Why are these men running our game?

To find words to describe the running of South African soccer, one would have to paraphrase Pliny the Elder: out of the administration, always expect something new that is so startling in its absurdity you will be left wondering whether your ears are playing you tricks.

We are used to South African football being run by characters fit to grace a Three Stooges film.

Top of these is a South African Football Association (Safa) chief who is deeply confused about the following issues: what went wrong with the biggest marketing deal that had landed in local soccer’s lap; how come the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is failing to pay clubs their mandated R250 000 a month despite league sponsorship by such big-money corporations as the SABC and South African Breweries; why a report about the misconduct of referees won’t be released, and so on. Molefi Oliphant, what is going on in your offices?

Then there is the chairman of a league (alleged to be a professional one), whose administration so bungled in its relations with major sponsors MTN and First National Bank that they pulled out.
Mandla Mchunu is beginning to sound like a stuck record each time he is asked why the league won’t honour its financial commitments to club sides. The response comes promptly: “We have a cash-flow problem!”

Lastly, there is that worthy, Safa chief operations officer Albert Mokoena, whose appointment is in itself reason to marvel about Safa’s motivation in running its affairs.

Not only had the man been publicly exposed to be of dubious character ? being sacked by the Department of Home Affairs for using his office to run a basketball business ? but he also was known to have strong club affiliations, being a devoted fan of Orlando Pirates. Three years ago, while still at home affairs, Mokoena was reported to have done his best to frustrate Kaizer Chiefs’ recruitment of Namibian stars Mahomed Auseb and Robert Nauseb by stalling on issuing them work permits. The rumoured reasons for this? Mokoena was loath to see the rivals of his beloved Buccaneers boosted by a couple of proficient signings!

Do you find this to be petty stuff? Well, consider the circumstances behind the debacle of Chiefs’ expulsion from the Mandela Cup, a continental competition where they were the defending champions. 

When the club was informed of the date of the return leg against Madagascar’s US Transfoot, they immediately requested schedules for flights and faxed Air Madagascar to book 30 seats to Tamatave, where the match was to have been played.

Later the airline cancelled its flights due to a fuel shortage. And Chiefs’ management, concerned about the chaos in the country following elections, asked Safa to inquire from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) whether it would be safe to fly there; whether it would be better to reschedule the match; or if playing in another country was the best option.

Said Chiefs’ boss Kaizer Motaung: “We were surprised because we weren’t getting any responses to our requests to CAF, and we couldn’t understand what was going on.”

Later, when CAF expelled Chiefs from continental competition, Safa officials were nowhere to be found. Motaung said bitterly: “Going by what CAF is saying, there is only one explanation ? either Safa didn’t convey our messages, or it simply didn’t bother to explain the position we found ourselves in.”

A few points give credence to what he is saying. First, there would be little point in Chiefs shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to honour a tie in which they had a four-goal lead from the first leg.

Secondly, there would be little point in CAF president Issa Hayatou ? who has declared his intentions to run for the Fifa presidency ? ruining his chances by needlessly expelling a South African club side, thus antagonising one of Africa’s most powerful federations.

If Oliphant, Mchunu and Mokoena are determined to make a laughing stock of themselves, fine. But when will South Africa, for the sake of the national game, decide that it doesn’t deserve these men?

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