from my country to also get the chance to remain involved in their passion, while they also improve upon their credentials.
GS: These new roles at the international level means Ghana could be losing you as the head of its football organisation? There are talks of you resigning as GFA president. Any truth?
KN: I have also heard that I would be resigning. I don’t know where that is coming from because I haven’t said so anywhere.
GS: Are you saying these new roles won’t affect the discharge of your duties as GFA president, and that you are not stepping down?
KN: Not at all. First of all, there is no legal requirement that if you become a FIFA ExCo member, CAF ExCo member or vice president, you have to step down. Julio Grondona, the late president of Argentina was the president of his federation, president of the South American Football Confederation and was a FIFA vice president, but he held all those positions until he died.
The call is misconceived. In the CAF Status it is only the CAF president who is required by law not to hold any position at the member association level once he assumes that role. You know the power is around the presidency and not the other supporting actors.
GS: When you went for the initial six-month term at FIFA, there were calls or you were advised to step down as GFA President. Is it that people do not know the law?
KN: That was not an advice in good faith; it was coming from people who wanted me out from the FA.
GS: Perhaps, their concerns may be genuine as they believe that your interest has changed, now that you are at FIFA and CAF. Do you still have the passion to lead Ghana football?
KN: To start with, without the FA presidency, I would not have gotten this far. I owe my current position to my presidency at the FA. I believe that the work of FIFA and CAF has a direct link to the work of the member association or local association which is the GFA.
My roles at CAF and FIFA are inextricably linked to my role at the GFA. As I move higher, I stand in a better position to influence decisions to the benefit of my local federation. Whatever I do for CAF or FIFA, I do it for Ghana.
Issues discussed at CAF and FIFA have a direct bearing on football which Ghana is deeply involved in, be it at the continental or world level. There is no isolation. Let us understand the role of the national association and then we will see the link, that my roles at both levels cannot be divorced.
GS: So you are saying you are not quitting now?
KN: My term will end in 2019. I’m not going to quit until then. You don’t resign suddenly from such positions. You do that and you might create a vacuum and then there will be a huge power struggle that could eat up the organisation, the organisation will lose its focus and if care is not taken, that will ruin everything that has been built.
It is better to have a structured transition that will not adversely affect the organisation.Those who are looking forward to my early resignation should rather come on board so we have a better, structured, smooth transition that will lead to the consolidation of a good succession when my term ends in 2019.
GS: The General Secretary has been acting for some time now. It was the same situation with his predecessor. When is the FA going to have a substantive General Secretary?
KN: A good question. Yes since Kofi Nsiah left, there has not been a substantive General Secretary. Mr Nsiah came from outside the GFA and he was specifically interviewed for the job. Afterwards, there was a change in policy to recruit from within. Though there had been people who had been subordinate roles as the deputies and we
would give them some time to develop into the roles of such senior managerial positions.
There is really not much difference between the entitlements of the General Secretary and the acting General Secretaries.
GS: Not the emoluments per se, but the fact that the acting role is not confirmed and those who assume that positions could be asked to relinquish that role at any time. Besides, the General Secretary is the administrative head of the FA and the acting role is not the best.
KN: I appreciate that, and I say the position will be confirmed soon
GS: How soon will that be, Mr President?
KN: It will be very soon, but be mindful that the decision rests with the Executive Committee and not a personal one.
GS: I persist because of the delicate issue that has come up about the acting General Secretary fighting a nine-month FIFA ban.
KN: He has served most part of the sentence hasn’t he? And I say that very soon a substantive General Secretary will be appointed soon.
GS: After 2019, will you be running again for a fourth term as FA president?
KN: No, you want me to leave now and you want me to run again in 2019?
GS: I ask because you have alluded to the fact that it is when you have a strong affiliation from your local federation that your chances at such positions are enhanced. The terms at CAF and FIFA ends in 2021 so?
KN: Yes, that is a fact and perhaps, the truth, but I will leave. There has been too much hate campaign and I think at a point in time, it is better to bow out more honourable.