Whatever the outcome of the Safa presidential elections, let's hope whoever comes forth won't have to swing too low to carry football home.
When the South African Football Association (Safa) held its last elections in September 2009, the event was dubbed "Soccer's Polokwane".
Memories of the ANC's historic elective conference 20 months earlier were still fresh in the minds of South Africans. In that brutal battle of Polokwane, a group of disparate ANC factions, colloquially known as the Coalition of the Wounded, had rallied together to "liberate" the party from what they believed was president Thabo Mbeki's suffocating authoritarianism.
In 2009, soccer organisations rallied under the banner of the Football Transformation Forum (FTF) to "free" Safa from what they, like the Coalition of the Wounded, believed was the crippling iron grip with which Orlando Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza's coterie ran South African football. Veteran administrator and World Cup organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan was to be the FTF's Jacob Zuma in Polokwane II.
In the end, both protagonists had to step aside as constitutional technicalities, unearthed at the 11th hour, deemed them ineligible to stand. It was still a victory for Jordaan, though, as the FTF slate swept the election, with his man Kirsten Nematandani taking the presidency and other senior positions going to his faction.
Like the fall of the once feared and supposedly masterful political operator Mbeki in 2007, the Iron Duke was rendered not so invincible at that Kempton Park conference.
But when Safa delegates gather this weekend for their elective conference, it will be no Mangaung. As the results of the pre-election lobbying efforts will show, Nematandani is no Zuma.
Both men may have been weak leaders who presided over wasted opportunities to fix their respective organisations and South Africa's sport and political governance. But Nematandani lacked the powerbroking and survival instincts of Zuma and thus finds himself sitting on the sidelines as Jordaan does battle with his former FTF comrade Mandla "Shoes" Mazibuko.
A repeat of the Khoza-Jordaan standoff was averted when the Jordaan group cleverly avoided a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Khoza, as a club chairperson, to be eligible for election. But Mazibuko has aligned himself with what would have been the Khoza ticket and many believe he is a proxy for the Premier Soccer League chairperson.
Both Jordaan and Mazibuko have been singing the same old "How I Will Fix South African Football" ditty that they sang when they were still on the same side. They are both talking grassroots development, stronger financial controls, building on the legacy of the 2010 World Cup and an end to infighting. Both pledge that they will accept defeat and work closely with the victor and that the winner will involve the loser in Safa affairs.
This is the nirvana they promised in the build-up to their Polokwane moment in September 2009. But soon afterward the FTF splintered into interest groups that worked hard to undermine each other and stab each other in the back. Instead of fulfilling their promise to create a great new post-World Cup football future for the country, they gorged on junkets, five-star hotel sprees, generous perks, loads of freebies and, of course, nubile young thangs.
On their watch, Bafana Bafana and the junior teams remained in a moribund state, with the appointment of Gordon Igesund as national coach the only bright spot. Although the national team, which is Safa's flagship product and should therefore be its cash cow, has improved markedly under Igesund, it has remained 67th in Fifa rankings and only 12th in Africa. This is even below Cape Verde.
The junior teams have fared no better and, despite their best efforts, Banyana Banyana have still to break into the inner circle of international women's football.
Fortunately for South African football, the two candidates on offer are not bad material at all. In Jordaan you have a solid, workaholic administrator who has operated at the highest levels of international football. Mazibuko, on the other hand, has strong financial skills and did a commendable job as the head of school football.
However, Jordaan has a terrible personality that alienates his colleagues in football leadership, the media and fellow administrators on the continent. If he wins, he will have to stop looking as though he has just gulped down a strong tequila.
If Mazibuko wins, his success at the helm will depend on him being his own man. His current strong relations with Khoza will help as the Iron Duke has delivered a strong PSL package to sponsors and Safa needs all the help and door opening it can get in this regard. But there is also the danger of him becoming a puppet of the most powerful man in South African sport.
Lurking over the shoulders of the new Safa president will be the competent but sometimes overly enthusiastic sports minister, Fikile Mbalula. Mbalula's energy, although welcome after the duds who preceded him, can also mean that political interference is just a step away.
What South African football does not need, though, is another few years of bungling and infighting that will see us once more cheering for other nations instead of egging on our own heroes.