Only hours from kickoff, Ghana’s preparations for their final Group G match against Portugal have been thrown into disarray after key players Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng were suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons this morning.
Ghana’s FA released a statement confirming that Muntari had been suspended “in the wake of his unprovoked physical attack on an Executive Committee member of the Ghana Football Association and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr. Moses Armah on tuesday 24 June, 2014 during a meeting. Muntari’s accreditation for the 2014 World Cup has been withdrawn with immediate effect.” Muntari is yet to comment.
Boateng’s suspension came as a result of “vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah during the team’s training session in Maceio this week.” Boateng has since denied the allegations, telling German magazine Sport-Bild that he and Muntari were having a laugh during training when Appiah broke it up and sent them to the dressing room. When he went to ask the coach afterwards for an explanation, he says that Appiah began to yell and insult him, including telling him to, “Fuck off.”
“I accept the suspension, but no one should think that I insulted the coach or that I am otherwise guilty,” said the midfielder. “I am traveling now, and I wish my teammates good luck for the World Cup and for the game against Portugal.”
The suspensions is the latest in a week of unrest for the Ghanaian team. Yesterday night, a shipment of $3 million arrived in Brasilia from Ghana in light of a dispute over players’ fees. The players had been promised significant remuneration for appearing in the World Cup, and when the money did not arrive on schedule, they boycotted Tuesday’s training. In response, the president of Ghana sent a plane carrying the hard cash to Brazil.
The loss of Muntari and Boateng comes as a big blow to Ghana. Anything other than a win would send the rest of the squad home only hours after the two, but it will be difficult to overcome Portugal without their key midfield man. Muntari has covered more distance in the Ghanaian midfield than any other player on the team, running 14 miles over two games. (To put that in perspective, Michael Bradley has covered 15 miles, the second most of any player in Brazil over two games.) Muntari is a stalwart in the Ghanaian lineup, having scored 21 goals for Ghana in 83 appearances, and played a key role in holding the Germans in their 2-2 draw.
Boateng, who has appeared less frequently on the international stage, was a decisive substitute in Ghana’s 2-1 loss to the USA. His introduction changed the game, as he is able to play behind the striker and provide link-up play between the midfield and the forward line.
How the rest of the Ghanaian team will react to the suspension of their midfield linchpins remains to be seen. The bookies have certainly reacted: before this news, the USA’s odds of progressing were 1/4, while Ghana’s were 11/2. Now, you can bet at 1/2 for the USA and 4/1 to Ghana.
Elaine Teng is the managing editor of The New Republic.