Johannesburg – When they emerged from a drawn-out congress at an OR Tambo Airport hotel four years ago, the winning faction of the SA Football Association election were united in song, positive speak and promises of a new dawn, which since have all failed to produce fruition.
On Saturday, as the Safa mandarins convene yet again to elect a new president, the very people who were united in 2009 will be opposing one another, having spent the past four years bickering about positions, fighting over resources and seeking to entrench their power.
This is what holding a position in the upper echelons of Safa is about – power and perks you wouldn’t get anywhere else. On Saturday, some people are quite aware that defeat of their faction would mean luxuries they’ve enjoyed for the past four years, or even longer, cease to exist.
The sleek Mercedes-Benzes, bought and maintained by Safa at a huge cost, will have to be returned to Safa House, probably by next week for the new executive to take over.
Those who, according to that anonymous dossier, enjoyed the benefits of flying first class to Bafana Bafana games, and “staying in five-star hotels with their concubines” are staring at a bleak future if they are defeated.
Ditto the said “concubines”, who supposedly may have to ingratiate themselves with the new executive.
Oblivion awaits some of those who’ve enjoyed the limelight, such as outgoing president Kirsten Nematandani who surely will miss grinning at the cameras and shaking hands with players and officials.
It will be rough, and no doubt there’ll be casualties. Sadly, among these casualties, you will find honest men dedicated to serving the game who will be caught in the crossfire because they backed the “wrong” man. That’s the nature of the Safa election these days – it’s become a winner-takes-all scenario.
Such mentality, however, can only lead to destruction, as we’ve seen over the past four years. Instead of working together, the so-called Football Transformation Forum, which catapulted Nematandani to the presidency, spent a whole lot of time jostling for positions, trying to influence who is deployed where and who benefits from what.
As he had little authority, Nematandani was reduced to a lame duck as more powerful men behind him, such as Saturday’s presidential candidates Danny Jordaan and Mandla Mazibuko, bickered for control and had such a nasty fallout that they can barely be left in one room together.
But whichever faction wins, the triumphalism of 2009 should not be repeated. Today should represent a new era for the sake of SA football, which has suffered for too long due to factional retribution, with those in control spending too much time fighting imaginary adversaries to the detriment of development programmes.
If Jordaan wins, he should invite some of the people in Mazibuko’s faction to serve in the regional structures, and vice-versa. Too often genuine people with the game’s interest at heart find themselves isolated after being perceived to belong to a particular camp.
We are aware that Safa House is full of dinosaurs who’ve delivered nothing for years, but there must be others who’ve acquired valuable skills and experience that could prove useful in certain areas.
These skills, however limited, might be completely lost if an olive branch is not offered to any losing faction, and, with the way the last Safa election was conducted, we have genuine cause to fear for a repeat today.
True leadership dictates that elections should not be seen as a place for animosity, which is usually hidden through fake smiles, firm handshakes and meaningless congratulatory notes to the winning faction.
Safa should seek unity after this election, rather than persist with factional groups such as the FTF, which frankly has served no purpose over the past four years other than to entrench divisions.
Whoever is declared president today should not go on about how good they are. Rather, it would be instructive if the winning candidate tapped into the knowledge and experience of everyone involved in the Safa structures for all these years, irrespective of which faction they backed.
But there are some who, after this election, will certainly not be missed.
*Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng