By Samindra Kunti
February 25 – CAF presidential candidate Patrice Motsepe and his team have expressed confidence that they will obtain 35+ votes on the way to claiming the throne in African football.
With fifteen days left until the presidential elections of the African ruling body in Rabat, Morocco, the South African billionaire businessmen launched a ten-point manifesto in Johannesburg, titled ‘Building African Football To Be The Best In The World’, that painted his view for the future of the African game and articulating his potential policies as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president for the first time.
Flanked by controversial Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) president Phillip Chiyangwa and South African Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan, Motsepe revealed that good governance, introducing global best practices, investment in African football infrastructure, increasing prize money and statutory reforms would be high on his agenda if he is elected as CAF president.
Africa’s tenth-richest man, with an estimated wealth of $2.5 billion, repeatedly stressed the need to engage more with the private sector as well.
His allies, with a majority of FA presidents from the COSAFA region in the audience in Sandton, South Africa, presented Motsepe as a ‘difference maker’ and a breath of fresh air given CAF’s long history of corruption and unsavory presidents.
The confidence in the Motsepe camp was striking. Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick, who together with Jordaan toured Africa to campaign with and for Motsepe, called his candidate “a game changer”, saying that “for the first time in football, Africa is about to get it right.”
Pinnick quipped: “We are looking at 40 votes – between, 35, 38 and 40.”
“There are 54 countries and the last time we backed Ahmad we did 35, that is what we predicted in Harare,” said Chiyangwa. “I am looking at upwards of that, let’s work on that. As a matter of fact, we are fighting for upwards of Ahmad’s numbers. This time around, it is a much more aggressive fight.”
“We have not grown because people were looking for a way or place to feed their belly. You are a better candidate. We will fight. If they go dirty we go dirty; if they go smart, we go smart.”
In recent months, Motsepe campaigned and lobbied on the sidelines of the African Nations Championship (CHAN), the Club World Cup in Qatar and travelled extensively in west and central Africa to court FA presidents. He also passed through Egypt, where CAF has its headquarters. Last month, regional body COSAFA endorsed Motsepe unanimously, bringing the South African a voting block of 14 nations.
When pressed about where his votes and a way to victory would come from, Motsepe refrained from any grandstanding, with a typically evasive answer. He said: “President Philippe, president Jordaan and all the others have really done a lot of good work, but the key issue is to make sure there are extensive discussions throughout the continent, and the expectations and the aspirations of all of the regions are taken into account. The issue of where you are going to get what amount of votes is a matter that will reveal itself, except to emphasize that there is no place in the African continent that we are not engaging, but also that we are not seeking advice from.”
With D-day in Rabat drawing near, the build-up to the CAF elections has not been without twists, turns and drama. FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s African tour has invited much scrutiny for its timing, but Motsepe downplayed his relationship with the FIFA boss, who is believed to favour the South African. Last year, the pair met at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“I am seen to be getting the backing of FIFA,” explained Motsepe. “They said the same thing about the president of Mauritania, who is also a candidate and then when they saw that was not too successful they raised other issues which sought to create negativity between Infantino and myself. [There is] lots of misinformation.”
Even so, the campaign of the Mamelodi Sundowns owner had operated largely in the shadows until today’s news conference. In November, the mining magnate surprisingly announced his intention to run in the CAF presidential elections. In the past two decades, Motsepe has had a marked presence in both South African and international football, but the motives for his candidature have remained vague with questions asked why Motsepe, with strong business credentials, would want to meddle in the murky world of CAF politics?
He said: “I was asked three, four times: ‘will you stand for CAF?’ I said: ‘No, Absolutely not!’ I am at the stage of my life where I most enjoy the work of my philanthropy. The problem is when I focus on doing something, it requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and more importantly, tangible progress. There is no one in Africa who has lost more money in football than I have. It’s a stupid love. African football must become the best in the world. It won’t happen overnight, but that is the test of what we are going to do over the next few years. For me, the test is what the results are going to be. You have got to win in the 90 minutes. The buck stops with the president.”
With those lofty ambitions for the African game, Motsepe echoes the views of Infantino, who has repeatedly beat the drum for the development of the African game.
First, however, Motsepe will have to navigate a tough electoral field to win the CAF presidency. He is running against Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast‚ Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Yahya from Mauritania, who are all affiliated to member associations and belong to the continent’s Francophone contingent.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618093226labto1618093226ofdlr1618093226owedi1618093226sni@o1618093226fni1618093226