Former Ghana international Anthony Yeboah says he has no immediate plans to return to football administration after being frustrated out of football a few years ago due to alleged underhand dealings by referees whom he accused of undermining his team’s effort in the second-tier league.
The 50-year-old legend, who scored 29 goals in 59 matches for Ghana between 1985 and 1997, has suggested that referees caught in collecting bribes to influence matches should be prosecuted and jailed like criminals to deter others.
He says downright corruption by referees has killed his spirit to invest in football, and he would only consider returning to the game that made him famous and rich only after he is convinced the football authorities have taken the bold step to clean up the mess in the game.
“I don’t think I can return to football at this stage. I can only change my mind if things improve, but there is no way that I will return to football if the situation remains the same,” said Yeboah in an exclusive interview with the Graphic Sports in Kumasi.
“The incessant demand of bribes by referees to influence matches in my favour completely killed my spirit to invest in football.”
Two years ago, the Ghana legend washed his hands off football management and disbanded his division one side, Yegoala FC, out of frustration after alleging massive corruption by referees who demanded bribes to influence matches. He told this paper that his refusal to pay bribes to referees as demanded caused his team to lose all their home and away matches under strange circumstances until they were relegated to the lower division again.
Nicknamed Yegoala in recognition of his scoring prowess, Yeboah, was the first African to win the goal king title in the German Bundesliga (1992/93 and 1993/94 seasons) during his days with Eintracht Frankfurt. He later played for German side Hamburg SV having made a switch between 1994 and 1997 to the English Premiership side Leeds United.
Looking very pensive, Yeboah narrated his desire to contribute to the development of Ghana football was undermined by the ‘Men in Black’ who killed his dream of helping the youth.
“I was very determined to support the youth develop their talents to sustain our brand of football and goalscoring prowess, but I was haunted out by corrupt match officials.”
“We fought very hard to qualify from the Second Division to the First Division. This was because we had a good team and played very well, but just afterwards, referees started demanding money from me at my hotel any time they came to officiate matches. This was after I had offered them free accommodation and food. I was shocked to see referees demanding money before a match, so I always refused.
“Offering bribes to referees to influence a game would not only have affected my dignity as a professional player but also would have prevented me from [properly] assessing the performances of my coach and players to know their weaknesses and strengths. Sadly, however, I was always pressurised to do it, so my interest in football died completely,” he bemoaned.
According to Yeboah, he complained to the FA chairman about his predicament but nothing was done to stop it.