A new documentary from an acclaimed investigative journalist claims to show Ghana’s football boss, Kwesi Nyantakyi, and hundreds of local and international referees and officials taking cash bribes and gifts.
The much-awaited 90-minute film produced by acclaimed Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas has uncovered the extent of bribes used in Ghanaian football.
A team of undercover reporters posing as fans and officials secretly filmed meetings over two years in which they bribed officials of the game, including Kwesi Nyantakyi — the Ghana Football Association (GFA) president, FIFA Council member and Confederation of African Football (CAF) vice president — to fix matches or secure contracts or sponsorships and even visas for trips.
Nyantakyi is shown taking what reporters say was 65,000 dollars (55,000 euros) from them during a meeting over a so-called "sponsorship deal." The football boss tells the undercover reporters — who are wearing hidden cameras — that he can help bribe Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo, as well as the vice president and government ministers to secure contracts in exchange for millions.
Police probe underway
Akufo-Addo ordered an investigation into the claims against Nyantakyi after watching a preview of the documentary, which was made public in full on Wednesday. The football boss, around whom allegations of corruption have swirled in the past, was detained briefly and questioned by police in late May.
"Here he has something for you, for shopping for now,” a reporter posing as an investor tells Nyantakyi in one clip which has now gone viral in Ghana.
"Oh ok. Alright, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much," a visibly delighted Nyatakyi says. He is then seen picking up the stacks of dollar bills and dropping them into a black plastic shopping bag.
The reporters also secretly filmed hundreds of referees, football officials and club owners who they claim altogether took 150 individual bribes involving much lower sums.
The documentary shows Ebrima Jallow, a Gambian match official, being handed cash only hours before a match between Ghana and Mali in the WAFU Cup of Nations was held in Ghana in 2017.
He took 500 dollars from the undercover reporters and suggested such bribes were commonplace in international football, according to the documentary. Jallow, unaware he is being filmed, even addresses the issue of cash payments to football officials.
"It's happening everywhere. It's not a matter of bribery or the way I take it, trying to bribe me or trying to bribe the referees. It's not important. What is important is the relationship," he says.
Kenyan referee quits World Cup
Footage of Kenyan international referee Range Marwa shows him speaking to one of the reporters in a hotel room.
"You know, thank you for the gift, but you know the most important is that friendship, getting to know each other," Marwa says. The referee, whom the filmmakers said accepted a 600-dollar bribe, has since reportedly withdrawn from his planned role as an assistant referee at the FIFA World Cup.
The findings of the undercover Ghanaian media sting that lifts the lid on the extent of corruption in football circles comes on the eve of the World Cup in Russia.
Both the football world governing body FIFA and the GFA have said they will investigate the claims made in the documentary.
Viewers reacted with shock and disbelief during the premier of the documentary in the capital Accra. Thousands had jostled for access to the showing at the International Conference Center.
"Very sad, but I hope young people have heard and seen. I hope every person who takes a bribe will think twice from now," Samia Nkrumah told DW.
Exposing corruption and greed in football circles
Joshua Sarpong also expressed sadness. "I don't believe I am a Ghanaian anymore," he said.
"The GFA president must step down now. The ethics committee of CAF should call him to order and strip him naked of his position as vice president of CAF. We are going to start a demonstration nationwide, my friend we are not going to joke," Sarpong said.
The documentary left Esther Armah "stunned, appalled, shocked, horrified, silenced". "I watched as an investigative journalist, brought down Ghana's football authority. It is in tatters," she told DW.
Critics of Anas, who until recently had worked anonymously — appearing on camera with his face covered — and works under the motto of "name, shame, and jail," attacked his integrity and methods.
But an aide to the filmmaker who attended the screening told DW that Anas remains unperturbed.
"He is not worried. He is composed. He is focused and he wants to achieve a particular objective — unearthing corruption. That is it, nothing else," said the aide, who declined to be named.
"Everybody talks about corruption and greediness within football circles over and over. Passionately, it was bringing the image of our football down. After doing our checks and our assessments we saw this was a story worth pursuing."
Sports analyst Henry Asante believes the Ghana Football Association is in need of an overhaul. "I am not too sure if we have the guts. There are some clean ones but they are few. So we have to clean the system. There has to be a total cleansing of the hierarchy of Ghana football. We need new people who are trustworthy to run the game."