AFTER two years back in South Africa, it's time to address one of the serious problems surrounding the PSL, indisputably the richest league on the continent. It’s time to ask salient questions about the all-powerful Irvin Khoza, despite my twitter timeline being haunted by the Ghost of Soweto. Time to lay my cards on the table without fear or favour.
This isn't the blog I intended to put up today. My thoughts are drawn to Gordon Igesund's first Bafana Bafana squad and the resignation of England Test cricket captain Andrew Strauss, both of which will be announced today.
But the demands from Orlando Pirates fans on Facebook and Twitter knows no limits. They want me to explain why I feel their beloved Iron Duke should step down from his position of PSL chairman as soon as possible, for the sake of the game.
I should point out I've never met the man. Back in the 1980s, when I was heavily involved in South African football, the Iron Duke was a shadow in the foothills of football, a minor extra without an illustrious career in the game like the powerful figures of the time, Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono.
Khoza's rise to prominence, his incredible journey to a controlling position at Orlando Pirates, is easy to explain. The 64-year-old is a political genius, a master of diplomacy, despite an arrest for tax fraud in 2001 and two fines for insurance fraud.
He now holds a majority interest in the Orlando Stadium, has vast power within SAFA, decides the direction of the national team and - after playing a leading role in a highly successful World Cup on South African soil - he was able to focus on his beloved Buccaneers and they promptly picked up two successive trebles.
I'm told Khoza also has a stake in the Ellis Park sporting precinct, I've seen his mansion in Soweto - and he even has President Jacob Zuma in his family tree, though I won't go in to that here.
The conflict of interest inherent in Khoza's position as the major power at Orlando Pirates, the PSL and SAFA shouldn't need to be explained, but here I will list my reasons why I believe all is not right given the current status quo.
ONE: When Orlando Pirates fans got out of hand on Saturday night at Khoza's Orlando Stadium, I was there. I pointed out the paucity of trained stewards, the lack of warnings from the public address system and the presence of fireworks and bottles among the unsearched Ghost which led to a brief stoppage of game and several injuries.
On Monday on eNCAnews, eTV Sunrise, KayaFM, here and in The New Age, I highlighted a list of measures which should now be taken to ensure there is no repeat of the violence which broke out during a shock 3-0 MT8 defeat at the hands of SuperSport United.
With Khoza's Pirates fined FOUR TIMES since March last year, I called for immediate and punitive action. A big fine, a game played behind closed doors and further punishment for the apologetic Benni McCarthy, whose needless red card ultimately led to Saturday night's trouble, which I witnessed from a position amid the furious Buccaneer fans.
What did Khoza's PSL do? They charged arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs AND Orlando Pirates with failing control their fans. Once more, we witnessed the shrewd political machinations of the Iron Duke. The AmaKhozi DID throw a few things at Lotus Versfeld on August 5 but that was nearly a month ago, and there had been no calls for further action from ANYBODY. It was not a major incident.
It's arguable Chiefs deserved some sort of censure for their away fans that day, but in football, the conduct of travelling supporters is difficult to monitor. It may be that Khoza had no part to play in this decision to charge BOTH of South Africa's giants on the same day.
But as long as the Iron Duke runs both the PSL and Pirates, it's hard to see yesterday's move as anything other than an attempt to deflect attention away from the problems at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night, where Khoza is ultimately responsible for security and fan behaviour.
We shall find out if real action is taken against the Buccaneers on September 7, when the hearing in to both situations is held.
TWO: Though nobody is questioning Orlando Pirates' position as the premier team in South Africa after their two successive PSL championships, it was a bit of a surprise when FOR THE SECOND SEASON RUNNING, the Buccaneers were "drawn" to play Golden Arrows on the last day of last season.
Pirates duly won the PSL with that come-from-behind victory against Golden Arrows inspired by a Benni McCarthy brace. What are the odds on that happening, given the League fixtures are supposed to be drawn at random with the help of computer scheduling?
And, unless I've been misinformed, Khoza's relationship with Arrows chairperson Mato Madlala and her family goes back a long, long way, to the re-founding of the franchise in 1996. Again, this could be pure coincidence, but with the Pirates chairman in charge of the PSL, what are we to think?
THREE: With his side just hours away from opening the new season against, ironically, Golden Arrows, we had Squveve suddenly bursting on to our television screens to tell us all about the new-fangled “Q innovation” with sponsors ABSA.
Though I have no problem with the idea of giving the quarterly winners of the PSL R1.5m and the ultimate champions R10m, I said immediately that the added concept of providing R500,000 to journalists who correctly predicted the most results every quarter. That goes against journalistic ethics and, arguably, could even taint the attitude of certain media pundits.
To have the chairman change the rules of the PSL hours before his own team – aiming for a hat-trick of titles - kicked-off the season would be seen an unusual in any league in the world. To offer money to journalists rather than fans for their predictions? Unthinkable.
And the fact that only “certain” journalists have been approached for their predictions makes the whole thing curiouser still. Somehow media men critical of Khoza were left off the list – I can only speak for myself. PSL PRO Altaaf Kazi used to email me everything last season. Now I’m persona non grata, which is why I chose to sit in the stands at
Orlando last week rather than the press box.
Is that why neither of the major South African football websites mentioned the game-stopping trouble at the Orlando Stadium in their match reports on Saturday night? Of course, I could be wrong, but with Khoza in his dual position of power, it’s hard to put two and two together without making half a million.
FOUR: Whatever happened to PSL CEO Stanley Matthews? Why did he stand down when everything appeared to be going so well? I met Matthews a couple of times before his sudden departure in July, have tried to get him to talk to me about the problems which led to his resignation. I’ve heard nothing. Nobody has. It’s as if he never existed.
Could it be that he stood up to the machinations that were going on behind the scenes at the PSL? As a former SuperSport United executive, he would have railed against potential bias being shown toward any particular club. At the PSL awards at Gold Reef City I was particularly interested to see the relationship between Khoza and Matthews. And between the Pirates boss and Amakhosi founder Kaizer Motaung.
There was no doubt who was in charge, even at a largely social occasion. A couple of weeks later, Matthews was gone. So was Altaaf Kazi. We can only guess at the root causes of their unhappiness, but Khoza has done nothing to explain.
I will let this argument stand at that. Four good reasons why Irvin Khoza SHOULD NOT be allowed to run the PSL and the South African champions. I could go in to the failure of Danny Jordaan’s FIFA-backed bid for the SAFA presidency, the bizarre posse of unwanted Pirates who headed to promoted Chippa United shortly after their promotion or the PSL’s strange silence on the corruption charges against Bobby Motaung earlier this month.
But I won’t. I daren’t. Instead, chew over the four scenarios above. Understand that I have no bias here. It is in the interests of South African football to have an efficient administration, and we all know Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are integral to the success of the PSL.
What I fear is this. If South African football is run as a monopoly, with the chairman having direct links to the president of the country, FIFA and/or CAF will act. Just as they threw Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel out of the African League after a missile-throwing crowd invasion last week, Pirates must put their ship in order.
Justice must be seen to be done. And, though Pirates fans won’t like it, the only way to do that is to appoint a neutral PSL chief and a new CEO. Not to mention a proper head of SAFA rather than a compromise candidate.
It won’t be painless. But in the long run, South African football will benefit.