Johannesburg - Tokyo Sexwale is ready to lead the SA Football Association (Safa) – but not in its current state because it needs change and a rethink.
The businessman has tentatively agreed to accept a people’s poll to elevate him to the top echelons of South African football.
He topped the National Football Consultative Forum’s list of challengers for the Safa presidency at its election next month.
However, Sexwale says the current situation is a recipe for disaster and likened the body to the ANC.
“They [Safa] are a house divided and, as a champion of unity, I cannot play a role of helping them to continue being divided. People will say, ‘here is a man who fights for unity globally, but can’t do it at home’. If they approach me as a united front, I will do it without any hesitation. I have a record and reputation to protect,” he said this week.
“The last thing I want is to perpetuate the current divisions we see in our football. I can’t race with anybody. I’m the one who stood for the unity of Fifa. I don’t want to add to the divisions. I’m not a power monger. I have achieved a lot in life. My commitment to and support of South African football is beyond question and my record speaks for itself.”
A second lobby group is the Football Transformation Forum, while another consists of former Safa national executive members and members of the public.
Sexwale says sport has the power to change lives and bring people together.
“In this Mandela centenary celebration year, football must rise to that challenge,” he said.
“There are divisions everywhere. Whoever thought there would be divisions in the ANC? The startling thing is that that’s where we are suffering. Even churches and political organisations are divided. The ANC has disappointed many people and we cannot afford that in football.”
He says he is ready to answer the nation’s call to prove that he is not a high-flyer.
He said that, after attending Harvard University (Fifa) and Oxford University (CAF), he is ready to come to Fort Hare (Safa) to prove he is a people’s person and not the high-flyer he is made out to be.
“People have been asking me when will I come back home. It is not by mistake that they want me because they have been watching. I have a choice to remain at Harvard and Oxford, but I also want to come to Fort Hare.”
He criticised those who questioned his credentials. He said he was saddened to hear claims that he was not a football person. He had lived his life in the game, from growing up in Dube, Soweto, to his time on Robben Island and in his role as an administrator in the Makana Football Association, and now his roles in Fifa and CAF and the National First Division sponsorship of Mvelaphanda.
“What an insult to say I just came into football through the back door. I have been a servant of this game for a long time. It is convenient for people to close their eyes and pretend you are a Johnny-come-lately.”
Sexwale said he was ashamed when Bafana Bafana were not at the recent African Nations Championship (Chan) in Morocco. He acknowledged South African football was in the doldrums and needed to be revived.
“Our football can be in a better space. It needs improvement. Anyone who wants to deny that we have problems needs to be properly examined.
“If we can’t qualify for the World Cup twice and also on our own continent, we have a big problem.
“It can’t be business as usual if we can’t go to Brazil. It can’t be normal if we are not in Chan. Again, there is something wrong when we are not going to Russia. Whoever doesn’t see this is clearly wrong. None are so blind as those who have eyes to see and yet they refuse to see.”
He says Safa is a national asset.
“It is not about positions. This is not a private property. If you want people not to talk about Safa, go buy your own club.”
He says it is wrong to paint some people as outcasts.
“They want to use legends when it favours them, but turn around and say ‘you are not in football’ when it suits them. I have heard this statement, which they use to advance negative tendencies.”
He was not sure if he was eligible to run for the presidency.
“I will respect what the [Safa] constitution says, but maybe there is room for improvement, like in Fifa.”
He revealed that Fifa and CAF had asked him and Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast to be special envoys to their presidents. This was “to make sure there is peace between governments and football federations, because there is tension everywhere”.
His parting shot was that Safa should learn from the divisions in the ANC.
“My message is that let’s not commit the same mistake that was committed by the best of the best – the ANC. To quote the old man, sport has the power to unite and, as a protégé of Mandela, this is what I want to bring.”