'Money doesn't buy titles'

Patrice Motsepe has always been a trendsetter. He revolutionised local football from the moment he acquired a majority stake in Mamelodi Sundowns in 2003, and things got even rosier after he bought out the Tsichlas family to assume total control of the Tshwane club a year later.

He was the first club owner to pay a footballer over R100 000 as a monthly salary, and others, previously so determined to remunerate players as if they were hard-labourers of the slavery era, had no choice but to reluctantly follow suit.

So the modern footballer, in his flashy luxury cars and townhouses, should thank the Sundowns president for setting high pay standards.

But trendsetting is not without flaws and Motsepe, sadly, has had many in his eventful six years as a club owner. Some clubs have accused him of "inflating" the market, with even average players now costing millions of rands.

Others have pointed fingers at the billionaire for destroying certain careers, with players who had been flourishing at smaller clubs recruited to Sundowns to warm the bench. Examples of these are many. Thando Mngomeni was a sure starter at Santos last season, helping them to a third-place finish, but he can barely complete half-a-match at the Brazilians. Manqoba Ngwenya is another player whose career has regressed tremendously, having spent years mostly on the throes of Sundowns' first team.

Coaching careers have also been shattered at Sundowns, with some fired as soon as they had added "championship winner" to their CVs.

Trott Moloto probably grins from ear to ear when he goes to bed without having heard Motsepe tell him not to report for training the following day. Moloto has been reduced to a freelance coach, with 'technical director' Ted Dumitru, in spite of repeated denials, capable of filling in if the head coach is fired.

Motsepe initiated another first a few weeks ago when he appointed a "sub-committee" to investigate the club's recent poor form. We should emphasise that this so-called "poor form" was, in effect, two defeats: on penalties in the MTN8 final against Kaizer Chiefs and 4-2 in the Absa Premiership to Golden Arrows.

But most glaring was the composition of Motsepe's "sub-committee". Heading it was one Dan Simelane, of whom very little is known aside from the fact that "he works in the mines" - to quote one Sundowns insider.

Simelane, and his "investigators" would, according to the club's statement, go around interviewing "stakeholders" to find out why the team were underperforming.

Sundowns bounced back in midweek to beat AmaZulu, and we can only wonder what these "investigators" will now do. Motsepe again put his foot in it on Thursday, when he told a press conference he's looking for "a manager".

"We are going to employ a manager and the whole team will be under him," he's quoted as saying. Naturally, red herrings followed, with Frank Rijkaard ludicrously linked to this job which seems so unfitting to his profile.

But disappointingly, once again Motsepe made this startling announcement of being in the market for "a manager" without considering the feelings of Moloto, a day after he had guided the team to a win. We can only hope that one day Motsepe will learn that having loads of money doesn't make you the brightest, just as many of his football decisions, including player recruitment and his choice of suits, have told us.




sign up