South African football is crying out for new leadership

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - On Saturday, I will be at Cape Town Stadium watching the Nedbank Cup final between Maritzburg United and Free State Stars. 

It's not the most glamorous match you could ever hope to see, but this one is personal. 

For four years between 2011 and 2015, I was Maritzburg United's dedicated reporter at the Natal Witness. It was my only beat, and I spent countless afternoons and evenings at Harry Gwala Stadium watching coaches and players come and go. 

Not once during those years did the thought of the 'Team of Choice' winning a trophy ever cross my mind, but it looks a real possibility now and Saturday could end up being a special day for anyone who has ever been involved with the club. 

A success story like Maritzburg’s is one of the shining lights in a domestic season that has ended in disarray.

The PSL, like SAFA, is failing.

Trying to understand why South African football remains such a problematic product will keep you up at night. It is, seemingly, a lost cause. 

The events of the past couple of days have been a hammering blow to the league’s credibility.

With 2017/18 done and dusted, or so we thought, the PSL dropped a bombshell on Tuesday by docking Ajax Cape Town seven points for fielding the ineligible Tendai Ndoro in seven matches throughout the domestic season. 

Ndoro, as per FIFA ruling, was not allowed to play for Ajax since it was the third club he had signed for in a single season. 

As a result, Ajax have been shifted to the bottom of the table and are now relegated, while Platinum Stars have been given a chance to survive via the promotion/relegation playoffs. The PSL table on Tuesday looked very different to the PSL table on Sunday. 

The promotion/relegation playoffs got underway on Wednesday despite Ajax trying to get them postponed in court. 

The legalities of the situation are complex - of that there is no doubt - but at the end of the day the PSL needs to be held accountable. 

Simply put, it's all been a hell of a mess, and it could have been avoided with better governance.

In times like this, the PSL looks an amateur product, run by amateur administrators. South Africans deserve better.

Irvin Khoza is the PSL’s chairperson and also the owner of Orlando Pirates. Mato Madlala is the PSL’s acting CEO (she has been since 2015), but also the owner of Golden Arrows.

Those conflicts of interests don’t seem to be an issue for anyone.

The PSL’s reaction to the crowd violence that erupted at Moses Mabhida Stadium a few weeks ago was concerning, but it was such a good example of the lack of leadership in domestic football.

At a time where the PSL needed to stand up and accept responsibility, Khoza instead shifted the blame to Kaizer Chiefs and stadium security.

The game in South Africa is about a few influential individuals who never seem to go away and do very little for the greater good.

From Danny Jordaan to accusations of match fixing and World Cup briefcases, to stadium violence and corruption, South African football is broken.

And yes, it’s easy to sit here and throw stones and paint a picture of everything that is wrong with the sport without offering any solutions.

The truth, though, is that the only solution is to get rid of the pollution that is the aged, tired leadership.

Jordaan, Khoza, Madlala … they all need to step away.

Soccer in South Africa needs new drive and direction, because right now Bafana Bafana are nowhere and the PSL can’t seem to get through one season without drama.

When clubs are relegated, they can buy their way back into the league. It means that brands come and go. How can teams build any sustainable loyalty in an environment where whole clubs can be dismantled in a second?

Make no mistake, SAFA remain the guiltiest party in all of this. The PSL, at least, is a commercial success.

The responsibility to grow the game and give opportunities to young players is SAFA’s, and they are failing dismally at that.

But the handling of the Ajax case is the PSL’s baby, and they have dropped the ball badly.

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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