The impasse between the Black Queens and the Ministry of Sports continues as the bonuses owed the Queens remain unpaid.
The drama reached an all- time high when the Queens were refused food at the M-Plaza hotel on Sunday. Matters took a comical twist when it emerged that national team coach Yusif Basigi himself went to the nearby Nima neighbourhood to buy waakye for the hungry Queens.
Prior to this, the Sports Minister in a phone conversation with some key members of the Queens had engaged in an intriguing back-and-forth on the Joy Sports Link on Saturday.
Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, the minister, pleaded with the players to depart the M-Plaza hotel.
Read the transcript of the full conversation between Mustapha Ahmed and three Queens players. The show was hosted by Gary Al-Smith, who sat in for regular host Nathaniel Attoh.
Pictured above: Samira Mohammed (#9), team captain Mercy Myles (#14) and Linda Eshun (#5) were in our studios on Saturday
Gary Al-Smith (GA-S): We understand that the team is currently camped at the M-Plaza hotel and they say that they won’t leave. But I'm getting information is that the ministry wants to eject them from the hotel. Is this true?
Mustapha Ahmed (MA): If you say 'eject', it is not fair. The point is that I owe you money and then you are in the hotel also accumulating more debt. So you are compounding my problems, so the [action we have taken] is an appeal for them to go home while we work on their outstanding issues. It is not as if they are being ejected.
It is just useful that they also understand that their continuous stay will also compound issues and will make it even worse for us [as] we already owe the [M-Plaza] hotel. Like I was saying we have compounded all the debts we are trying to pay and these debts are not debts accumulated this year – they are debts [going back about] three years.
MA [cuts in]: So it is just an appeal that I am making for them to understand that if they go home early it is much easier for us so and then we will not accumulate more debts
GA-S: But Dr.Ahmed, you see the point is that, this is Ghana! Immediately they leave the hotel you and I know from several years’ experience that —
AM [cuts in]: That is not fair at all because right from Congo [Brazzaville] when they couldn’t pay [the team], I sent word that as soon as they get [to Accra], they will be paid [however] this payment did not take the arrears [dating back to May 2015] into account. I was talking about what is due them for the All African Games, [and that amount] is being [worked on]. We are fulfilling that promise.
As for the outstanding debts, yes, we are working on it but it is not ready. We are working on [pulling] a few strings but we got less than half of the budget that was prepared for the All African Games and we do appreciate [the frustrations]. In spite of all the challenges, they were able to go and perform.
AM [now addresses Gary directly]: So we will need you to support us [at the Ministry] and appeal to them that they have to understand that I’m being credible in telling them that we will work on it. But they must understand that I’m not the final authority. I’m not the one who holds the pen. Even when the Minister of Finance does his approval there is still a process and sometimes it takes like a week to go through the motion until monies are released. So it is not fair for them to remain in the hotel while we are doing all this.
GA-S: But we know from experience [that since] May, [the Queens] played against Egypt home and away, they played against Zimbabwe and the money accrued now is just about $23000, The same promises have been [made] from May.
MA: I don’t know because I have never had any occasion to tell anybody we will pay them and they have not been paid.
GA-S: But before the All African Games, some of them recall you met them. They even have you on tape.
MA: I never met them before they went for the All Africa Games. I don’t have it on record. Here is the situation where you are having challenges with your budget. What has to be understood is that the ministry’s budget is one of the smallest budgets in the country, of all the ministries. So I have taken note of the challenges that were encountered.
I have said we will not repeat these kind of things. In future, when [we] have four years to prepare for games like this, it will be useful to start from year one so whoever in charge should make it a point to start from the next All African Games. And the Olympic Games is coming on in Rio next year so let’s start preparations now.
GA-S: Honorable, honorable, I don’t want to cut in….
MA: Even the sponsorship, they were able to raise only GHC 270,000 from corporate [entitites] when they projected to raise GHC 4 million, so there are numerous challenges.
GA-S: We appreciate the challenges but why did we allow all the national teams to go for the Games when we knew that we were having challenges with our budget? And that we did not have money to pay for the rewards immediately?
MA: No, no, no, please, please! You are making a wrong statement. The monies paid for the awards were all available but you know these issues that have come up [previously] with the payment of bonuses outside [such as the airlifting of money to Brazil in 2014]. So we had to ensure that [the Queens] come back home [from Brazzaville] and receive [their bonuses].
The other team sports were paid $3000, $5000, $2000 [and so] it was manageable. But the team sports [like football], when they got [to Congo Brazzaville], they realized there were other hidden costs that they had to pay for. So by the time the Games ended and the Queens ended and they won the gold they didn’t have enough money. I assured them as soon as they get back we will arrange to pay them, which is the $2000.
GA-S: Okay, I have Linda Eshun and Samira Mohammed [here in studio]. They have heard your suggestions. Now they are the ones who are in the team hotel…
Gary now addresses the players.
GA-S: And so I just want to ask you: based on the explanations you have heard from the minister are you going to leave the hotel now or you are not leaving till the money comes?
Samira Suleiman (above pictured) : We are not leaving till the money comes.
Linda Eshun (LE): We are not leaving until we receive our money.
GA-S: Honorable these are —
MA [cuts in, upset]: I don’t think it is fair to use this sort of tactics to say that you won’t leave until [the monies are paid]. I mean you have to also consider the fact that you are not the ones who are going to pay for the hotel. It is the public purse so you go while all these are arrangements are being made. And I am putting my credibility on the line to assure them that [you] will be paid.
At this point, Black Queens captain Mercy Myles enters the studio, joining her two teammates.
GA-S: That's fine, sir. Let me introduce the team captain Mercy Myles, who has just walked in. Mercy, we've been discussing your issue and we have the minister on the line.
MM: Okay, you can let me speak to her offline.
GA-S: No, we would like to hear what you have to say. We are all taxpayers and this involves all of us. We want to know how this ends and if they will leave the hotel.
Mercy Myles (MM, above pictured in #14 jersey): Hello honorable. First of all good afternoon.
MA: Good afternoon. How are you?
MM: I am fine.
MA: You know you are my captain – my favourite captain?
MM [laughing]: And you also know you are my only honorable, yes.
MM: Can you call me offline? Call me offline.
GA-S: Honorable, I can tell you that they won't call you offline. So, Mercy, please speak…
MM: Honorable to be very honest with you, with all due respect, please come and settle us let us leave the hotel peacefully. I beg you. I beg you.
Silence. Mustapha Ahmed chuckles softly. After a few more seconds of an awkward silence, Gary speaks.
GA-S [to Mustapha Ahmed]: Thank you, honorable. I think your point is well made. We have six minutes to end the show and so unless you have anything else to say, honorable…?
MA [laughing]: I don't have anything else to say, my brother. It seems you yourself are not willing to appeal to them and you are on their side.
GA-S: Oh, no. It's not so. I'm the moderator of the show and so I cannot be seen to be taking sides.
The minister, at this point, briefly pleads with the ladies again, but once more, they balk. And due to a lack of time, Gary closes the show.
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