Blame game over Afcon shambles continues

MEC Lebogang Maile and LOC CEO Mvuzo Mbebe at loggerheads

With a week to go before the 2013 season kicks off, the blame game is continuing unabated as organisers point fingers at each other.

Not that anyone from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – the owners of the event – is anywhere to be seen or heard as the decibels rise.

Unlike Fifa secretary Jerome Valcke, who became a South African resident prior to the 2010 World Cup, his CAF counterpart Hicham El Amrani has been almost invisible.

He and president Issa Hayatou were last here in October for the final draw in Durban.

By the time of going to print, Amrani had not responded to questions City Press sent him.

This week, the gloves came off between Lebogang Maile, the Gauteng MEC for sports and recreation, and Local Organising Committee (LOC) chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe.

Maile accused the LOC of failing to market and promote the event, saying even their ticket distribution was ineffective.

“They cannot blame us for the slow ticket sales because that is not our responsibility. If people don’t come to the stadium it will be because of the ticket sales, not us. They stopped well-established ticket-selling networks, which people are used to and got their own people. This is a setup for failure,” said a seething Maile.

“We made sure the stadium was paid for and again made the money available for Bafana. We are the first team to make people aware of the event with our campaigns and where was the LOC? They should not make their incompetencies ours and we will not keep quiet about our unhappiness.”

An angry Maile pointed out that it was not government that was hosting the tournament but the LOC, so they should handle all the marketing and preparations.

He also blamed Safa for approaching the Gauteng government late to assist in hosting last night’s Bafana Bafana final friendly match against Algeria. He said Safa had approached them early this week to assist with funding and other logistics.

Maile said this was the reason for the change in the kick-off time, from the original 3.30pm to 8.30pm. Safa also issued a press statement late on Thursday afternoon to say that an evening Bafana Bafana training session, to which the media had been invited, was “called off”.

However, Mbebe did not take all this lying down and hit back on Friday, saying Maile had failed to deliver on the promises made.

“I’m saying this guardedly, that the MEC is misdirecting himself because in the agreement it is very clear who is responsible for what, with each and every city and province responsible for marketing the event,” said Mbebe.

“The MEC is well aware that the budget came straight from the National Treasury to the City of Joburg. So how can he blame us for marketing, when the money is coming directly from there?” asked Mbebe.

He said each host city had put money aside to mobilise people and that the LOC did not have the money.

“He never said: ‘CEO, here is the money, go and market the city.’ He must come and show what is it that he asked me to do that I have not done and he must show what they have done that they promised. He can be as emotional as he wants, but the fact is that they have done nothing.”

However, Mbebe said this was not the time to play a blamegame but for everyone to pull together.

He said people should stop pointing fingers and start delivering.

“We have conceded that we have not done everything that we should have done but we should spend less time arguing about who should have done what. People came and made the bid and if we started making ticks on their bid, you would find there is a lot that has not been done.”

But with five days to go, Mbebe said he had few concerns.

“I don’t think we have got the message across effectively that we need to deal with this in the proper context, as an African event.

“The problem is that we will host successfully but remain divided, pointing fingers at each other. Already people are worried about whose fault it is.”

Mbebe said he was still not comfortable that host cities would be able to deal with the expected last-minute influx of supporters, adding that it would be embarrassing to see more foreigners in stadiums than South Africans, particularly at Bafana matches.

“The South African culture of buying tickets late is going to be a problem,” he said.

Mbebe added that the province had made its commitments even before the City of Joburg submitted their bid to host.

Maile said the LOC should not shift the goalposts and try to hide their incompetence by playing the blamegame.

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