FILE - Patrice Motsepe celebrates with fans during the 2018/19 CAF Champions League football match between Sundowns and Al Ahly at Lucas Moripe Stadium. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
FILE - Patrice Motsepe celebrates with fans during the 2018/19 CAF Champions League football match between Sundowns and Al Ahly at Lucas Moripe Stadium. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Patrice Motsepe has always been a man with a plan

By Mihlali Baleka, Opinion Time of article published Mar 12, 2021

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#MotsepeForPresident. That was one of the hashtags that went viral in 2018 after Patrice Motsepe forked out billions of rands and pulled off an extravaganza by bringing Barack Obama, Barcelona, Beyonce Knowles-Carter and husband Jay-Z to Mzansi.

These renowned brands were in the country amid the Centenary Celebrations of former struggle icon Nelson Mandela. Obama was a guest speaker at the Mandela Lecturer, while Beyonce and Jay-Z headlined the Global Citizen Festival.

But us, the football loving people, we were here for Barcelona. The Catalan giants were scheduled to meet reigning Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at FNB Stadium. This was Barcelona's second trip to Mzansi to face Sundowns, with their first visit in June 2007. Then the mighty Barcelona had Brazilian sensation Ronaldinho, in their set-up, and this time, they had Argentine magician Lionel Messi.

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It was a surreal moment for the thousands of spectators who filled “The Calabash” to the rafters, including yours truly. Personally, it was more surreal to an extent that I was watching Messi live, just two months after watching rival Cristiano Ronaldo live at the Santiago Bernabeu. Of course, I was wearing a cap of a football writer on both occasions. But that's been the overwhelming story about Motsepe-owned club, Sundowns: that you don't always have to be affiliated with it to be part of the bliss that it brings season in and season out.

Sundowns' triumphant campaign in the Caf Champions League in 2016 united rivals. The Lucas “Masterpieces” Stadium was painted yellow, with Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs fans swapping their clubs' colours when Sundowns hosted Zamalek in the first leg of the final. Even Chiefs' manager Bobby Motaung was part of the ultimate celebrations after the 3-1 aggregate win, defying his team's “love and peace” sign for “the sky's the limit” insignia. The era of Motsepe didn't only give South Africa its second star after Pirates.

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But it also gave us Pitso Mosimane and Percy Tau, two national treasures. Mosimane, a SA record holder, became the first black sub-Saharan African coach to coach African Club of the Century Al Ahly after leaving Sundowns in October. “Jingles” proved his coaching prowess from the outset, winning a treble with the Red Devils, including the Champions League, before guiding them to a third-place finish at the Club World Cup. Sundowns' product Tau plies his trade at English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion.

Motsepe continues to give back to the community through the Motsepe Foundation, but the resounding manner in which he pays back former players who served Sundowns with distinction by giving them jobs in the club's set-up is unmatched! Today, though, the “Patrice Motsepe era” will come to an end at Sundowns as he will be inaugurated as the president of Caf. And us, who have experienced sheer delight due to his love for Sundowns, we take our hats off to the “incoming president”.

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