Motsepe enters race for African football’s top job
The fight will be as bitter as a run for the White House but the businessman is likely to lean heavily on local soccer supremo Danny Jordaan if he wins
Patrice Motsepe’s decision to put his hand up and announce his intention to challenge for the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) presidency has added a fascinating twist to a race that is never without drama.
The race to occupy that plush corner office with a stunning view of Cairo is always intense and the latest tussle will be no different after incumbent Ahmad Ahmad indicated that he has no intention of vacating it without a fight.
This is a race that often resembles the fight for the White House in the US and while the adversaries do not make disparaging comments about each other in public or use Twitter to trade insults, trust me, it is just as hectic and long daggers are drawn behind the scenes.
Motsepe’s candidacy was something of a surprise and raised eyebrows after SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan and sports minister Nathi Mthethwa made the announcement on Monday. Call me a cynic, but I can sense Fifa lurking in the shadows and wildly cheering Motsepe's decision to run for the Caf presidency.
You must remember that the folks in Switzerland have not been too pleased with Ahmad for a long time now and Motsepe offers the world football governing body an opportunity to usher in a change of direction. Don’t forget that Fifa effectively took over the running of the African body last year after numerous allegations of corruption dogged Caf, and Ahmad in particular.
It was so messy and chaotic that Fifa sent its secretary-general Fatma Samoura to Egypt, and she occupied that plush corner office with a stunning view of Cairo for about six months.
It’s bad enough that this was preceded by Ahmad’s arrest in Paris in June 2019 and he had to answer questions related to a French police corruption investigation. Fifa only left Egypt at the beginning of the year and I’m told the mess and the horror they saw in Cairo after they went through the books will haunt them for years.
The bigger miracle is that Ahmad is still standing after all this and is entertaining ideas of continuing the taxing task of running the place into the ground for another term.
This is a far cry from the days when the region backed him to the hilt and even ran his election campaign against long-time president Issa Hayatou in 2014. He had talked a good fight in the months after he unexpectedly ended Hayatou’s 29-year reign and spearheaded a string of reforms that gave hope to a continent long under the old dinosaur’s thumb.
But after the euphoria of those first few months, he cosied up to the Moroccans and happily allowed them to pay their way into a position of power. Caf is a mess and it’s no thanks to Ahmad.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has proposed reforms and I have a feeling this is where Motsepe comes in. Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have endorsed the Sundowns owner, but he faces stiff competition from Ahmad, Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast Football Federation, Senegal FA president Augustin Senghor and the head of the Mauritanian federation, Ahmed Yahya.
If he is successful and manages to unseat Ahmad, Motsepe will have to find the time to run this complex organisation. I suspect he will lean heavily on Jordaan because I do not see him moving office from Johannesburg to Caf’s headquarters in Cairo.
The man is unbelievably busy and barely has time to run his club Mamelodi Sundowns. Traversing the globe on Caf business while still keeping an eye on his numerous business interests does not seem very likely.
The March 12 elections will be held in Morocco next year and the next few months are going to be interesting.
• Follow Ntloko on Twitter at @ntlokom
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