Tumo Mokone

Chiefs have let SA down

2009-12-11 12:20
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
Tumo Mokone

South African PSL sides who snub African club competitions do not deserve to win trophies in the domestic league. The case in point this time is Kaizer Chiefs, who once again showed the continent the middle finger.

Chiefs had qualified to compete in the CAF Confederations Cup, after finishing third in the PSL last season. South Africa is one of just 12 countries in Africa who enjoy the privilege of sending two teams to both CAF’s club competitions – the Champions League and Confederations Cup.

The local champions and runners-up – this time SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates – qualified for the Champions League while the national cup winners and third placed team – Moroka Swallows and Chiefs respectively – qualified for the Confed. Swallows have duly taken their place in the draw and will travel to Pamplemousses FC in Mauritius for the opening match of the competition next February.

Chiefs on the other hand will not participate because of what they call “logistical limitations”. I wish I knew what they meant with this suspiciously high brow statement. Are they saying they are too important to be traveling up and down Africa to play football? As long as they don't have the decency to explain their position then their “logistical” standpoint will remain illogical.

It is common knowledge that South African players urgently need international exposure and one of the best ways to gain it is to play in official competitions in Africa.

Winning on the continent is not about lifting the trophy and putting away millions of rands in the bank. Apart from giving the players the international experience, the more noble cause about playing and succeeding on the continent is to raise the profile of one’s country.

The honour of being champions is therefore not the exclusive right of the club, but something that is shared by the nation as a whole. Given their stature, Chiefs should know the folly of their actions better. In the past they used cost as their excuse for avoiding CAF competitions. That excuse is not valid anymore as the PSL provides a R1 million grant to each team which qualifies for Africa.

I am flabbergasted that Chiefs can get away with murder like this, at the expense of South African football. I thought the SA Football Association would reprimand them for letting the country down. SA football is under pressure to prove its case in international football, but when you get this kind of attitude from the best supported club in the country you can’t help but feel deflated.

In the 2009 edition of the Confederations Cup tournament which Chiefs are boycotting, Stade Malien from Mali emerged victors. They banked $660 000 (about R5 million) for their efforts, which is a far cry from the R10 million PSL champions get. But winning on the continents should not be about the money alone, especially for SA clubs. We are the laughing stock on the continent. Fellow Africans say we have the richest league but cannot play any decent football. They have a point; we are hosting the World Cup next year, but we are not good enough to play in the African Cup of Nations, whose 2010 edition takes place in Angola in January.

The best way to enforce a change of perceptions about SA football is to prove our case in CAF competitions. Take the case of TP Mazembe from DR Congo for example. Last month they were crowned African champions, and today by way of co-incidence, they meet Pohang Steelers in the sixth FIFA Club World Cup currently on in Abu Dhabi. If they win, they will face CONMEBOL (South America) champions, Estudiantes of Argentina, in the semi-finals.

Mazembe are making their debut in this world competition played by each continental champion. Win or lose, the whole of the DRC are proud that one of their teams are in action in a FIFA tournament.

As long as we have negative attitudes displayed by Chiefs and those who back their actions, South Africa will find hard it to be taken seriously as a footballing power in Africa.

If we are good, let’s prove it by competing hard on the continent. On that note I wish SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates all the best as they begin their Champions League – which offers a first prize of $1.5 million (about R11 million) - campaigns early next year. Who knows, we may be in the FIFA Club World Cup soon.

As for Chiefs, thanks for nothing; you do not deserve anything in the PSL, until you change your stance on Africa.

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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