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The battle for South African football's future

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Piers Edwards | 10:56 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

To say that the chairman of South Africa's World Cup Organising Committee (OC), Irvin Khoza, and his CEO, Danny Jordaan, do not get along is a bit like saying John Terry and Wayne Bridge aren't the best of friends.

And last week, one of the World Cup's most enthralling sub-plots - a tale of power, greed, ambition, political connections and long-established rivalry - lit up like an exploding arms depot. The intrigue could give John Le Carre a run for his money.

On Tuesday, Khoza said he was desperate for South Africa to avoid unwanted World Cup publicity. But his plea was already too late, for the front page headlines two days earlier had screamed 'IRON DUKE PLOTS MAJOR SOCCER COUP', as allegations of Machiavellian subterfuge followed.

Khoza, known as the 'Iron Duke' due to his controversial past, was supposedly trying to engineer the removal of South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani by lobbying various parties, including government officials, to initiate a vote of no-confidence in him.

Khoza and Jordaan answer questions at a 2010 World Cup news conference in Cape TownKhoza and Jordaan answer questions at a 2010 World Cup news conference in Cape Town

Which meant that Khoza, the very man tasked with chairing South Africa's World Cup organisation, had to publicly deny he was secretly plotting to destabilise South African football.

So how had it come to that? The answer could go back a decade or three, but matters really came to a head last September when Khoza, 62, and Jordaan, 58, went head-to-head for the Safa presidency.

Splitting the footballing fraternity in two, the elections were fiercely contested because the prize was so great - control of South African football when the post-World Cup income, estimated to be in excess of US$150m, started to roll in.

Standing in one corner was Jordaan, the former anti-apartheid activist, one-time MP who had served under Nelson Mandela and now a football administrator who has been working for 16 years to make South Africa's once-unlikely World Cup hosting dream a reality.

In the other was super-heavyweight Khoza, whose influence in the local game extends very far and very wide. Not only president of super-popular Orlando Pirates, he also chairs the local Premier Soccer League.

With the battle for South African football's future pitching the game's most powerful figures against one another, Fifa was so concerned by the prospective fall-out and resulting impact upon the World Cup that it asked Safa to postpone the elections. The repeated requests were in vain.

Instead, the intensity of the elections was such that all the delegates' and journalists' cars - including my own - were checked for firearms on their way in. Wembley Stadium this definitely was not, with more than 100 police and a couple of riot vans in attendance at the hotel complex where the elections were taking place.

Yet there were three, not just two, candidates that day, with Nematandani, Safa's then head of refereeing but a man even the local media barely knew, completing the field.

And, with the presence of riot police having set the tone, it was a day of surprises.

Khoza stormed out of the complex before the elections, later citing electoral irregularities. As if that wasn't enough, Jordaan also withdrew after his eligibility to stand was questioned by Khoza and his minions.

The little-known Nematandani thus swooped in unopposed.

But a little scratching at the surface revealed a different story. For Nematandani was effectively Jordaan's man, both men being part of a group - the Football Transformation Forum - founded to win control of Safa.

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani with the official match ball for the 2010 World CupSafa president Kirsten Nematandani with the official match ball for the 2010 World Cup

So there's a widely-held belief, an open secret you could say, that Jordaan will be rejoining Safa, where he was once CEO, once the World Cup is over.

The only problem? The fact that Khoza's not going to go down without a fight.

After September's elections, the endless media speculation about Khoza's intent to issue a legal challenge prompted state president Jacob Zuma to convene a meeting where he ordered all three candidates to leave any election squabbles until after the World Cup.

Thankfully for Zuma's authority, this happened before it was revealed he had fathered a child with Khoza's daughter, a story that broke less than a month after the president married for the fifth time - a wedding the 'Iron Duke', Zuma's long-time friend, attended.

"I'm not going to talk about the issue of the child but I am addressing a letter to the president about issues of national interest - the World Cup," Khoza said last week. "There must be this modicum of peace before the World Cup."

Underlining the divide - while simultaneously denying it existed - Safa held its own news conference hours later in order to clarify that its attentions had been focused on the World Cup and not on making moves to remove Khoza from the OC, as the latter's camp had claimed.

In short, it's messy - and intriguingly so.

And the accusations go on, with both camps accusing the other of wanting to use the Safa presidency to earn a place on Fifa's Executive Committee (although Fifa may want to run a mile from both come 12 July). Khoza, we are told, also has designs on ruling the Confederation of African Football as well.

But despite the enmity, World Cup organisation is seemingly going well, Khoza and Jordaan showing they can function together despite their personal differences.

And there is another area where they share common ground. "This sort of nonsense does not make us (South Africa) look good," Jordaan told reporters last week, echoing Khoza's comments.

Once the World Cup has been held aloft and the planet's eyes are no longer focused in this direction, the gloves will really come off in this unseemly spat for control of South African football.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    good blog m8
    so it looks like a lot off corruption in positions of power, i read that bit about Khoza s controversial past, with Zuma as son in law(lol) he ll prolly muscle himself to controlling SA football

  • Comment number 2.

    Here was me thinking that our own FA had a monopoly on incompetence and childish infighting, yet it seems we can even be beaten at those things.

    It seems like the infighting in SA political elite isn't going to stop any time soon, even if they tear up the country in the pursuit of their own greed/power, but whatever happens, I hope that it doesn't affect the World Cup one jot.

  • Comment number 3.

    How did this country get the World Cup? so many murders, so much corruption, so many people leaving the country.. its rooted

  • Comment number 4.

    Agreed with the above poster whogivesfatrats I'm afraid. south africa has I think the SECOND HIGHEST MURDER rate in the world, shocking really that it was selected as the venue. I'm of the opinion that although Africa produces great teams and talented individuals it is not quite ready to stage the big event due to the large amount of poverty, corruption and crime that still sadly inhabits large areas of the continent.

  • Comment number 5.

    They look an absolute shoe-in for a place on FIFA's exec committee. With all the contining allegations about Jack Warner's role in FIFA and the lack of any action taken against this guy, these guys will be right at home.

  • Comment number 6.

    "But despite the enmity, World Cup organisation is seemingly going well, Khoza and Jordaan showing they can function together despite their personal differences."

    So they get on better than Terry and Bridge then!

  • Comment number 7.

    "4. At 4:25pm on 06 Apr 2010, SirDigbyChickenCaesar wrote:
    Agreed with the above poster whogivesfatrats I'm afraid. south africa has I think the SECOND HIGHEST MURDER rate in the world, shocking really that it was selected as the venue. I'm of the opinion that although Africa produces great teams and talented individuals it is not quite ready to stage the big event due to the large amount of poverty, corruption and crime that still sadly inhabits large areas of the continent.

    "

    Not that BAe had anything to do with that curruption then.

    Sometimes you just have to make the move to give a continent hope. If you repeatetdly push it down there is nothing to inspire those who want change for the better.

    That said I don't see any reference to corruption, just political infighting. And they probably shook hands;)

  • Comment number 8.

    I lived in South Africa for 25 years until 2006. The football hierachy is unbelievably corrupt and inept...there is no hope for them. They will implode after the World Cup

  • Comment number 9.

    Its pathetic that we Africans produce some quality players who at any given time take the likes of premiership,Laliga,French and Italian football by storm, but at this year's world cups only one coach from such a huge continent will be leading one of the participants. Shame on us, Where are the likes of RADEBES,YEBOWAS,KESHIS,OLISE and PELES not forgetting the dancing RODGER MILLER.Come on guys we need you in these big games.

  • Comment number 10.

    Alas, the doomsayers have started. Funny enough they all live abroad. I live in South Africa and ,unlike you,I know what I am talking about.

    Irvin Khoza is ambitious, no doubt about that, that is why the THE FOOTBALL TRANSFORMATION FORUM was formed to ensure that he does not control all spheres of football life. What Piers forgot to mention is that prior to him pulling out of the election process, there was an indication he had not mustered enough votes to wrestle control of SAFA.

    I do not believe that South Africa having the second highest murder rate has anything to do with us hosting major events. I think people are still bitter at England getting lower ratings than Gerrmany and South Africa,for their stadia, during the 2006 bidding process. Get over it. We are hosting the World Cup and that`s that.

    I am sure Piers was speaking about power struggles in South African football which happens everywhere. I fail to understand when corruption came into the argument. Maybe the fact that the power struggle happens in Africa makes it corrupt automatically. We must have monopoly on corruption.

    FUNNY THE WORD 'CORRUPTION' IS ENGLISH.




  • Comment number 11.

    Corruption is a modern day English word, but comes from the Latin "Corruptus" and therefore has it's roots in Italy, appropriately.

    "Sometimes you just have to make the move to give a continent hope. If you repeatetdly push it down there is nothing to inspire those who want change for the better. " - many of the countries in Africa have had hope and opportunity over the years, and consistently destroyed that hope. Zimbabwe is a prime example, and by systematically supporting Mugabe and his regime because they saw it as an 'us versus them' or 'black versus white' or 'everyone picking on Africa' problem, the other African leaders are the ones destroying hope.

    In the 1960's one could board a train in Cairo and, with a few changes, travel by rail to Cape Town. Less than 10% of that system still exists.

    I have lived in different countries within Africa, and find the people on the whole a very friendly, generous and deserving people, but with the most corrupt leadership intent on riches for just a few at the expense of the majority. Infighting, tribalism, nepotism are all rife. There is little or no trust. It is not the Western world that takes away hope, but their own leaders.

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh! To be African! If something happens in Angola and you are in Morrocco, you end up taking the blame for it. How does Mugabe and the railway line from Cape to Cairo have anything to do with a football blog about SAFA? (Unless you are planning to ride a camel the length of the continent)

    I get frustrated when somebody becomes authority on African subects based on what they read in the media and a few safaris in the 60`s.

    This blog was about the politics in South African football. Thats all.

  • Comment number 13.

    South Africa only got the WC because FIFA thought it was about time it was held on the continent. No one else really had a chance because Blatter had already made his mind up.

    Get down off your high horse JustinCase, people are genuinely concerned about the security in your country over the WC. Fans should not be going to games in fear of their safety. You only have to look at the Terreblanche trial to see that tensions are still running high.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Easy Aggrey, i was under the impression that homosexuality was a part of a person DNA, but going by your statement of "We are in this situation because of you whites who came to Africa to steal our natural resources, bribe our chiefs/ leaders, introduce homosexuality etc" I now dont know what to think!

    Yes people are worried about safety or teams and their fans leading up to the WC, and why not? isn't that why there are still a ridiculous amount of tickets still up for grabs! Good Luck to SA for the WC i really hope its one to remember for the right reasons!

  • Comment number 16.

    If I am not mistaken South Africa was only a single vote shy of getting the world cup in 2006. So it is not like we did not deserve it or because FIFA gave it to us. England has been forgotten by then.

    I never hear these concerns about crime when The British and Irish Lions are about to tour or when the Barmy Army are all over the country chasing after the English Cricket team. The IPL was moved to South Africa purely because we could stage a secure tournament at a few weeks notice. We have been waiting for the World Cup for 6 years what makes you think we are not ready for it.

    If defending my country from misiformed doomsayers means I am on a high horse, so be it. Fact of the matter is you are bitter because this is something you wanted and could not get. The fact that we are hosting it makes you more bitter because we are supposed to be this violent backward country full of half-naked Zulus running around chasing after Zebras.

    Fact is, come July 11th, you will all eat humble pie. This is gonna be the best world cup ever and you will wonder why you were not there.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yes, South Africa, like most countries in the world has its fair share of problems... However, being South African myself, I am hugely proud of the fact that we have won the right to host the world cup. Being afforded an opportunity as such empowers a country to develop itself for the better and hopefully learn from it’s mistakes.
    Every world cup presents its own individual experience and most people who choose to experience that during the finals will be able to say that 'I was there'... rather than judging life vicariously through the TV.
    Political infighting and corruption is not exclusive to South Africa, one would only have to look at how many times Gordon Brown has been discredited as Prime Minister and how a MP’s claim for 'porn films' as parliamentary expenses is appropriately just.

  • Comment number 18.

    All of this is unsuprising chat.

    Corruption in football administration: nothing new here. The heads of FIFA, CAF, SAFA its all the same story.

    Security concerns? What about the daily worries for the majority of SA citizens? Little discussion or concern about this the rest of the time.

    SA and Africa HAVE to host the world cup some time. Unlike other world cups this has had an almost entirely negative build-up in the western media. I hope all the doomsayers stay at home and we, who wish for nothing more than success on and off the field, will cheer on all who enter the tournament with goodwill.

    Viva ma-vuvuzelas.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Pier
    I have not been impressed with your coverage of african football since the last nations cup in angola.Its not your fault.I suspect your non african background is not helping.Anyhow,kindly post more exciting news about the teams going to world cup.Gives updates on what the new Technical advisers are up to.Lets know more about Largerback's agenda for super eagles,how is ghana and I Coast preparing?What about the fit and unfit players playing in europe,why are some not getting playing time at their clubs as revealed by the nigeria coach?..we need info like this........
    Thanks

  • Comment number 21.

    If I'm not mistaken the South African Football League is now one of the top 10 wealthiest in the world?

    Where there is money...

 

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