Sometimes, when we are told that hard work and determination will get you to your destination, we regard such advice as an old fashioned cliché.
There are however several examples of how such qualities have taken certain individuals to higher heights and one such person is the President of the Ghana Football Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi. Fortunately, I had the privilege of interviewing him three years ago and got to know a bit about the human being behind the personality.
Nyantakyi’s origins and his pathway into football
Nyantakyi was born on October 27, 1968 to an Ashanti father and a mother from the Upper West Region. Indeed it was in Wa that the young Kwesi Nyantakyi had his basic and secondary education and even back then, although he had love for sports, especially football, his academic brilliance could not be hidden from all eyes. He excelled and gained admission into the University of Ghana, later entering the Ghana Law School. He tells me that it was in University that his involvement in Ghana football began when he was in the University. ‘At the time, we had a team in Wa called Upper West Heroes and I became the Accra representative of the club. So I attended several meetings at the GFA as a result.’ His continued involvement did not sop him from qualifying as a corporate lawyer who worked in financial institutions (First Atlantic Bank in this case). He was also the legal adviser for King Faisal football club.
The beginning of the journey to a position of influence
He soon joined the Executive Council of the Ghana League Clubs Association (GHALCA) and with the passage of time, decided to contest for the position of Vice Chairman. Back then, the Vice Chairman of GHALCA automatically became the Vice Chairman of the GFA and so the stakes were really high. Interestingly enough, Nyantakyi was contesting with one of his employers at the time, Alhaji Karim Grunsah, who owns King Faisal and therefore was reported to by Nyantakyi on all legal matters concerning the club.
Nyantakyi won the elections and became the Vice Chairman of GHALCA, as well as the Vice Chairman of the GFA.
How Nyantakyi became GFA president
The then GFA Chairman, Dr. Nyaho Nyaho Tamakloe resigned in May 2005 after a court ruled that the GFA could go ahead with impeachment proceedings against him. Indeed, the then 37-member Executive Council, which had not seen eye-to-eye with Dr. Tamakloe since his ascension to the GFA top position the year before, passed a vote of no confidence in him.
The young lawyer acted as GFA Chairman until elections were held in December 2005. Nyantakyi won a landslide victory; gaining 91 votes out of the 123 votes cast. Former GFA Executive Council chairman Yusif Adam Ibrahim got 25 votes, Kojo Bonsu got seven votes whilst the pair of Joseph Ade Coker and Vincent Sowah Odotei failed to get a single vote.
Stand out achievements so far
Kwesi Nyantakyi thus became the GFA President at the age of 37 and the Executive Council morphed into the Executive Committee. He was also the last GHALCA Vice Chairman to become GFA Vice Chairman because amended regulations meant that it was no longer possible to pursue that route to power. With the likes of Fred Pappoe, Randy Abbey, Kofi Nsiah and Owoahene Acheampong, Nyantakyi oversaw a relatively successful debut World Cup campaign by the Black Stars in Germany. Ghana reached the second round, which was the minimum target set by the GFA at that time.
With such a feel good factor in the air, hopes were high that the Black Stars would host and win the 2008 African Nations Cup, but sadly that wasn’t to be as Ghana was beaten in the semifinals by Cameroon. However, what I consider to be Nyantakyi’s greatest achievement was soon to come. Ghana’s youth national team, the Black Satellites won the West African championships and also took the 2009 African Youth Championship trophy. The greatest triumph came in Egypt where with 10 men, the Satellites beat Brazil on penalties to become the first African side to win a World Youth Cup tournament.
The Black Stars improved on its showing in Germany by coming to within a penalty kick of the 2010 World Cup semifinals. Sadly, Asamoah Gyan missed the crucial penalty and Ghana lost in a penalty shootout to Uruguay. Ghana’s reputation as a football force had however grown and the Black Stars had become a global brand. This was of course months after the team reached the 2010 African Nations Cup final in Egypt.
Miscalculation in the process of progress
As hardworking and as innovative Nyantakyi is, he then made a slight miscalculation when he assumed responsibility as the Black Stars Management Committee Chairman. Although Fred Pappoe had lost his place on the GFA’s Emergency Committee, his performance in the role was a major reason why Ghana did well at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and he should have been retained for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
I describe it as a slight miscalculation on Nyantakyi’s part because he had by 2011 become the president of the West African Football Union (WAFU) and also, he has successfully won a seat on the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). So it meant that he was saddled with extra responsibilities. I will freely admit that I was a critic of his in that direction and unfortunately, events at the 2014 World Cup proved me right. I will not go into that because this piece is actually meant to commend him for how far he has progressed in football, but at the same time, I have to maintain some level of objectivity as well.
CAF recognition for a good leader arrives
Nyantakyi soon began to shine at CAF Executive meetings and he was deservedly made the Chairman of CAF’s ethics committee. I remember speaking to him after Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA President and I asked him whether he would consider going for the job himself. He probably would in future, if the set of circumstances are favourable but it was too soon at the time for him. It still showed how well respected he is in international circles.
His latest victory to win a place on FIFA’s Council should be a thing of pride to all Ghanaians and even though I have had my issues with him in the past, and will continue to offer constructive criticism especially when it comes to Ghana’s domestic football, I would like to commend Nyantakyi for such a feat and becoming the second Ghanaian after the legendary Ohene Djan to represent the nation on FIFA’s Council.
His tenure is for six months and there will be fresh elections next year. I sincerely hope he wins a proper four-year term in that seat but already there are challenges.
Possible booby traps Nyantakyi must work to avoid
According to top African journalist Osasu Obayuwana, who covered the elections in Cairo, supporters of Nyantakyi during the elections have accused him of betraying them in a crucial vote for proposed amendments of the CAF Presidential eligibility rules. Apparently, despite several calls by the CAF Secretary General, Hicham Amrani for Nyantakyi to vote on the matter, the GFA President was nowhere to be found. Associates of Nyantakyi, who were not only expecting him to vote the amendments into law but were looking at him as a likely challenger for the CAF Presidency next year, are reportedly plotting to ensure that Nyantakyi does not win a four year term when the next FIFA Council elections take place in 2017, because he is seen by such associates as pandering to the whims and caprices of long serving CAF President Issa Hayatou.
The only way out would be for the GFA chairman to convince his associates that he is his own man and make peace with them to stand any chance of staying on the FIFA Council. When you add the fact that he won by just one vote, then a lot of diplomatic spadework will need to be done in the next few months. I for one would love to see him challenge Hayatou, who has been in the position for 28 years and I hope he scales this hurdle.
My final comment is that in as much as Nyantakyi deserves all the accolades that are coming his way, he not only has to work on repairing the image of the GFA, which has taken a battering for some time now, but he also has to work at improving domestic football in Ghana for his legacy to keep growing.
Kwesi Nyantakyi, congratulations and all the best!!