Durban – Fikile Mbalula and Danny Jordaan make a mean comedy duo when they want to. At the Soccerex African Forum, held in Durban this week, they had the crowd in stitches, taking the mickey at the mess that our football is in, before resolving to change things.
We have heard this all before, from the disorganised circus that Safa had become. Every new president has sweeping statements of intent, grandiose plans for the development of our future players.
And then, by the end of their term, we realise that it has been much about niks nie. But now, in Jordaan, the magician who landed the World Cup, the long-serving foot soldier of the game here and internationally, Safa hope that they have the right man.
But, to paraphrase John Barnes, sport is truth. We can all talk until the sun goes down, but actions – and results – leave a far sweeter taste in the mouth than any lyrical waxing will do. We have been here before, at the start of a new term, of a new man, and ended up with nothing.
It is precisely why Jordaan should not even be measuring himself against the mediocrity that has come before him. Making jokes about meetings that start and end discussing the minutes of the last meetings may have been the style of Kirsten Nematandani and company, but Jordaan needs to look beyond cheap shots.
He will be measured by what he delivers for the game in his term. Already, the right noises are being made, with the announcement of the Hoy Park-based academy.
As exciting as the venture is, we should not be hoodwinked into believing this was a Safa vision.
Outsiders, from Portugal and beyond, saw a gap in our football market and capitalised. Ironically, these are the very same “outsiders” that we ushered away a decade ago, insisting that they would ruin our “unique style of football”.
In the time that we have dithered into the depressingly woeful depths of the Fifa world rankings, other nations have rolled up their sleeves and united behind a common goal. Getting better as a country.
The example of Germany, who were honest enough to admit that the influx of foreigners was stifling their best young players, is what we should have followed years ago. A decade ago, Germany accepted that they had to go two steps back, in international competition and even in quality of their Bundesliga, before leaping to the swashbuckling heights that their clubs now reach.
Now, no one will be surprised if they are crowned world champions next year. There is a fluent football identity that is recognisable across their league, though the money bags of Munich are able to add a sprinkling of stardust that leaves their domestic rivals trailing far behind.
But when a player from Wolfsburg links up with the Bastian Schweinsteigers and Mesut Ozils for international fixtures, they are singing from the same page. They are part of a national system that is geared towards improving the whole, rather than strive forward individually.
When asked whether they could convince the likes of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns to work towards a common goal, Jordaan and Mbalula smiled nervously. Jordaan, more than anyone, knows that the power struggle in this country can derail any vision before it has even got out of its nappies.
That may be his biggest challenge – convincing the South African football community that we need to work together, and not in isolation.
If he fails, his successor may also be standing at the podium of an African Forum, taking cheap shots at Jordaan, the former president who promised to get our football on the right path, but went the way of the palookas before him.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Only time will tell whether Jordaan’s plans will prove to be as half-baked as those of the buffet brigade that came before him.
A nation expects.