Anti-SWC an act of treason
Kirsten Nematandani (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Anyone jeopardising South Africa's successful hosting of soccer's World Cup by pursuing their own self-interests was guilty of an act of treason.
This uncompromising view was expressed by both South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani and South African soccer strongman Irvin "The Iron Duke" Khoza after an uneasy truce between the two rival groups within the administration of South African soccer was seemingly restored this week.
It followed in the wake of an inflammatory report planted in two Johannesburg Sunday newspapers claiming that Khoza, the chairman of South Africa's World Cup Organising Committee, was plotting a coup to take control of the national soccer association.
The leadership of the rival factions had given an unequivocal under-taking to both President Zuma and Fifa president Sepp Blatter that they would do nothing to detract from the successful organising of the World Cup - and would bury their differences until soccer's pinnacle event was over.
"The co-ordinated Sunday newspapers assertion in the Sunday Times and City Press quoting non-existent meetings to plot a non-existent coup is not only false," said Khoza, "but malicious and peddled by those who clearly do not care about putting the welfare of the World Cup first,"
Nematatandani agreed the article "which came out of the blue" was damaging to the coming World Cup and if factually flawed was "an act of treason against the country."
The seeds of the differences, however, were seemingly planted years back from what has been viewed as a battle of power between soccer heavyweights Khoza, who is also the chairman of the powerful Premier League and Orlando Pirates, and Danny Jordaan, the World Cup's high-profiled Local Organising Committee CEO.
And the simmering flames of the rivalry burst into what was a veritable roaring fire last year as both Khoza and Jordaan were nominated to succeed Molefi Oliphant as the Safa president.
The impasse ended when Jordaan withdrew from the presidential race as a tactical manoeuvre and a surrogate second-choice in Nematandani was ultimately elected - with Khoza claiming the procedure had been unconstitutional and the vote was therefore not valid.
Later, however, Khoza agreed to shelve any action he might take regarding the matter until after the World Cup, with the uneasy peace installed as all parties concerned appeared to throw their weight behind South Africa staging the historic first event of its kind on the African continent.
Then, to rock the boat with Richter-scale proportions, the two virtually identical newspaper reports appeared on Sunday, with the burning issue now: who orchestrated and master-minded them?
The Khoza group believe they emerged from a source within Safa, if not the controlling body acting as one in a uniformed strategy - and that it was designed to discredit the LOC and Premier League chairman.
Nematandani says he "cannot believe" that anyone within his administration would stoop to this level and flout the interests of the country - and the World Cup in the process.
But the Safa president affirmed that if this was shown to be the case "he or she will immediately be thrown out of the organisation."
And, in the interim, all those suspected of complicity in the roaring furnace of discontent are echoing the refrain of the Billy Joel hit song and claiming "We didn't start the fire."