Pressing Issues: A year on, soccer’s leadership has reason to gloat, but...

2014-09-26 18:45

On Sunday, the SA Football Association (Safa) leadership will mark its first year in office.

They won the election on the back of the Football Transformation Forum (FTF), a vehicle formed as a campaigning structure before Safa’s 2009 elections.

In those elections, the FTF managed to propel a number of its candidates into office – except its presidential candidate Danny Jordaan.

He, along with Irvin Khoza, withdrew their candidacies. Their leadership had become such a contentious issue, it threatened to throw the body’s annual general meeting (AGM) into disarray.

As a result, Kirsten Nematandani, the compromise candidate, became president.

It took until a year ago for Jordaan to at last ascend the coveted throne for South African football administration. On October 11, Safa will hold its first AGM under the year-old leadership.

It will – the association has said – report a breakeven in its financials, no doubt hoping to report a profit next year after the turnaround strategy.

This plan was formulated and successfully implemented by Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble.

The policy has seen the association lose a number of staff members (most of whom were deadwood anyway) and cut down on its travel, accommodation and cellphone expenses.

The strategy has also been helped by roping in Ernst?&?Young, the auditing firm now known simply as EY, as well as a financial injection from pay-TV service Siyaya, which has secured Safa’s broadcast rights for six years, beginning next year.

The leadership will be beating its drum on its appointment of Shakes Mashaba as the Bafana Bafana coach. It was a popular decision and has so far yielded positive results.

There is a good vibe about Bafana following Mashaba’s fresh approach on selection, as well as the two positive results, a win against Sudan and a draw against perennial nemesis Nigeria.

The Safa leadership will tell anyone who will listen that it has heard the criticism regarding its lack of development.

It has responded, it will say, by starting junior leagues for boys and girls in almost all the local football associations in its 52 regions.

Safa will also be congratulating itself on the appointment of an internationally recognised coach for the women’s national team, Banyana Banyana.

It will go on about the unprecedented number of friendly matches played by Banyana – a team that has qualified to play at the African Women’s Championships in Namibia next month.

Safa will also report that Banyana are not the only team to qualify for a continental tournament. The Under-20 lads, Amajita, have qualified as well.

They might also include in their report the international Under-19 tournament staged successfully in Durban – in which Safa partnered with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and the eThekwini municipality.

With all these boxes ticked, the Safa leadership will have some reason to boast. But there are a few more issues to be tackled, and there are some questions to be answered.

One that keeps being asked centres on the FTF’s relevance. There are question marks around the role of this structure.

Those outside it – the majority of whom lost hands down in the last elections – see the FTF as a divisive unit.

Even some within the structure are now questioning its relevance.

This might turn out to be the biggest challenge for Jordaan if he wants to maintain unity within Safa, and it might just prove to be an elephant in the room.

We don’t want to go back to the days of the A and B teams in Safa. Those who were around then know how divisive those structures proved to be for our football.

Another issue that needs to be dealt with once and for all is that involving suspended vice-president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana.

Having already dragged its feet for far longer than necessary, the manner in which Safa resolves this matter is important.

Then there is the problem of Safa’s eThekwini region, which recently held its elections only to have them nullified by the head office.

Here too there’s an element of the FTF. And it is important that Safa ensures these shenanigans are resolved amicably.

So while there are many positives, the challenges are just as plenty. It is important to resolve all the problems and steer the Safa ship into clearer waters for the future.

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