…How Referees Took Cash To Distort Match Between Asante Kotoko And Accra Hearts Of Oak
Anas Aremeyaw Reports, Accra, Ghana
Ghana Premiere League giants, Accra Hearts of Oak, and Asante Kotoko, battled it out at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi on Sunday 6th August 2017 in the 23rd week fixture.
In the 12 previous clashes, they had shared the spoils: Asante Kotoko had four wins and Hearts of Oak had the same number of wins, with the remaining four ending in draws. It had been one of the most anticipated matches in the Premiere League.
Fully aware that the stakes were high, the Tiger team approached all four officials of the game at separate locations with the sole aim of influencing them to tilt the scales in favour of Togbe Afede’s Hearts of Oak.
Referee Dally Gagba received (GH¢1,500) at Akim Oda in the Eastern Region. This transaction took place at the back seat of a car. The joy was evident in his speech as he responded to a Tiger team member’s greeting with a big “Yes Sir, boss!”
After exchanging pleasantries, Dally dropped his phones on his lap, ready to accept his package with both hands. He scrutinized the money while nodding his head like an agama lizard. The Tiger team member asked if the bribe was accepted and he responded, “Uhh! Accepted!” With a heart full of gratitude, he stretched out his arm to shake hands with the Tiger team members; a seal to a dishonourable transaction.
First assistant referee for the match, Haruna Bawa, received his GH¢1,200 at Ahodwo Roundabout in Kumasi. Upon meeting the Tiger team members, Haruna expressed his displeasure at the Tiger team’s delay in bringing his money. “You’ve really kept me waiting,” he complained.
Even the traffic jam couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the transaction. When a Tiger team member asked Haruna to be firm with anyone who tries to play dirty, he responded by saying, “I know you would get a goal” and assured them that the officials will do their best.
The Tiger team also met Latif Addari, fourth referee of the match in Kumasi and presented him with an amount of one thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢1,000). As he inspects the money, he agreed to do all he could to make sure Hearts of Oak emerged victorious. The fourth referee, Ben Vormawov, also received one (GH¢1,200) at the VIP station at Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in Accra.
The fortunes had changed. Kumasi Asante Kotoko had hit a dry patch in the run-up to this 23rd week super clash. To compound their woes, the Kumasi-based club had got involved in a motor accident on their way home from a defeat to Inter Allies in Tema, an incident that forced the postponement of the big match for nearly three weeks. On the other hand, Hearts of Oak, who were the underdogs in the Accra leg, were now in good shape.
It was a game that lived up to its billing. The deft touches of Samudeen Ibrahim and Winful Cobbina gave Hearts the edge in midfield. And the Phobians could have fetched the opener in the 32nd minute when Patrick Razak made a powerful hit from close range, only to be denied by an equally robust parry by Kotoko’s goalkeeper, Felix Annan. Annan’s effort was not only firm but also well directed from the goal area, leaving the lurking Thomas Abbey, who was anticipating a rebound, disappointed.
After a balanced first half in which chances were few, Kotoko returned for the second half full of fight, with Baba Mahama, Saddick Adams and Emmanuel Gyamfi taking turns to test Ben Mensah in post for Hearts. Hearts however drew first blood with Kwame Kizito hitting the back of the net in the 60th minute from a brilliant Fatau Mohammed set up.
After a momentary wobble from the shock of conceding the first goal, Kotoko regained composure and carried the game to their opponents. They came close with two corners in quick succession, but Saddick Adams and Baba Mahama were denied on both occasions by Ben Mensah.
Coach Steven Pollack introduced striker Yakubu Mohammed and winger Sarfo Gyamfi to bolster his attack. In the 79th minute, their endeavor was rewarded with a curious penalty. Referee Dailly Gaba judged Hearts midfielder, Leonard Tawiah to have handled Amos Frimpong’s shot. Saddick Adams expertly converted to bring Kotoko at par. The home side tried to snatch a late win with by mounting sustained pressure.
As referee Gagba blew the final whistle, Tiger sat wondering; “what happened to our deal? Why did he give Kotoko such a soft penalty in spite of our agreement? Did Kotoko also do their homework with him well, perhaps better?
The Oseikrom madness
‘Doubt that the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move his aides, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love’
(Hamlet – Act 2, Scene 2)
Doubt the Golden Stool exists, doubt that fufu has been banned in Kumasi, and doubt that Yaa Asantewaa is a female. Doubt the existence of Bantama market but never doubt the love Kumasi Asante Kotoko fans have for football.
At a church near Anloga Junction in Kumasi, the pastor’s preaching seemed unbearably long that Sunday. The itchy youth could not remain comfortable in the pews anymore.
Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak were playing that day. Even heaven knew it was no day for going to church, yet they had been saintly enough to attend, hoping that as the other pastor used to do, service on such a day would be truncated to enable those who wanted to go to the stadium to do so. Apparently however, this new pastor posted from Nchaaban Diocese in the Western Region had no idea what a Hearts-Kotoko match means. He must have thought it was just another Sunday and so he kept imploring them to fix their minds on the cross whereas their minds were unapologetically fixated on football.
Slyly, they began to slip out of the chapel one by one till the pastor opened his eyes after a short prayer only to find that almost all the youth’s seats were empty. They had fled straight to the stadium. As Shakespeare’s would put it:
‘Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you, Did my heart fly at your service’
(The Tempest – Act 3, Scene 1) Not relevant to the write-up. That is the football fan abandoning even the worship of his God to watch football. The depth of love which the fan has for football cannot be fathomed, his church service less a priority. The Oseikrom football fan is from a different planet; he is madly in love with football and can divorce his wife within a split second for crossing his football desires. This is the love being crucified by corruption!
Togbe Afede’s investment:
After acquiring nearly 70% shares in Hearts Oak in 2011, Togbe Afede XIV has sunk millions of Ghana Cedis into the bottomless expenses of the Accra-based club. It has been a frustrating experience for the investment expert whose foray into football will come to naught with shady deals like this. It is a shame for a club to pay Ghs100, 000 a month in salaries alone, only for a referee without scruples to scuttle his scheme.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II:
Like his predecessors, Otumfuo Osei Tutu, owner of the great Kumasi Asante Kotoko, is the world bank of the club. But unlike the Bretton Wood institution which expects some profit from bailing out struggling countries, the great king’s generous and numerous bailouts have been an act both of traditional duty towards, and of personal love for the porcupine warriors. Unfortunately, our referees are playing a cruel, irreverent joke on the great king.