/ 14 December 2011

SA’s year of humiliation in soccer

The late withdrawal of leading 2010 World Cup official Danny Jordaan from a contest to head soccer in the sub-continent completed a disastrous year for South Africa on and off the field.

Jordaan, warmly praised after a successful 2010 World Cup in his homeland, said he quit the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) presidential race last weekend because members were not ready for change.

“I decided people were not ready for a new direction and a new vision. Change always triggers resistance and with a small majority it would have been difficult to implement,” explained the former ANC MP.

But Namibia representative Barry Rukoro painted a different picture of the aborted contest with Seychellois incumbent Suketu Patel: “Danny saved himself embarrassment. He would have lost 13-1 if it went to a vote.

“Danny made lots of promises to help Cosafa secure sponsorships for development projects but never fulfilled them. We cannot trust him. He made too many promises to too many people which he has not kept.”

‘What crisis?’
It was the second rejection for Jordaan this year as his bid to win a place on the Fifa executive committee ended in humiliation last February with just five of 53 Confederation of African Football (CAF) member states backing him.

On the field it was equally dismal with the national senior team celebrating qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations because they did not understand the head-to-head rule which relegated them to second place behind Niger.

Football followers in a country that has not celebrated Pan-African success since winning the 1996 Cup of Nations as hosts hoped the national under-23 team could atone for the failure of Bafana Bafana.

However, draws with Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon were followed by defeat against Egypt and they left the CAF under 23 championship in Morocco — doubling as a contest for 2012 London Olympics places — as the only side not to win a game.

National morale took another blow last week when the national youth team were eliminated after the first round of the Cosafa championship in Botswana having been crushed 5-1 by Zambia.

“Crisis? What crisis?,” was the now infamous response of South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani when quizzed by reporters about the endless debacles.

“We fully understand the disillusionment of football lovers. That is why we are re-evaluating the way we perform our functions in order to find a way forward,” he said in a Safa statement appealing for public input.

But a furious public want Nematandani and other leading officials to resign judged by reactions on radio talk shows, and respected columnists also insist new faces are necessary to salvage South African football.

Multi-award winning writer Matshelane Mamabolo of the Johannesburg Star wrote: “No true football fan in their right mind will support a bunch of arrogant individuals who repeatedly refuse to accept their failings … these officials came to power saying they would transform football, but the only transformation was to move us from a football nation in intensive care to one in the mortuary.”

Popular Sunday Times columnist Bareng-Batho Kortjaas was no less scathing of national team stars who feigning injury and wasted time believing a Cup of Nations draw with Sierra Leone would suffice when they actually needed to win.

“Our sorry excuses for football stars are lucky they live in South Africa, where there is no military junta to frog march them to an army camp for a stint in solitary confinement.

“They have no inclination to strive for greatness — unless greatness is the copious amounts of alcohol no self respecting sports star who understands his body is his temple should ever consume.”

A glimmer of hope for South Africa is that they are guaranteed a place at the 2013 Cup of Nations as hosts, but a 2014 World Cup qualifying group including improving Botswana and the Central African Republic is fraught with danger. — AFP