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Caf needs more than money to fix problems created over decades

The Caf presidency that Patrice Motsepe is vying for is riddled with scandal, corruption and clandestine activities. He'll need to show up with more than just his large pockets to create general interest in African football and take back control of resources
Thu, Mar 04, 2021

Patrice Motsepe. PHOTO: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

It would be a little cheesy to suggest that anything mining magnate Patrice Motsepe touches, turns to gold, wouldn't it? Cheesy or not, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) could use Motsepe's glistening business acumen and his leadership style.

To be forthright, the state of football in the continent is still ashy and pale as it's still grossly underdeveloped and under-commercialised. Besides Motsepe's usually jovial smile in front of cameras, those who know him on a personal level will say that he's an uncompromising leader. They would add that he is bullish but fair – meaning that one minute he could be giving you a tight bearhug, and moments later, he could be sending you packing.

For those who are not in the know, the Mzansi soccer fraternity was caught with a crisp, fast-flowing counterattack when the South African Football Association (Safa) announced that the African Rainbow Minerals owner had agreed to enter the race for the Caf presidential elections taking place on 12 March – no one saw that coming.

In the last couple of weeks, Motsepe has become the frontrunner after Fifa President Gianni Infantino waved his magic wand and convinced the other candidates to withdraw. Mauritanian businessman Ahmed Yahya and Senegalese politician Augustin Senghor heeded Infantino's call to withdraw, leaving Ivory Coast's antique Jacque Anouma, who once denied accepting a $1.5 million bribe over Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid, as the only obstacle in Motsepe's foray to his goal.

Just like the days of colonialism, European countries have been plundering players and billions of dollars in TV broadcast rights, while our chosen leaders watched or colluded – the sad story of Africa.

In the local football circles, Motsepe has been accused of not having the street-smarts and the street cred of your Irvin Khoza, Kaizer Motaung, Jomo Sono or your Raymond Hack. He has been labelled as one who usually throws money at problems, rather than hobnobbing with the klevas who'd teach and show him the streets of football.

But what's wrong with that in a capitalist state? Big companies are always swallowing the chihuahuas – it's dog eat dog out there.

Motsepe's much-awaited manifesto speech in Sandton was not coherent, it was all over the place – but full of nice things. He brought his wife, Dr Precious Motsepe, and his three sons. I'm still not sure, even to this day, why the boys were made to bunk school. He was flanked by the southern region's big hitters Khoza, Safa President Danny Jordaan, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa and Cosafa President Phillip Chiyangwa.

The low-profile but chic Moise Katumbi, a billionaire from DR Congo and Motsepe's personal friend, gave the Mamelodi Sundowns boss an air of invincibility. Nigerian FA president Amuji Pinnick was also present. The minnows from eSwatini, Mozambique and Angola were also towed to swanky Sandton to add to the numbers and to stroke Motsepe's ego a notch further. Even the food was delicious. Oxtail or salmon... not beef or chicken? I had both!

Motsepe spoke about what the people wanted to hear. He spoke about roping in African former players and legends into the system, he mentioned increasing prize money for club competitions, improving women's football, visiting all member countries and solving TV rights, as well as the marketing and sponsorship nightmare.

Most of the damage at Caf happened in the 27 years that Cameroonian Issa Hayatou served as president. The organisation went from a state of decay to rottenness. In 2017 Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar pulled off a major surprise when he knocked Hayatou off the hot seat. Ahmad did not even finish his first term in office before he was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. He was investigated and found guilty of offering and accepting gifts, abusing his position and misappropriating funds in November, resulting in a five-year ban by Fifa and being barred from contesting these coming elections.

Motsepe may want to reach out to Khoza, whom he dotingly calls 'ngwana wa ko gae', to fix the broadcasting mess that has robbed the continent of billions of dollars that went to French TV companies as kickbacks. Khoza has championed PSL broadcasting rights in the last 14 years and has turned the SA league into one of the most profitable and watched in the continent.

Over the years, the broadcast rights to all Caf competitions were mysteriously held by French company Sportfive and recently, the tenderised, juicy steak was passed on to compatriots Lagardere Sports who had been appointed as Caf's exclusive agent for the marketing and media rights for an uninterrupted 20-year period without any open tender.

This mess created a major headache when it came to the marketing and the broadcasting of Caf competitions and this resulted in people losing interest, since the tournaments and matches could not be beamed live. This will be Motsepe's biggest task should he win in Morocco.

And with the days fast approaching, the shrewd Khoza offered some words of wisdom: "You must do your homework now, so that when you go to Morocco, you go there for a party, otherwise do not bother going there."