Tumo Mokone

AFCON shame for Bafana

2010-01-08 15:00
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
Tumo Mokone

A year ago Raymond Hack infamously pronounced that it was a blessing in disguise that Bafana Bafana would not be part of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. How ironic then that in the week the tournament is scheduled to kick off in Angola, Hack falls on his sword as the CEO of the SA Football Association.

Some say he was pushed, a good 12 months ahead of his scheduled departure in December 2010. But what is certain is that Hack, the ultimate survivor in SA football, had to go. His tenure as CEO was fraught with controversial decisions and public statements such as the one above.

He survived this long because he enjoyed the patronage of the previous SAFA executive, which was defeated after a drama-filled election in September 2009. It is therefore clear he was not going to enjoy similar protection under president Kirsten Nematendani.

Though Nematendani has chosen to keep Hack for other tasks within SAFA and the 2010 LOC, he and his executive could not retain him in the position of CEO any further as Hack is a known close associate of Irvin Khoza, who was spectacularly defeated in the September election for the SAFA presidency.

Shameful position

Politics aside, South African football finds itself in a shameful position, watching from the sidelines as the best in African football gather in Angola this week. The truth that it’s a disgrace we are not there will hit home even harder on Sunday, when the hosts meet Mali in the opening match.

Hack tried his best with his spin, to ease the nation’s broken hearts after Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify. His primary intention with his “blessing” statement, however, was not to find consolation for the shocked soccer public, but to absolve SAFA of their mistake of hiring Joel Santana and to strengthen their resolve to keep the clueless Brazilian nevertheless.

There can never be sufficient spin-doctoring to explain the embarrassment South African football finds itself in: in the year we are hosting the World Cup we are not good enough to feature in the African championship. The event in Angola was going to provide the best dress-rehearsal for Bafana, as it would be the case for other African countries which qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

I can’t begin to imagine the football federations in Nigeria, Ivory Coast or Cameroon entertaining the thoughts about the possibility of failing to qualify for the AFCON as a blessing or an advantage of sorts. Mediocrity is not tolerated in these countries, which explains why they are top of their game in Africa, and also quality contenders on the world stage.

Take solace

Maybe we can take solace in the fact that the SA league will enjoy the biggest representation of African leagues in Angola.

A total of 24 South African-based players will represent four countries, namely Malawi (11), Zambia (8), Mozambique (4) and Mali (1). The sole Malian, Ousmane Berthe, plays for the Absa Premiership’s bottom team, Jomo Cosmos.

Even more remarkable is the fact that, of the 24 players above, 10 play in SA’s second-tier league, the National First Division (NFD).

These include little known Malawian trio of Atusaye Nyondo, Jacob Ngwira (both Carara Kicks) and Peter Wadabwa (Thanda Royal Zulu).

The NFD is therefore the only lower league in Africa with any presence in the AFCON. There will be more players from the lower leagues overseas, mainly in Europe, with France being the biggest nursery of African talent.

Naturally South Africa should feel good that we have put down structures for a well-organised league, which benefits so many countries in Africa. The number could have been higher, had Zimbabwe also qualified. However, all these stats and facts do very little to wipe off the disgrace of our failure to qualify for 2010 AFCON.

Favourite PSL player

In the absence of Bafana, my support will go to neighbours Mozambique, who have done very well to reach the tournament. The Mambas have my favourite PSL player, Elias Gaspar Pelembe, who is simply known as Domingues in the country of his birth. Mozambique are in a difficult group containing defending champions Egypt and intimidating Nigeria. The fourth team in Group C is tiny Benin.

Mozambique are not fancied to do the unthinkable to either Nigeria or Egypt, by advancing to the next round. However, should the Mambas succeed against these tough odds, then it would demand a lot more than the brilliance of Pelembe for inspiration.

Captain and one-time crack striker, Manuel “Tico-Tico” Bucuane, is now aged and slow, and therefore only good for leadership and confidence. Perhaps the extra oomph will be provided by – among others - the curiously named Whiskey and Fumo (smoke in Portuguese), whose real names are Francisco Massinga and Carlos Goncalves respectively.

Malawi and Zambia will be in my heart too, for the sake of regional interest. Common sense though dictates that Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana are firm favourites, given the mega stars in their squads and their reputations in this tournament.
Egypt however remain a threat, as they seek their third title on a trot. The Pharaohs must have healed from bruised egos, after losing out on the World Cup berth to a resurgent Algeria. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with Egypt’s game in the intense playoff match played in Sudan in November, as they were thwarted by the resolute Algerian defence and the heroic goalkeeping of Fawzi Chaouchi.

Meanwhile, for the record, the new stand-in SAFA chief executive is Leslie Sedibe, who will step down at the end of the year for the incumbent, Danny Jordaan. Like Hack, the new CEO is a lawyer, but that’s about where their similarities end. Sedibe is socialite with a soapie actress wife completing his celebrity profile. In his first address of the media on Thursday he alluded to his socialite status by saying his spell is “gonna be parties, parties, parties all the way”.

It was a rather clumsy self-introduction, despite the intended jest. However, there is no denying that Sedibe, a former record company executive, is a man of many talents. Good luck to him, and he better be careful with his sense of humour: football is fun but is serious business too.

Tumo writes exclusively for Sport24.

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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