Mark Gleeson

Africa too corrupt to care?

2010-05-11 08:40
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

Success in African club competition would ordinarily be the pinnacle of achievement for any club on this continent, but South Africa is alarmingly disinterested in the pan-African tournaments.

It would have been expected that after all the years of isolation, South African teams would have wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to test their mettle against comrades north of the border and chase the goal of being ‘kings of Africa’.

But over the last decade or so, there has been little but passing interest. It is seen more as a millstone than milestone to compete in the African Champions League and the African Confederation Cup and, as a result, South African performances have been markedly poor.

At the weekend, SuperSport United crashed out of the Champions League after a harrowing trip to west Africa, where the concept of fair play or sponsorship is alien to their football culture.

SuperSport arrived at the venue on match day to find the kick-off time had been changed, brought ahead by an hour just to put them off their stride. According to the regulations this cannot be changed once it is set but the all powerful, on-site match commissioner, presumably under the promise of some inducement, deemed it OK to do so.

Harried and flustered, SuperSport were on the back foot before the game even started and, in the end, were easily beaten, although needless to say that at a crucial juncture of the game when they were still in with a chance they had a legitimate looking goal disallowed.

This is no extraordinary revelation. The same fate has befallen many of our clubs beforehand.

Probably the most blatant was an Egyptian referee who conspired to kill off any chance Kaizer Chiefs had in the same competition a few years ago.

He awarded Esperance of Tunisia a dubious penalty in the first 10 minutes and gave an offside goal to ensure Chiefs lost 4-0.

So blatant was the cheating, that the Confederation of African Football made a rare investigation and quietly suspended the referee. 

But there was no compensation for Chiefs or a replay of the match. It was quietly dealt with under the carpet and after a year Ahmed Auda was back on the CAF panel, free to travel the continent and presumably earn himself a little spare income.

Bribery and corruption pervades all over African football, particularly in the club competitions where it is rare to find a match where a referee is not for hire.

It is not surprising therefore that there is no real appetite locally for this big fix.

It will also come as no surprise that after this experience, SuperSport will not enter next year’s event. Why bother when it costs so much and there is not even a sporting chance in return?

The club spent more than R500 000 on travel costs to get to Owerri for Sunday’s match. That is money wasted. It might toughen the players up a bit, give them a little insight into foreign climes and attitudes and maybe allow SuperSport to spot a good player in the rival team, but at the cost of half-am-million there are better, and clever ways to go about achieving the same goal.

It is time that South Africa decide either way whether they are going to give this Champions League a proper go and devote the proper resources in its direction. Or are they going to leave it alone altogether, given how corrupt it is.

Either way a decision needs to be made for the insipid way our clubs compete these days as it's currently not worthy of flying the South African flag.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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