By Ekow Dontoh and Mario Sergio Lima
Ghana’s Black Stars soccer team were awaiting the arrival of a plane with $3 million promised by the government as compensation for playing in the World Cup in Brazil, in the run-up to a match that may send them home.
The team is focused on the game against Portugal tomorrow, which they must win in order to have a chance to qualify for the tournament’s knockout stages, coach James Kwesi Appiah told reporters in Brasilia. Appiah said he hoped the money issue would be resolved within a few hours. Sannie Daara, spokesman for the Ghana Football Association, couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm whether the plane had landed.
“This is a situation that had to be sorted out before the competition,” Appiah said. “It’s hard to have this situation and having to tell the players each day that the money will come. But our players are dedicated and they are focused only on the game tomorrow against Portugal.”
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama contacted the team and the arrangements for payment were made afterward, the association said in a statement on its website earlier today. The players requested the money in cash because many of them don’t have bank accounts in Ghana, Appiah said.
Ghana’s team, which includes Sulley Muntari of AC Milan and Kevin-Prince Boateng of FC Schalke, has played two matches so far in the tournament, losing 2-1 to the U.S. and drawing 2-2 with Germany. They play their final first-round match against Portugal tomorrow and need to win to have any chance of progressing. The Black Stars were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Uruguay in the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
“President Mahama waded into the matter after agitation from the Black Stars players,” the association said. “President Mahama personally spoke to the players to assure them the money will be paid by Wednesday afternoon.”
FIFA worked with the Ghanaian association and the players to resolve the situation, Delia Fischer, a spokeswoman, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro today. Soccer’s governing body doesn’t like to see this kind of problem, which has happened in past tournaments, she said. She declined to say more and referred questions to the Ghanaian team.
The football association may find it hard to move such a large amount of money into Brazil suddenly if it doesn’t have the necessary clearance from customs or import permits from a central bank, said Ion De Vleeschauwer, chief dealer at Bidvest Bank in Johannesburg. Bidvest is the biggest chain of money changers in South Africa.
“At the drop of a hat, to bring in $3 million in cash, it might get you into a spot of bother,” he said. “I don’t think the Brazilians will confiscate it but they just may not allow it to be released.”
The money would need to be declared to Brazil’s tax authorities, though it wouldn’t be subject to any duties on arrival in the country if correctly reported, the tax collection agency said in an e-mailed response to questions.
It’s not the first off-field problem to disrupt Ghana’s World Cup. The football association has asked police to investigate claims reported by the London-based Daily Telegraph that the association’s president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, had agreed to fix future international exhibition matches. The association has denied the report.
Back at home, Mahama has taken steps to ensure that the broadcasts of Black Stars games aren’t disrupted by regular blackouts. The government has asked its aluminum smelter to cut power usage during the World Cup and will buy additional electricity from neighbor Ivory Coast to ensure that Black Stars games can be shown live.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ekow Dontoh in Accra at email@example.com; Mario Sergio Lima in Brasilia Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Ekow Dontoh and Mario Sergio Lima