A familiar ritual of keen contest for Ghana football’s hot seat is gradually shaping up into real drama. This follows the certainty that Mr Ben Koufie will not seek re-election as Ghana Football Association (GFA) Management Board Chairman at the end of the current football season.
By a twist of events last week, Koufie’s enthusiasm to seek another term in office has suddenly faded away, with a decision to step down at the end of a tortuous, controversy-plagued reign.
Yesterday, Koufie formally communicated his decision to Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports in a letter in which the FA boss expressed his gratitude to President J.A. Kufuor for nominating him to be elected by the FA’s Executive Council.
In the letter copied to the Council’s chairman, Mr Yusif Adam Ibrahim, Koufie promised to officially hand over at the next FA Congress which ushers in a new football season.
As Koufie prepares to vacate the hot seat, six notable candidates, including Koufie’s right-hand man, Mr Kojo Quarshie, are warming up to catch the eye of the Sports Minister for possible nomination.
Information pieced together by Graphic Sports from the corridors of power in Ghana football reveals that Messrs Oheneba Charles, Herbert Mensah, Magnus Rex Danquah, Kojo Mensah Bonsu and Kojo Quarshie, all familiar names in Ghana football, and Kofi Amoah of the Ghana 2008 Nations Cup Bid Committee, have their eyes on Koufie’s seat, although none of them has openly declared any intention to run for the job.
Close associates of these personalities, however, have confirmed to this writer that each secretly covets the hot seat and are either lobbying the major stakeholders or using public opinion as a conveyor belt to weigh their popularity and to boost their chances.
Until last weekend’s honourable decision to make an exit at the end of this season, Koufie’s popularity ratings had taken a free fall with public opinion weighing heavily against his desire to seek another term of office.
His administration has supervised a decline in the fortunes of Ghana soccer, from the failure of the Black Stars to qualify for the 2002 World Cup and 2004 Nations Cup, to terminating the regular participation of the junior teams in international age-group tournaments.
Among the heavy load the administration carries are two coaching disasters involving the employment of Millan Zivadinovic and Burkhard Ziese, and the blemish of the May 9 tragedy (even though Koufie had not assumed duty when the incident occurred).
In the days leading to his new stance, the 71-year-old former national coach believed that certain personalities were out to tarnish his image in order to scuttle his ambitions.
The conspiracy theory was, perhaps, given some legitimacy by a recorded telephone conversation between Koufie and Y.A. Ibrahim in which some unsavoury remarks were allegedly made about some leading figures in government and the football fraternity.
That shenanigan, blown open by a publication in last Friday’s Soccer Express newspaper, appears to have fast-tracked Koufie’s exit from office.
In a press release yesterday, the FA boss confessed and apologised for his shortcomings, both through actions and utterances, which he says were not rooted in malice but out of a genuine desire for the good of the game.
Despite the criticisms, Koufie leaves with the distinction of instilling financial prudence in the administration, cutting and stitching together a developmental blueprint, the Five-Year Development Plans intended to find solutions to Ghana’s football decline.
As the countdown begins for the next GFA Congress, the public’s attention now swings to the suitability or otherwise of Koufie’s likely successor.
The frontrunners revealed in the story have interesting CVs. Both Oheneba Charles and Quarshie are former members of the GFA Management Board during different eras. The latter currently plays the role of unofficial advisor to the FA boss and, together with Abedi Pele, they form the trio were nicknamed by the press as football’s ‘Three Wise Men’.
Charles, an ace sportswriter and now a PR practitioner, was a member of the Nana Brew-Butler and Alhaji Jawula administrations. He later formed Kwaeibibirem United which played in the premier league for two seasons.
Quarshie too has a long association with football as a former GFA Vice Chairman during the Elias Teye administration, and later head of the Black Starlets Management Committee when the team won the first Under-17 World Cup in 1991. He is currently a director of Sekondi Hasaacas.
Danquah, a PR consultant, has had a long association with football. He is the co-ordinator of Ghana’s bid for the 2008 African Nations Cup and also worked in similar capacity when the country hosted the 1999 African Under-20 Championship and the 2000 Nations Cup. He was once the host of the popular Sports Digest talkshow on GTV in the 1980s and the publisher of the defunct Sports Coin newspaper.
Bonsu and ex-Kotoko Chief Executive, Mensah, both belong to a younger generation of administrators, driven by professionalism through aggressive marketing of the game. Amoah may not be a familiar face in football but he the head of Ghana’s 2008 Nations Cup bid team and an accomplished businessman of international repute.
Not only do they boast strong contacts with international football and business communities, but also enjoyed a lot of media spotlight in recent years.
Mensah, the King Faisal President, has openly declined interest in the FA job but Bonsu has made no secret his desire to run the show, and in years past the onetime Adidas country manager openly campaigned for the chairmanship won eventually by Brew-Butler and Jawula.