SA soccer back in a mess
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
As soon as the curtain came down on the 29th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), South African football was back in the quagmire where it has become a permanent resident.
A week after the final won by Nigeria, former Orlando Pirates great defender Phil “Mr Jones” Setshedi, who was Bafana Bafana assistant coach when they won the AFCON in 1996, was sentenced to an effective three years in prison
, with five years suspended for match-fixing related charges.
Setshedi had been tried and found guilty in a Cape Town Magistrate’s court for attempting to bribe referees during the Vodacom League playoffs in 2011.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) issued a statement that they were "quite happy" with this sentence. They went further to say they would probe the matter further.
They went further and suspended the referees involved. The big question is: What happens to the club that is implicated now? Surely the club benefitted from the shenanigans and what will happen to them?
And then followed the hot potato called the FIFA report on match-fixing.
A lot of hullaballoo was made about how SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani was to be suspended once more following an opinion from the legal committee.
But even before Saturday’s national executive committee (NEC) - the organisation’s supreme decision-making body - meeting, SAFA was thrown into a further spin as a bundle of documents under the guise of being a dossier that reveals corruption, started doing the rounds.
A planned meeting with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) that was to happen a day before the NEC met, was postponed at the eleventh hour.
But not before SASCOC CEO Tubby Reddy had announced that his organisation had received the “dossier” and passed it on to the Hawks.
On Saturday, SAFA decided - once more - to appoint “an independent” commission of enquiry to look into match-fixing.
FIFA also entered into the fray, sending a letter to Nematandani “after several enquiries by the South African media” directed at them.
All this reminds us of the time when the FIFA big boss Sepp Blatter had to come to this country to douse fires between warring soccer factions ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
We don’t want to go that route again. We should be mature enough to be able to sort out our own issues without bringing in the Europeans to show us how it’s done.
Otherwise, the world will keep on looking down on Africa as a backwards continent who can never handle their own affairs without help from "Big Brother".
What all the above points to is a lot of politicking and petty squabbles seeing that this is an election year as SAFA is set to hold its elective conference in September.
Already, we are seeing individual taking centre stage rather than the game.
It would seem that those in charge have totally forgotten that there is a small matter of Bafana Bafana needing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
They face the Central Africa Republic (CAR) on March 24 at the Cape Town Stadium in a 20:15 kick-off as they resume their campaign that did not start very well.
One just hopes that all the politicking and lobbying doesn’t make our soccer bosses take their eyes off the ball (something they have done quite often) and lose sight of the bigger picture or else we might find the national team missing the train (or is it a plane) to the land of the Samba.
And that would be a further disgrace for a country that hosted a successful World Cup a mere three years ago.
While Bafana and coach Gordon Igesund did not fulfill their mandate of reaching the semi-finals at the AFCON, their quarter-final exit saw them climb 25 places in the FIFA rankings to a current No 60 spot and into No 10 on the continent.
This is no great achievement, but something to build on.
The question is, is SAFA capable of getting rid of their petty politics and build South African football?
The period between now and September, will tell.
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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