In June 2018, undercover investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas released the piece “Number 12″: When Greed and Corruption Become the Norm”. It was an investigation into corruption within the Ghanaian football landscape.
The release of this controversial documentary would eventually lead to, among other things, severe sanctions for several football industry people -– referees, coaches and administrators — the major culprit being former Ghana Football Association (GFA) president, Kwesi Nyantakyi.
That same month, the maiden edition of Ghana’s first ever football-only award scheme was to take place.
In the early months of 2018, when former Ghanaian international John Paintsil alongside a board of experts were busy laying the foundation for the Ghana Football Awards, little did they know Ghanaian football would soon face its biggest challenge yet.
A known face in Ghana, Paintsil represented the country in two world cups, 2006 and 2010, the first of which was Ghana’s first ever appearance at the Mundial, and the second of which saw the team become only the third ever African nation to reach the quarter final. He played club football across Ghana, Israel, England and South Africa.
The former right back recalls being first approached by the project lead of the awards organising committee, Fiifi Anaman, who briefed him on plans for the awards. AE Mediacom, the media content production house that served as Anaman’s employers as well as organisers of the awards, had the plans for the award scheme for years, and had finally come around to realising it in 2018, coinciding with Anaman’s arrival.
“When you see how several players have passionately played for the country without so much as an award to their name, you want to do something about it so future generations do not suffer the same fate,” says Painstil, for whom there was only one answer to the question of whether there should be a Ghana Football Awards or not.
Alongside Painstil on the maiden board were fellow former Ghanaian internationals Augustine Ahinful and Abukari Damba, retired FIFA referee Alex Kotey and veteran journalist Karl Tufuoh, who would be voted the chairman of the inaugural board.
Together with other board and committee members, the team met to construct the award’s entire architecture, including the likes of voting structure, longlist and shortlist of nominees amongst others.
The award was successfully launched on Friday, April 27, 2018, with the main event slated for June 9 2018. Then, the “Number 12” documentary by Anas struck. It was June 6, 2018, and there was initial panic, naturally.
“All the time and effort we had put in was at risk of amounting to nothing,” Painstil recounted.
The aftermath of the documentary was a scene of chaos in the football fraternity. The Ghanaian public lost trust and interest in football. How was a celebration going to be possible against such a backdrop? Who would attempt awarding members of an industry that just got brought to its knees by a corruption investigation?
The investigation, however, would ironically bring with it overarching blessings. With the date of the main event now inevitably postponed to the following month (July 2018), the team had more time to plan and smoothen the rough edges.
The main blessing however, as Painstil saw it, was that the documentary rid the football scene of many bad players and corrupt officials, and the Ghana Football Awards was better for it.
The maiden edition of the Ghana football Awards was successfully held on July 8th, 2018, at the Accra Marriott hotel. The same location hosted the second edition in 2019.
Now gearing up for its third installment, Painstil is convinced Ghana Football Awards 2020, themed the “Bring Back the Love” edition will be the best one yet.
“We have been through the storm and it will only get better from here. The award has no doubt progressed steadily since its inception,” he says. “We still have a long way to go, but nobody can deny the progress that’s been made. Ghana football is back.
The love for the game is back. The award scheme will be the crowning moment of this year’s football revitalisation.”
Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey has won the overall award, the Ghana Footballer of the Year, in both the 2018 and 2019 editions.
Other recipients of the award include Joseph Addo, Aduana Stars, Majeed Ashimeru, Joseph Mensah, Princella Adubea, Anthony Baffoe, Thomas Abbey, Yussif Abubakar, Asamoah Gyan, Charles Akunnor, Mukarama Abdulai, Asante Kotoko, Felix Annan, Fatawu Shafiu, Joseph Esso, the surviving members of the first Black Stars team and the Professional Footballers Association of Ghana (PFAG).