Motsepe hits the campaign trail but think-tank casts doubt over his political savvy

By Andrew Warshaw, extra reporting by Samindra Kunti

February 10 – With still no formal government support for this candidacy, South African millionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe (pictured) appears to be struggling to gain sufficient backing to become the next president of the Confederation of African Football.

Motsepe, nominated by his national federation (SAFA), has been campaigning both in Cameroon at the CHAN tournament and, latterly, in Qatar at the Club World Cup, both of which were attended by the majority of CAF’s 54 member federations.

Unless present incumbent Ahmad Amhad miraculously has his appeal against his FIFA ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Motsepe will battle it out with Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania),  Augustine Senghor (Senegal) and Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast) for CAF’s  top position.

“Most of the guys are of the view that this is the guy who can give CAF a fresh start,” SAFA head of communications Dominic Chimhavi was quoted as saying in a South African media. “CAF is reeling from financial losses.”

Chimhavi believes Motsepe, owner of Mamelodi Sundowns, the flagship club of South African football, can probably count on the support of Cosafa, the voting block with 14 member associations.

“Don’t forget that Cosafa played a role in Ahmad Ahmad winning [the CAF presidency]. They voted as a block, and they vowed to do the same thing… to vote for Motsepe as a block,” he said.

Yet despite his renowned business skills Motsepe will not be encouraged by a report in his own country casting doubt on his ability to win the election on March 12.

The Institute for Strategic Studies, according to  public broadcaster SABC, judges Motsepe’s chances of being elected as “slim”.

The report notes that Motsepe can count on “very great connections” but that he is engaged in a field requiring “certain qualities which are foreign to him”.A Motsepe-led CAF “would undoubtedly be enterprising and could improve the image of the continental football body which in its history has never been run by a national of Southern Africa,” the report is quoted as saying.

But without the support of a government, ironically led by his brother-in-law Cyril Ramaphosa, Motsepe will have his work cut out.

Instead of benefiting from the official support of South Africa, the body continues, Motsepe relies above all on the support of SAFA boss Danny Jordaan, a veteran of football politics but whose star has waned somewhat in recent years.

“Motsepe must be made aware that he is facing a battle which requires political tactics from African football and some of these tactics are not taught at board meetings of private companies.”

Motsepe on the road

Meanwhile Motsepe is intensifying his electoral campaign in Qatar at FIFA’s Cub World Cup after attending the final stages of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon.

Morocco won the continental title defeating Mali 2-0 in the final and the tournament provided the perfect opportunity for the South African billionaire businessman to court national FA presidents. In Qatar, he will pursue another charm offensive on the sidelines of the Club World Cup.

The FIFA competition culminates with Thursday’s final between European champions Bayern Munich and CONCACAF champions Tigres. A slate of African FA presidents are on the guest list for the match.

“It is just a question of polishing the campaign, which has been going well,”  said Chimhavi.“I’m pleased to say Dr Motsepe was well received in the continent. I mean, he was in Cameroon this past week.”

“… The belief with the FA presidents is that there is only one man who can resurrect CAF, and that person is the Sundowns owner.”

The CAF presidential elections will be staged in March in Rabat, Morocco.

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