African and Ghanaian born frontline investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, has bemoaned the level of ongoing sharp practices in the sports industry in Nigeria and African continent.
Anas, in an exclusive interview with Judicial Sketch at the sideline of a two-day training for sports journalists on tackling corruption in sports, organized by Human and Environmental Developmental Agenda (HEDA), held at Abuja, said his job as an investigative journalist is structured to target corruption in sports institutions.
He noted that the allegations that his works are targeted at inciting the downfall of certain individuals are false.
Anas stated that his mission as an investigative journalist is to unravel endemic corrupt practices in sports, adding that his ultimate aim is to punish those behind what he described as the 12th player.
He explained that failure by African politicians to fulfill electoral promises to their electorate has pushed the masses to embrace football as a means of seeking succor from their plight, hinting that some certain criminal-minded persons have knitted corrupt ways and have infiltrated football and are raking millions into private pockets through illicit activities at the expense of the majority.
According to him, poor Africans save their monies to watch matches, only to suddenly realize that the matches have been fixed.
Narrating what spurred his choice to conduct investigative journalism training on corruption in football, he revealed that the tenacity came in 2009 when 127 football fans died after a football derby between Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oaks, owing to bad officiating.
Anas said he had a rude shock seeing how dead bodies were ferried around in Ghana, noting that he was informed that the incident was as a result of the bad officiating by a referee. This, he said, provoked his resolve to investigate criminality in football.
He revealed that the outcome of his investigative journalism, which led to the sack of former president of Ghana Football Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi was aimed at sanitizing the rampant rot in the Ghanaian football system.
According to him, his reports are geared towards reforms, citing that his report that led to Kenyan FIFA referee, Manwa Range losing his FIFA status, was to expose how referees indulge in collecting monies to fix matches.
Speaking about his report that culminated to the sack of Super Eagles’ chief coach, Salisu Yusuf, Annas said he was amazed over the reactions of Nigerians, stating the majority alleged that he was used to indict the coach to pave way for some other persons to take his job.
He revealed that Salisu Yusuf was well paid by his employers, and for him to have fallen to the plot to feature two players for just $600 was not an entrapment, but pure act of corruption.
“If Nigeria should win the World Cup today, I will congratulate Nigerians, even if the coach is Salisu Yusuf. I have nothing against him as a person, I am simply against any action that is destroying the system,” Anas stated.
He appealed to sports writers to rise to the task of protecting the game of football from those he referred to as anti-football agents, who are depriving millions of Nigerian the rights to enjoy the game.
He additionally urged Nigerian sports writers to seize the opportunity that would be offered at the Centre for Under Cover Training, Ghana, when completed.
The managing Editor, Premium Times, Idris Akinjobi, advised sports writers to explore the opportunity accorded to them by social media to unravel and expose the ongoing corrupt practices in Nigeria’s sports sector.
A popular veteran sports writer cum administrator, Kayode Thomas grieved that social media syndrome is one of the menace destroying the practice of sports journalism in Nigeria.
Also veteran sports broadcaster and former chairman Mountain of Fire football club of Lagos, Godwim Enakhena, said sports journalists have opted to play the ostrich towards the huge number of illicit practices been perpetrated by sports administrators in Nigeria.
In same vein, a social crusader and Abuja based sports lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, said it is high time sports writers to mount a vigorous professional campaign against age falsification, match fixing and visible compromised athletes selection process.
According to him, sports writers should launch depth investigations into under-the-table practices, explaining that sports sponsorship deals that were sealed in Nigeria should be scrutinized, investigated and published by the sporting press to curb the criminal practice.
Mahmud stressed that sectoral corruption is destroying sports in Nigeria, resulting into poor results at major international events. According to him, the installing of stooges to superintend over sporting federation is now becoming an entrenched tradition going unchallenged. “What of those who imports sporting equipments with waiver, only to sell them in the open markets?” Mahmud queried.
The chief executive of Playya and a renowned sports anti corruption crusader, Aloysius Eze, cried out that sports journalists are not expected to become the guests of the powerful.
He appealed to Nigerian sports writers to desist from using their professional tools to promote sports administration elites, reminding practitioners that rather they have a mandate to promote the real actors in the sector.