I was taken aback by Safa’s defiance of Sport Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s proposed football indaba. While I agree that Safa is an independent and autonomous body to some extent, its leadership cannot show the minister the middle finger.
Safa has made it clear that it is not ready to participate in a symposium that would “effectively be controlled by and owned by a third party”.
At its national executive committee extraordinary meeting last week, Safa resolved that none of its members would take part in the proposed indaba unless the association was the driver of the process.
The Safa hierarchy said allowing the sports department to drive the indaba would be in violation of Fifa statutes, which prohibit the interference of government in football matters.
But Safa is not bigger than everyone else and I don’t agree with its stance.
This is an opportunity to get our act together, and for football to take its rightful place in society.
In its defence, Safa refers to Vision 2022 and how it is on track to achieve its targets and goals.
But this is not the problem. There are so many documented challenges facing the sport in the country.
During his budget speech, Mthethwa said: “Football, as the number one loved sport in the country, needs to be assisted … Let us talk about what is happening in football, because things are not as they are supposed to be.”
What kind of assistance is he talking about? It is not clear where this comes from as government has not seen the need to resolve some of the impasses we have seen in our football.
Granted, we all know the problems facing football as they are well documented. As it is, the national Under-23s are in Egypt without some of their key players because of the ongoing spat between Safa and the PSL.
The relationship between the two most powerful institutions in the country should be cordial for the betterment of football.
Without this, we are not going anywhere as a country.
But this should not be the first stop for the minister.
The first stop should be at the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) as the mother body of all federations in the country. We all know the problems besetting Sascoc, yet the minister chooses to go for football first.
With next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games around the corner, this would have been a perfect opportunity to address their challenges.
As we speak, there are teams that have been denied a chance to participate in Tokyo, despite qualifying for their events.
I think the minister might have been misled or given the wrong impression about what is happening in our football.
His intentions might be clear and good, but it is the manner in which he is going about it that is problematic for me.
He should rather call a sports indaba – not just a football indaba – to address problems and challenges facing South African sport.
I agree with the minister that Safa is missing a golden opportunity to come to the table and pave the way forward for South African sport.
“It would be a tragedy if an important player, such as Safa, as the mother body of football in the country, doesn’t see the value in us coming together. But for now we have planned the indaba. Nobody has spoken to me, but I have seen things in the media. Maybe they [Safa] are still going to talk to us,” Mthethwa said.
“An indaba to be convened without Safa may not yield the results we need. That is why we want them, as the main body, to be there. We are open for everybody to be there and I will still urge them to be part of the indaba. As I am now, I am confident that we are going to have it and it will involve everybody.
“We have planned the indaba and it will continue – that’s what we have,” said Mthethwa.
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