Ghana’s talented midfielder Winful Cobbinah has been sentenced to four months in prison in Albania after being found guilty of ‘forgery of official documents’, Ghanasoccernet.com can exclusively reveal.
The former Hearts of Oak playmaker was hit with the shocking sentence at the Tirana court on Tuesday after he was found guilty of forging his residence permit.
However, there is a big relief for the FK Tirana superstar as the judge commuted the sentence to 100 hours of community service because the midfielder was declared a person of exemplary conduct.
Cobbinah’s good conduct since his move to Albania means that the judge asked him to serve the community for 100 hours because ‘he is not a threat to the society’, the judge said when issuing his ruling.
This means the humble Ghana star walks free from any confinement in prison and can continue to play for his top-flight side FK Tirana – the club he recently helped to win the title.
Cobbinah landed himself in unnecessary trouble when he was caught by the police authorities in Rinas with a forged residence permit which sparked his problems.
It is an unnecessary problem as he is legally entitled to a residence permit in Albania because he is legally and gainfully employed by one of the biggest clubs in the country.
His problems came to light last month when the country’s President Meta granted him an Albania passport within a record eight hours to enable him to qualify as an Albanian player.
This would have helped FK Tirana to buy more foreign players to boost their squad to play in European competitions but the opposition party led by the Primer Minister publicly clashed with the country’s president over the award of the passport.
The falsification of documents was hanging around Cobbinah’s neck before he was handed the Albania passport to help him play for his club in the Europa League.
Albanian President Ilir Meta was accused of granting Cobbinah citizenship without verifying that there are criminal proceedings against the footballer which has led to a national debate.
President Meta’s issue escalated to the point that even the opposition party led by Prime Minister Edi Rama accused the country’s leader of abetting in the forging documents to grant Cobbinah Albanian citizenship.
Winful Cobbinah’s Albanian citizenship was facilitated just within eight hours.
Given that the Ghanaian has not spent five years in Albania, the decision by the President of the country – who is also an ardent supporter of KF Tirana – to hand citizenship to the Ghanaian speaks volumes of how he is rated in that country.
Many also view this move by the Albanian government as an attempt to convince Cobbinah to switch nationality to play for them even though he has been invited to the Ghana senior national team a couple of times.
But with the softening of the nationality switch regulations of FIFA it could be a move by Albania for them to get him to play for them even though Cobbinah has not expressed interest in playing for him.
Others also say that the Albanian club side Tirana wants him to play in UEFA club competitions as a native so they can bring in more foreigners.
Cobbinah follows other African football players including the well-known Abraham Alechenu, Charles Ofoye and James Adeniyi who have all received Albanian passport in the past.
The former Hearts of Oak star played an influential role for the side as they clinched the Katergoria Superiore last season, ending an 11-year top-flight drought with their last success dating back to the 2008/2009 season.
Since joining from Ghanaian giants Hearts of Oak two years ago, Cobbinah has been a mainstay of the side, scoring 10 goals in a combined 58 matches so far and making several assists.
The poster boy has been rewarded by the country’s President after granting his citizenship just within two years.