Torn be­tween Tokyo and Africa

Min­is­ter de­clares sup­port for Sexwale, de­rail­ing Safa’s planned state­ment that they won’t vote for him

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Safa, stunned by Fifa pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Tokyo Sexwale’s con­tin­ued talk of their sup­port in face of his in­evitable hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat, was ready to pull the plug on him un­til the sports min­is­ter threw a span­ner in the works. The foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion would then save it­self from the wrath of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball (CAF) for go­ing against the con­ti­nen­tal body, which told Sexwale he did not have a cam­paign and, as a re­sult, it did not know what he stood for.

CAF has re­cently been warm­ing to South Africa, and the fact that the coun­try now has many of­fi­cials serv­ing in CAF com­mit­tees means Safa will be left with lit­tle choice in com­ing days but to go with the con­ti­nen­tal body’s de­ci­sion to back Sheikh Sal­man Bin Ibrahim al-Khal­ifa of Bahrain.

Safa pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan is a spe­cial ad­viser to CAF pres­i­dent Issa Hay­a­tou, and other South Africans serve on dif­fer­ent CAF com­mit­tees.

City Press has learnt that Safa was to hold an emer­gency com­mit­tee meet­ing yes­ter­day, where they were go­ing to an­nounce their de­ci­sion not to back Sexwale.

But the meet­ing had to be called off fol­low­ing the last line in Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula’s state­ment on the mat­ter which read: “Mr Sexwale con­tin­ues to en­joy the un­con­di­tional sup­port of the min­istry and the depart­ment of sport and recre­ation.”

This, ac­cord­ing to sources in Safa, put the lo­cal gov­ern­ing body in a very awk­ward po­si­tion – as dump­ing Sexwale would put Safa at odds with the min­is­ter and the govern­ment.

Safa was fran­ti­cally try­ing to have an au­di­ence with the min­is­ter to dis­cuss the Sexwale bid.

A high-rank­ing of­fi­cial said there was no way that Safa was go­ing to go against CAF, the min­is­ter not­with­stand­ing.

The of­fi­cial said it had al­ways been Safa’s stance that it would sup­port any­thing CAF de­cided.

Be­fore Sexwale left for Ki­gali, Rwanda, last week, the Safa emer­gency com­mit­tee made it clear they would take their cue from CAF, but since the Fe­bru­ary 5 de­ci­sion, Safa has not come out openly to con­firm this.

The in­sider said: “The min­is­ter’s state­ment caught us off guard and we had to can­cel the meet­ing.

“We will first ad­dress the is­sue with the min­is­ter, so he can be in line with what we do.

“We are torn now be­cause we can’t be seen to be go­ing against the govern­ment and, at the same time, CAF has been good to us.”

He added that CAF no longer had a hos­tile at­ti­tude to­wards South Africa, and it was im­por­tant to main­tain the good re­la­tion­ship with the con­ti­nen­tal foot­ball body.

“We now have a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with CAF, and it is ev­i­dent at the num­ber of peo­ple serv­ing in var­i­ous CAF com­mit­tees. We value our re­la­tion­ship with CAF and we are not go­ing to go against them.

“Ev­ery coun­try has peo­ple on [CAF] com­mit­tees but we have the most rep­re­sen­ta­tives out­side the nor­mal al­lo­ca­tion.”

The in­sider added that this was one of the rea­sons why Safa had put its foot down to force Ajax Cape Town to hon­our its CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup match in An­gola this week­end.

Ajax had tried to with­draw from the com­pe­ti­tion, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Said the in­sider: “In light of what has been hap­pen­ing at CAF, we felt their con­cerns could be ad­dressed, and we did that with our An­golan coun­ter­parts. We have a good re­la­tion­ship with the An­gola Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.”

He said it was im­por­tant to main­tain the good im­age of the coun­try on the con­ti­nent.

In a week in which he was re­jected by his own con­ti­nen­tal con­fed­er­a­tion and no coun­try on the planet came out to sup­port him openly, one would have thought Sexwale would have done the pru­dent thing: to call off his dis­ap­point­ing “cam­paign” for the top po­si­tion at Fifa.

But he re­mains de­ter­mined to go to Zurich for the elec­tions.

Mean­while, ear­lier in the week, the out­spo­ken head of the Liberia Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, Musa Bil­ity, de­clared that at least 26 of the 54 African coun­tries would defy CAF and not vote for the sheikh.

But he did not say who they were go­ing to vote for on Fe­bru­ary 26.

Liberia and South­ern Su­dan de­cided to break ranks with CAF and made it clear that their sup­port was for Gianni In­fantino, while Egypt, an­other African coun­try go­ing against the CAF de­ci­sion, said they would sup­port Prince Ali bin al-Hus­sein.

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