Feature: Needless controversy!

Author: Ebo Kwaitoo

How I wish Wilfred Kweku Osei's disqualification from the presidential race of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) would not disturb the electoral process. However, it seems that no amount of wishes can quell the storm coming from Palmer's campaign team, who have sworn fire and brimstone to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.

That clearly suggests a looming dispute which can drag the game further and end up extending the stay of the Normalisation Committee (NC), which the clubs are not in favour of. If that is the case, I expect all stakeholders of Ghana Football to stand up and fight with all their might till this matter dies a natural death in the next few days.

Having starved Ghanaians of serious football activity for over a year due to the reforms, I thought the NC, which doubles as the Election Committee, had managed the local game fairly well in the interim and were coasting to a glorious end after last month's impressive Extraordinary Congress, until that unexpected call last Friday. I say it was unexpected because the Vetting Committee had earlier assured Ghanaians to ignore the disqualification rumours (Refer to story on graphic.com.gh).

After listening to the various parties and scrutinising the various documents tendered in respect of the issues, I came to the conclusion that the decision to disqualify Palmer was needless, considering the timing and the reasons assigned.

For all who have been following the normalisation process up to now, the latest development only smacks of vindictiveness which is not good for the already-dented image of Ghana Football. This is especially so when the first reason for Palmer's disqualification bordered on his refusal to pay the 10 per cent share of Joseph Paintsil's transfer fee last year, as well as some unsavoury comments he  purportedly made in 2017 which was appropriately dealt with by the GFA Ethics Committee.

For starters, facts available to me indicate the player in question was loaned to a Hungarian club, Ferencvaros, in 2017 upon which Tema Youth FC duly paid $500 to the GFA for the International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

Subsequently, Paintsil was transferred from Ferencvaros to his current club, KRC Gent in Belgium in 2018, and since he was then under the jurisdiction of the Hungary FA, the Hungarians were supposed to issue the player's ITC to Gent. However, the Hungarian FA delayed in issuing the ITC, compelling FIFA to issue a provisional ITC to KRC Gent to enable them to use the player. My investigations reveal that FIFA's provisional ITC later became permanent after the Hungarian FA's ITC finally arrived after the stipulated period.

In this case, Tema Youth FC, which is a member of the GFA (not Palmer as an individual), argue that since the player was not playing under the GFA when the transfer was done, it had no obligation to pay any money to the Ghana FA. Another school of thought insists that even if Tema Youth are guilty of the offence as is being alleged, it is the club that has to be punished in line with the GFA regulations, and not an individual.

A similar case study was the infamous narrative involving Dreams FC and player Cudjoe Mensah, whose name was changed to Daniel Gozar, leading to the ruling of the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in favour of the plaintiff, Tema Youth. Even though Dreams F.C. were found guilty by CAS, the Vetting Committee could not hold the Executive Chairman of the club, Kurt Okraku, responsible for that offence simply because he as an individual was separate from Dreams FC.

My question is, if that indeed is the position of the law, then Palmer cannot be made a scapegoat for an offence committed by Tema Youth, if indeed any offence was committed at all; unless he was disqualified for something else I am not privy to.

Before I proceed, I humbly appeal to the GFA Congress to expunge Article 33 (5) (c) from the GFA Statutes to avoid another confusion in future, now that it has been established in the FIFA Statutes that no money is paid for an ITC. That will help sanitise Ghana Football as the FA embarks on reforms.

My simple response to the second reason for disqualification is that once Palmer adhered to the GFA Ethics Committee's decision and formally wrote to apologise to the GGFA and the then Minister for Your and Sports in a letter dated January 12, 2018, that should settle the matter.

All I am demanding from the Election Committee is fairness for all the candidates to avoid any mudslinging among the candidates, which can muddy the waters. With barely three weeks to the GFA presidential election, there is no need for acrimony among the football family following the kind of unity that was witnessed at the last Extraordinary Congress in Accra last month.

Left to me alone, we should allow all the seven aspirants to contest for the delegates to make their choice for the sake of peace which is crucial at this stage, instead of crying wolf when there is none. Fact is, each candidate has his constituency who can fight the system in case they suspect foul play which will not be in anybody's interest.

Now that everybody is calling for the return of football, it will be counter-productive to indulge in any tendency that can delay the process any further. I want all football people to join this campaign instead of seeing it as a one-man fight. Everybody's destiny is at stake. And also, if this precedent is allowed, it will become a fight all football people will live to fight again in future.

This, for me, is a needless venture that should not be entertained. We all want to cleanse Ghana Football but that must be done according to the rules or we risk courting more trouble for ourselves by using the same system to settle personal scores.

In the midst of all the brouhaha, however, I must confess that I'm yet to be convinced by any of the candidates on how to tackle the rot that brought us where we are today - bribery of referees, match-fixing and the inefficient judicial system. That, for me, should be the first agenda towards winning the corporate world, fans and the entire nation to the game again.

As a shadow delegate, my vote will go to that candidate who can show a lot of commitment in that direction. That is food for thought!