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Is Safa isolating competent candidates?

In other nations, soccer legends like Eto’o and Drogba have run for elections in their football federations but in SA our global stars can’t because of an irrational rule. The degradation will continue under the old guard
Thu, Jun 23, 2022

PHOTO: Lucas Radebe Twitter

In  2012, under the leadership of Kalusha ‘King Kalu’ Bwalya, Zambia won their first ever Africa Cup of Nations tournament. What made King Kalu’s voyage easier was that he had done just about everything with the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ). He started as a junior player and went on to lead Chipolopolo with flying colours as captain. After he retired, he became the national team coach and later led FAZ as president of the federation.

Four-time African Player of the Year Samuel Eto’o is currently brewing a revolution within the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He was elected president of the Cameroon national football federation (Fecafoot) in December, just before the country hosted the African Cup of Nations. Eto’o, a retired goal-scoring machine for Barcelona and Chelsea, took over an organisation long tainted by squabbling, maladministration and allegations of corruption. Fifa has intervened several times to stop the infighting among Fecafoot administrators.

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was cleared to stand in the elections for the presidency of Ivory Coast’s football federation (Fif). After Fifa appointed a normalisation committee to oversee Ivorian football, Drogba’s candidacy, which was initially disallowed, was eventually accepted. Drogba was subsequently defeated in the polls by the powerful Yacine Idriss Diallo.

Drogba played more than 100 times for the Elephants, including at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. It’s the same with Eto’o and Bwalya who sacrificed their lives for football and gave hope to the underprivileged people in their countries. They have all benefited immensely from playing in all these various continents and their wisdom cannot be discarded.

Eto’o was recently seen scolding the Cameroon players after a recent lacklustre performance. He told them what it meant for his generation to wear the green, red and yellow colours of the Indomitable Lions. He reminded the current players how the Cameroon Class of ‘90 captured the imagination of the Fifa World Cup and how Roger Milla reminded everyone that African football was going to rise in the coming years. It came straight from the heart of a man who fought battles for his country.

But in South Africa, such is just a pipe dream – we will not have such passionate leaders in control of our football. It will not happen because players who charmed the world such Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe, Pitso Mosimane, Doctor ‘16 Valve’ Khumalo, Aaron ‘Mbazo’ Mokoena, Bennett Mnguni, Mark Fish, Shaun Bartlett, Benni McCarthy, Steven Pienaar, Delron Buckley and Steve Komphela cannot run for Safa presidential elections because they do not belong to any Safa region… I mean really now!

Only those old toppies in oversized suits and moccasins are allowed because they would have been nominated by their regions in remote locations like uMkhanyakude, Sekhukhune, Lejweleputswa, Karoo, Bojanala, Kgalagadi, Mopani, Xhariep, Nkangala and Namaqua to mention but a few.

On Saturday (25 June) Safa members and regions will go to the polls and the incumbent Danny Jordaan is going for his third term as president of the association. People in the streets have been calling for change. SA last qualified for a Fifa World Cup in 2002. In 2010, South Africa played because “they got a gift from Fifa” by virtue of being hosts, to quote Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos. Broos was crucified for his remarks and was almost hounded out of his job for telling the truth. He later apologised to the association, obviously not wanting to lose his job.

The change that the people are looking for, is not happening. Jordaan is facing Ria Ledwaba and Solly Mohlabeng on the ballot paper. They have been around the Safa structures for ages and have been part of the rot, and the downfall.

Radebe has shown an interest to become a Safa president one day. Just like Eto’o, Bwalya and the others, Radebe reiterated his desire to change the face of the SA game. Bafana legend Doctor Khumalo is backing him and has questioned how a person of Radebe’s calibre has had the door slammed in his face to lead at Safa.

“Lucas said he wants to serve, is there anything wrong with that? A lot of things are named after Lucas in Leeds, because of the way he dedicated his life to football. But here at home, he is out of the Safa system, why and how?” Khumalo asked.

“Do you guys know when we went to play in Congo, we had to live for five days with Coke and bread only because we couldn’t eat their food. Is that not sacrifice? So, why can’t we be part of the structures? Why can’t the likes of Shakes Mashaba, Clive Barker, Jomo Sono, Screamer Tshabalala be part of the structure? How do we expect football to be better in South Africa if people who walked the path can’t be part of it?” he added.

Jordaan is a veteran when it comes to campaigning and will probably win comfortably – he did that in 2013 and in 2018 for his second term in office. But the biggest question is whether this is a win for SA football, a stalemate or maybe a loss?