Last of the HACKS

2010-01-09 00:00

IF Kirsten Nematandani’s victory in the SA Football Association elections on September 26 was a power grab, then the release of Raymond Hack from his contract as CEO completed what can only now be called a purge.

If one wanted to be cruel, one could come up with various names to call the previous ruling triumvirate of Hack, former president Molefi Olifant and vice-president Irvin Khoza by. Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee and Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars series might be apt.

Between them, the three, with Olifant and Hack the foot soldiers and Khoza pulling the strings from the background, have come to represent the Dark Side of the Force in South African football. While they were in charge the empire fell into disarray and disrepair and was ruled by fear and intimidation.

When Obi Wan Kenobi (Danny Jordaan) returned from his campaigns in a Galaxy far, far away trying to win the World Cup bid, he found his own power at home usurped and in the hands of dark forces. He has bided his time and made his move. The battle is won, but the war is not over.

However Bafana Bafana fare at the World Cup, which they kick-off with their match against Mexico at Soccer City on June 11, South Africans will always know the team should have and could have done better. Between them, Hack, Olifant and Khoza presided over a six-year build-up to 2010 that must rank as one of the most incompetent, most haphazard and most woefully inadequate by any host nation in the modern history of the event.

France established an academy at Clairefontaine outside Paris ahead of their hosting of the 1998 World Cup and won it, benefitting from the college until this day. South Korea hired Dutchman Guus Hiddink, a coach with a reputation for working wonders with big-name or small-name teams, and reached the semi-finals. A common tale in South African football that may or may not be true is that Sturu Pasiya, the head of Safa’s technical committee under Hack and Olifant, was once alerted by a prominent businessman that Hiddink would be interested in taking the Bafana job, and his immortal response was, “Who’s Guus Hiddink?”

So what were Safa doing during the build-up to 2010, instead of the glaringly obvious that they should have been carrying out — installing a co-ordinated national development plan and head-hunting the right coach for Bafana? And by this, I don’t mean the rescue plan of bringing in Carlos Alberto Parreira at an astronomical fee because the association had not done its job.

The concerns that long-time football administrator and Soccer City manager Dennis Mumble raised soon after the elections reveal much. Mumble is a member of the Football Transformation Forum that was backing Jordaan and Nematandani in the Safa elections, and his name was mentioned as a potential successor after Hack was effectively given the boot this week.

Mumble slammed the “fat cats” who had been running Safa prior to the elections whom he alleged wanted to get their hands on World Cup revenues. With Fifa keeping the TV rights money, Safa stands to earn over R1 billion from the 2010 gate takings.

Mumble alleged that a Safa meeting was held where it was debated that certain individuals should receive 10% of this revenue. This is believed to have been a major factor in many Safa regions turning towards the FTF in the presidential elections. “It was a ridiculous figure to award individuals,” Mumble told Kickoff.com. “They wanted to invest on, as ‘trustees’ from this massive cash boost that Safa will get.”

This should not come as a surprise given that it was Khoza, who was at the centre of arguing for payouts to PSL officials who had negotiated the SuperSport TV rights and Absa sponsorship deals. The biggest crime of it, though, is that any Safa official from the previous regime might have felt they deserved a payout. Safa does not organise the World Cup — this is done by the Local Organising Committee. Safa’s responsibility is Bafana Bafana, the youth teams, and the development and talent identification structures around the country. And on this count the association under the past leadership failed miserably, and hopelessly, as clearly indicated by 85th-ranked South Africa’s current struggle to be ready for the World Cup.

The new Safa leadership says it has a four-year plan. This is revolutionary language coming from an association that was completely unable to produce a six-year plan towards 2010, despite cries for one from coaches, officials and sectors of the press. Clearly the next six months has to be entirely focused on Bafana at 2010.

Following the World Cup, there is potential for all hell to break loose. Jordaan will take over as CEO of Safa, but Khoza still intends to take the Safa presidency issue to court once the current truce, which extends to the final of the World Cup on July 11, is called off. For now, the “Iron Duke’s” hold on Safa is clearly broken and the PSL is his last haven of power.

A deterrent that might stand in Khoza’s way of challenging the Safa issue is that once the smoke cleared from the last power struggle in South African football the Orlando Pirates owner had lost his grip on Safa, and he would not want the same to happen to his PSL chairmanship.

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