Johannesburg - It is perhaps the mark of the strength of Ria Ledwaba’s campaign for the Safa presidency that she is still in contention a day before the election.
After all, other previous challengers to Danny Jordaan’s throne never got to the ballot – Ace Ncobo’s challenge four years ago having fizzled out prior to election day.
And for a while since she made it known that she was going to stand, Ledwaba faced challenges that seemed to suggest she too would be ruled out before election day.
There was that ban on her making public pronouncements until she was vetted for the presidential candidacy. And then she admitted that she wouldn’t be surprised were she to be suspended by Safa who had a pending disciplinary case against her.
Now that she has withstood all that, the question is whether Ledwaba will have her nose bloodied in a similar way Mandla Mazibuko’s was eight years ago when the then schools’ soccer boss dared to go toe-to-toe with the shrewd politician from Gqeberha.
The answer will be known at tomorrow’s elective congress in Sandton where Jordaan is seeking a third term in charge of South Africa’s football governing body.
Ledwaba, on the other hand, believes that the incumbent has overstayed his welcome and should make way given he has not served the game well enough.
It has made for a fascinating build-up to the polls, with Jordaan having opted to steer clear of public pronouncements as Ledwaba called on just about everyone from politicians and civil society through other sporting presidents to religious leaders for support.
It was a move that left discerning football followers somewhat surprised given that those who have publicly voiced their support for the veteran female administrator and the first female vice president in Safa’s history have no voting powers.
But at her official media conference to announce her manifesto a fortnight ago, Ledwaba proclaimed herself to be enjoying “overwhelming support” from the regions and Local Football Associations (LFA) that will be at the ballot tomorrow.
Jordaan’s camp retorted by revealing that five of the regions from Ledwaba’s home province of Limpopo will be voting for him instead and later had the women’s committee of Safa throwing their weight behind him.
Who then are Ledwaba’s supporters?
A source close to her campaign told Independent Media that her backers have chosen to not come out in the open and would rather stun the incumbent on election day.
Such is the dirty nature of elections for such powerful positions that people promise one thing and act in the complete opposite way. Not that both Jordaan and Ledwaba are not aware of this.
Over the years, stories have abounded of how presidential candidates buy their way to power, with those with voting power said to be wined and dined and even gifted with cars.
One cannot say for certain if Jordaan and Ledwaba will go this ugly route, but they have both been in the game long enough to know that they cannot put it past the other not to.
Lest it be forgotten, there is a third candidate in tomorrow’s election – the fairly young (he is not 50-years-old yet) Safa Tshwane president Solly Mohlabeng.
That he has not featured much in the run-up to the elections is because he is nothing more than an alsoran who is most probably a red herring for one of the main candidates. Mohlabeng though is his own man as was proven in the previous Safa congress where he dared to question the status quo only to be kicked out.
Do not, however, be surprised should we have a repeat of a previous Safa presidential election. Then, Jordaan was involved in a bitter tussle for the top position with Irvin Khoza only for neither of the duo to ascend the throne. Kirsten Nematendani became president then in what was essentially a compromise to avoid a football “bloodbath”.
Could we have a situation like that where Mohlabeng pulls the rug from underneath the main protagonists’ feet? Chances of that happening are slim to none, and slim has left town.
Whatever happens tomorrow, either Jordaan or Ledwaba owes it to the sport to do right by it.
Once the election is over, the winner must get over themselves and put football first to ensure that SA returns to the good old days of our senior national team being the continent’s best and our age group teams participating at major tournaments.