Brasilia - As much as $3 million in cash sent by Ghana's president was expected to arrive in Brazil on a plane Wednesday in a bid to appease members of the country's World Cup squad who are unhappy at being denied bonus payments.
President John Dramani Mahama has been forced to personally intervene in the latest bonus row to hit African football, which has seriously disrupted Ghana's preparations for its decisive Group G game against Portugal on Thursday.
Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu dismissed fears the team would boycott its final group game in Brasilia, which the Ghanaians need to win to stand any chance of reaching the second round.
“We are not going to say we are not going to play because of the money,” Atsu said. “We love our nation and we are going to play for our nation.”
Asked what the players will do with the appearance-fee cash - reportedly between R796 000 and R 1 061 120 each - if they receive it as planned on Wednesday, Atsu said: “I think we will keep it in our bags and we'll just lock them. And we will transfer the money to our accounts.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said he had been having “sleepless nights” over the issue which came to a head on Tuesday when the players and team management had a meeting instead of conducting a training session. President Mahama “personally spoke to the players” to assure them they would receive the money, the Ghana Football Association said in a statement.
“Every player... knows it is his right,” Appiah said.
“The management and the government are trying to sort it out and everything will be sorted out in two or three hours' time,” he added. “They should have received it before the start of the competition but it's being solved now and we are really focused on the game now.”
Players aren't being paid by electronic transfer because “the practice in Ghana has always been paying the money in cash,” Appiah said.
Appiah wouldn't give an exact figure for the appearance fees owed to the players, saying: “I would be a bad person... the players would kill me if I said.”
Ghana's deputy sports minister Joseph Yammin said that around $3 million would be flown over, but it wasn't clear how Ghana would be able to bring the money into Brazil without paying tax on it.
Brazilian officials said bringing in such an amount and not declaring it to authorities would be illegal and that the entire amount could be confiscated. Individuals cannot bring in more than $4 500 each without having it subject to taxes, said Brazil's Federal Police, who enforce custom and immigration laws.
The nation's federal tax agency also said it knew of no exemptions for any individuals or entities, including Ghana's World Cup team. The agency didn't indicate in the emailed statement what sort of taxes could be levied on money over that limit.
Like other African countries playing at the World Cup, Ghana's government is financing the player bonuses. The money will later be reimbursed by some of the prize money - of at least $8 million - that Fifa guarantees each country, even if it is knocked out in the group stage. That won't be paid to Ghana until after the tournament, the GFA said. Fifa also gives each of the 32 teams competing $1.5 million beforehand to help with preparation costs.
Before the tournament, Cameroon's squad refused to board a plane to Brazil until their demands for improved bonuses were met. There have also been rumblings of discontent over pay in the Nigeria and Ivory Coast camps.
Ghana was Africa's only team to qualify for the second round at the last World Cup and reached the quarterfinals. On Thursday, Ghana must beat Portugal and hope Germany beats the United States heavily in the other group game to advance.