Football politics make for an interesting game
President Jacob Zuma did not pledge his personal support or that of the South African government behind Mr [Issa] Hayatou SPORT AND RECREATION MINISTER FIKILE MBALULA
An interesting scenario is playing itself out on the African continent – as happens every time elections are around the corner.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) will hold its elections for the presidents and other positions next month, and South Africa has taken centre stage for the ongoing show.
While the undercurrent has been around for a while, the first obvious hint reared its head on February 11.
At the conclusion of the newly elected Philip Chiyangwa-led Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) committee meeting in Johannesburg, the organisation and the SA Football Association (Safa) issued a statement titled: Cosafa endorsement of Ahmad for CAF presidency. The statement contained these resolutions:
That they unanimously endorse the candidature of Madagascar Football Association (FA) president Ahmad Ahmad for CAF president in the elections in Ethiopia.
That Cosafa will only support sitting FA presidents vying for CAF or Fifa elections.
That Cosafa supports the equal representation both within CAF and Fifa positions, and also supports the different language category representation as articulated in recent CAF statutes.
To the untrained eye, this could pass as a normal statement. However, it was pregnant with undertones. One: It meant that Cosafa would not support individuals such as – in South Africa’s case – Irvin Khoza, Molefi Oliphant or Tokyo Sexwale should they have any designs on the available CAF or Fifa positions because they are not sitting presidents.
Two: No woman from this region can make it into those positions as none of the 14 Cosafa members are headed by a woman.
This also means that women such as Natasha Tsichlas, Nomsa Mahlangu and Mato Madlala, who serve on the Safa national executive, have zero chance of making it to CAF or Fifa if Cosafa has its way.
This flies in the face of Fifa statutes, which call for more women to be nominated into positions, as well as clause C under “member association’s rights”, which reads “to nominate candidates for the Fifa presidency and the council”.
You see, it does not limit member associations to nominating “only sitting presidents”, meaning any individual nominated by a national association can easily become a Fifa president.
This is such a terrible ploy to ring-fence positions in international bodies and smacks of dictatorship – a scourge that has bedevilled our continent for centuries.
Further developments this week added more spice to the goings-on in football.
On his visit to this country with his CAF executive for the Super Cup final, Issa Hayatou made a turn at President Jacob Zuma’s residence in Tshwane accompanied by Safa president Danny Jordaan, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, among others.
No sooner was the meet and greet over, than a zealous CAF media department issued a statement that Zuma had endorsed the septuagenarian’s candidature for his quest for an umpteenth term since 1988.
However, this was immediately disputed by Mbalula, who said: “Abiding by the principle of noninterference in the affairs of football democracy, President Jacob Zuma did not pledge his personal support or that of the South African government behind the name of Mr Hayatou.”
And then, on Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s arrival in this country, Safa issued a statement that he was to visit their offices with this rider: “Media are welcome to talk to the Fifa delegation while at Safa House. There will be no other media interactions during the Fifa Summit.”
Surprise, surprise: Infantino was at the Nelson Mandela Foundation as Sexwale’s guest on Wednesday evening, where he gave a speech and fielded several media questions.
The Safa president was conspicuous by his absence at this event, which was attended by Khoza, among others.
As one politician reportedly said: “Ze whole sing is politik.”
There is really never a dull moment in football!