Soccer maestro, Abedi Ayew Pele has challenged the Disciplinary Committee of the Ghana Football Association to produce evidence leading to the committee's conclusions of 'fixed match' against his club, Nania FC and Okwahu United or withdraw the findings and sanctions altogether because they have soiled his image.
Pele has told Joy FM that he would submit himself to all the judicial processes available to him, and if he cannot obtain justice on the local front, he may as well seek same from FIFA or yet still, at the International Court of Justice.
Abedi Pele issued a statement on Monday seeking to redeem his battered image after the FA found him and his team guilty of complicity in a 'fixed match' following his sides 'historic' 31:0 win over Okwahu United in a match to qualify to play in the Premier League.
He even believes the conclusions and sanctions could have been influenced by jealousy and says “Some think I have enjoyed undeserved fame. Whilst others think I am haughty. But that cannot be the basis for wrongly judging and punishing me and even worst still my players and officials.”
Read his full reaction.
ABEDI PELE'S REACTION TO THE GHANA FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION'S DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE'S REPORT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST HIM.
By virtue of a letter dated the 11th day of April 14, 2007, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) informed FC Nania, a division one football club in Ghana which club is owned and controlled by myself that the Disciplinary Committee of the GFA had decided to impose the following sanctions against me and the club;
• That the result of the match played between FC Nania and another division one club namely Okwahu United is nullified.
• That FC Nania and Okwahu United shall lose three points each from their accumulated points build up in the zonal league.
• That FC Nania and Okwahu United are both demoted from the Division One football league to Division Three.
• That the two clubs aforesaid are respectively fined fifty million Ghanaian cedis.
• That certain officials of the two clubs respectively including myself are banned from the dressing rooms and from sitting on the bench of our teams and;
• Finally that the players who featured in the match between FC Nania and Okwahu United are banned from playing any match organized or sanctioned by the GFA for a one year period.
These sanctions can be found at pages 19 and 20 (wrongly designated 21) of the Disciplinary Committee's report. Before proceeding to state my reaction to these sanctions I will first of all put the facts, the basis of the sanctions in perspective. From the Committee's own report, it is said that the facts that triggered of the Committee's work resulted from the match played between FC Nania and Okwahu United.
In this match, according to the Committee "an unusual scoreline of 31-0 in favour of Nania FIC was recorded." In a similar match the Committee observed "either by grand design or convenient coincidence Gt. Mariners Football FIC and Tudu Mighty Jets also engaged in the other zone encounter." which match also recorded "an unusual result of 28-0 in favour of Gt. Mariners.
In the Committees own words again, it is said that the "results recorded at the two centers caused an uproar within the football community both local and international" and that it is for this reason that there was a call "for an investigation." See page 1 of the report.
Accordingly, on Friday March 2007, the GFA according to the Committee, "formally charged the clubs, officials, and players of the clubs involved in the aforementioned matches pursuant to Article 35(5)(a) of the Regulations." See page 2 of its report. The Committee having invited us to its proceedings, it concluded that from its evaluation of the evidence certain questions arose to wit;
• Whether there was an arrangement for an official video recording of the final day matches by the organizers (GFA) and why?
• Did the organizers of the competition appreciate the crucial nature of the final day matches and were adequate measures put in place by the organizers to deter some of the ugly incidents reported by the match officials?
• With the advantage of hindsight could the organizers of the competition have done better?
After posing these questions the Committee simply called the appropriate board of the RFA "to address these questions with the view to ensuring that the incidents reported in the match in question do not recur. The Committee then made the following findings;
• That from the evidence "adduced it appears clearly that both Okwahu United F/C and Nania F/C do not appreciate the fact that a match can be fixed within minutes of the regulation time and whether a greater period was competitive is not consequential to the conclusion or opinions to be drawn by the match officials, spectators or other observers."
• "secondly," that the Committee was of the view that "whereas in this case the number of goals scored brought about suspicion, in a fixed match the number of goals scored may not necessarily matter. What matters is the conduct of the players and in some cases officials on or off the field either before, during and after the match."
• That in the instant case, "the least said about Okwahu United F/C the better. Their players allowed themselves to be used as instruments of deception and in so doing both Okwahu United F/C and Nania F/C dragged the name of Ghana Football into some degree of disrepute and brought themselves into dishonour and shame."
• That the "Okwahu United players merely stood by, feigned various injuries and deliberately depleted their strength in order to throwaway the match ... "
• That there was no "reasonable justification for Okwahu United F/C to have reported 10 minutes late for the 2nd half. That it is the view of the committee that their lateness was deliberately intended to ensure the other matches would end before their match with Nania F/C."
• The flattering scoreline by Nania F/C was not a result achieved by merit and honest competition; and finally,
• That "regrettably, the evidence adduced before the Committee did not disclose the motive behind the conduct of the two teams ... "
These findings can be found at pages 17 -18 of the Committee's report. It is these findings that formed the basis of the sanctions against me and my club. First of all it is my view that the last statement reproduced above completely undermines the findings of the Committee.
It is my view and this is supported by the proceedings that took place before the Committee that not only was there no evidence to "disclose the motive behind" any conduct but there was simply no basis for the conclusions reached by the Committee. In the first place the Committee as per the points summarized above itself conceded that the scoreline of a match may raise eyebrows but does not certainly point to a conclusion that the match was fixed.
At the proceedings before the Committee the match commissioner conceded upon cross-examination by myself that the match was competitive. Indeed I suggested to him and he conceded that the "flattering scoreline" as the committee put it was recorded because the strength of Okwahu United had been depleted by men. At page 8 of the Committee's own report it is recorded that;
"when it was put to the MIC that when a team is disadvantaged in number especially as in the instant case when their opponents played with only 7 men without a natural goalkeeper it was possible to score the number of goals recorded because Nania FIC were playing and attacking because they wanted to score the M/C said he agreed but in this particular case the opponents did not contest for any ball and therefore by the end of the match it was his opinion that the match cannot be said to have been played in a competitive manner.'
With all due respect to the MIC, if he conceded that the there were only seven men on the field one of whom was a goalkeeper and not a natural goalkeeper then the scoreline per se cannot suggest impropriety. To his suggestion that the Okwahu United players did not contest for the ball the Okwahu United chairman protested and maintained that his boys contested for the ball except that they were overrun by my players.
See page 9 of the report. Scorelines in football may be baffling but cannot be the basis for judging a match as fixed. The recent scoreline between Manchester United and Roma could have recorded a cricket score if Roma had been reduced to seven men one of whom was a goalkeeper and not even a natural goalkeeper.
Needless to add that in the match the subject matter of the Committee's findings the goalkeeper of Okwahu United saved a penalty in the second half of the game. How can a game be said to be uncompetitive if a goalkeeper saves a penalty.
Next is the Committee's findings that the Okwahu United players feigned injury. What was the basis for the Committee's conclusions on this? Neither the M/C nor the referee opined that the injuries of the Okwahu United players were stage managed. No evidence was called and/or adduced to establish that the injuries were false. The report does not state the basis for that conclusion and in any case how am I or my team responsible for the injuries? Was there any reason to suggest that we were responsible for the injuries? There is nothing in the Committee's report to establish that and no evidence supports this finding.
The Committee further says that the their reason for concluding that the match was fixed is because the players of Okwahu United showed up late for the start of the second half because they sought to monitor the result of the other match. That conclusion is unfounded for two main reasons.
In the first place, having regard to all the circumstances of the case Okwahu United had no interest in the result of the other match because regardless of the result of our match against them and that of the other match they gained no advantage. That conclusion would have made logical sense if it were my players who delayed the start of the second half because the result of our match with Okwahu United and the other match had a direct effect on our fortunes. As the evidence showed we were ready and were on the field waiting for Okwahu United to turn up.
My second reason for disagreeing with the conclusion reached by the committee on this point is that there was no evidence whatsoever that we were responsible for any such thing. There was no evidence that before, during or after the match the officials of Okwahu United and myself and/or any of my officials engaged in any form of discussion or even camaraderie nor did any such thing ever take place. What then did we do wrong?
A thorough reading of the Committee's report would reveal without doubt that neither myself nor any of my officials nor players did anything to suggest even remotely that we compromised the match. The only possible accusation is that my team scored more goals. And if that is the case, my contention is that whilst the scoreline may raise eyebrows, it does not point to an irrefutable conclusion that the match was fixed.
At the height of my career and even that of Maradona or the legendary Pele, it is very possible to record that score against a team featuring those players if they had to play with six other men one of whom is not a natural goalkeeper.
Given the entire circumstances of this case, should the M/C have recorded that my players also deliberately slowed down the tempo of the game because Okwahu United were depleted in number would the match have been adjudged by the committee to be competitive? What a preposterous conclusion that would have been. In this present case me and my players not only kept the competitive spirit of the game but were also interested in scoring more goals.
Indeed, not a scintilla of evidence points to any form of impropriety on our part. All that the Committee said was that Okwahu United were not competitive. But was that our fault? And in any case was it their fault too? If the players of a team get injured and their substitution list is exhausted what magic are they expected to perform. In all this hullabaloo about the scoreline of our match, what is peddled around is the video clip of another match and deliberately misrepresented as the match between my team and that of Okwahu United.
That match is that of Mariners and Tudu Mighty Jets. In the statutes of FIFA it is there spelt out clearly that there must be evidence of such impropriety before sanctions can be imposed. The Committee should tell us where they got their evidence from. I also hear that our match was secretly recorded. I dare whoever has a copy to play it for all to see.
After all this may be upon hindsight I should have seen this coming. For how could a committee tasked with determining our guilt as per the charges levelled against us also be the prosecutor? It is the Committee which prosecuted us. How then could it have lost the case against us? The committee made up of eminent lawyers obviously pandered to the questions raised by the public as the genuineness of the scoreline.
Maybe if they had reminded themselves first of all that they are lawyers who deal with evidence and not intuitions or public opinion or personal feelings they would have reached a just conclusion. Maybe if they were bold enough to tell the public that whilst the scoreline appeared suspicious it was not impossible to record that score having regard to all the circumstances of this case, I could have been spared this embarrassment.
I have also been advised that my players were not treated fairly but I will leave that to my lawyers to handle. I had no option but to opt to represent each and every player of my team because I was unable to contact each one of them since they had dispersed to their various homes after the match in preparation for a trip to India. I was not given the opportunity to consult them.
The committee made it clear to us that it would proceed notwithstanding my inability to contact them. Maybe my goalkeeper would have explained that having kept a clean sheet it would be unfair to judge him as not having played competitively and the Okwahu United goalkeeper would have explained that having saved a penalty kick it would be ridiculous to take such a view of him.
Maybe my strikers would be educated that when again they are playing a numerically depleted side they should refrain from scoring more goals and that it is only in such circumstances that they would be spared a one year ban as being uncompetitive.
In all this the character Abedi Ayew Pele is to blame. Some think I have enjoyed undeserved fame. Whilst others think I am haughty. But that cannot be the basis for wrongly judging and punishing me and even worst still my players and officials. I HAVE FILED AN APPEAL AGAINST THE DECISION OF THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE HOPING JUSTICE WOULD BE DONE.