Wednesday, 21 August 2013

THE SAFA PRESIDENCY: With Danny and Irvin going head-to-head, is Kirsten the only peaceful option?

The big three: Khoza, Jordaan and Nematandani

KIRSTEN NEMATANDANI is not your typical national football president. Through the alleged match-fixing, the alleged near-bankruptcy, the alleged bribery of regional representatives, the alleged fleet of Mercedes, the 55-year-old has kept his head above water as the leader of the South African Football Association.

Appointed as a "compromise candidate" when Irvin Khoza and Danny Jordaan went head to head at the end of 2009, Kirsten has not had it easy.

With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa looming, Khoza was ruled out of the top job because of his club affiliation. Jordaan was asked not to stand as he was running the World Cup local organising committee. The meeting which elevated Nematandani to the SAFA presidency involved judges, arguments and slanging matches.

From that day until this, Nematandani has been the scapegoat for many of South African football's shortcomings. He was the man suspended when FIFA's pre-World Cup match-fixing report dropped, he had to accept his resinstatement in the SAFA House car park, he was the man accused of cocking-up when sponsors left, when money ran short.

But under his reign South Africa has successfully hosted a World Cup AND an African Cup of Nations. Under his reign, Irvin "Four Jobs" Khoza's thirst for power has been frightening to watch while Jordaan probes carefully from his position as a SAFA vice-president with strong links at FIFA and CAF and that R500m FIFA Legacy fund cash burning a hole in his pocket.

Danny has told me he will "definitely" stand for SAFA President on September 28. Khoza is leaving it to his allies to change the constitution to allow his candidacy which will see the head of the PSL, NSL and Orlando Pirates grab another hugely powerful position.

Tonight, from a source I can't reveal, I'm told Kaizer Motaung will take over from Khoza as PSL chairman if the Iron Duke gets the SAFA job. But with the added information: "Kaizer will just be a "ghost" chairman, Khoza will really run the PSL and SAFA."

And between these two men stands Nematandani. Kirsten was born in Makhado near Louis Trichardt in 1958. He speaks five languages and has a footballing background, coaching Chibuku Young Stars in 1986-88 before moving in to administration.

Neither Khoza nor Jordaan can boast that. Administration rather than football was their goal. I have in my possession documents suggesting all kinds of things surrounding the dispute between the two heavyweights. Publicly, Khoza and Jordaan proclaim to be best mates, both support Orlando Pirates, both politically connected to the very top in this football-loving nation.

And then there's Kirsten. Nice bloke, articulate, desperately trying to keep the ship sailing comfortably amid the machinations with the still unannounced Presidential inquiry into match-fixing lurking in the background.

Checking the facts: lunch with Danny Jordaan

I spoke to Kirsten off the record tonight. I've spoken to Jordaan in depth about the state of affairs at SAFA.

What I can say is Kirsten remains keen to be the filling in the sandwich, the arbitrator between club owning millionaire Khoza and long-time ANC sports politician Jordaan.

Nematandani told me tonight: "It's not been easy Neal, but somebody needs to get these two factions to work together. We don't want one becoming President and the other left out. That has been my job for nearly four years. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability."

It's an unenviable task. Khoza has created a PSL which is largely successful but often chaotic. His ownership of one of South Africa's largest club's calls his position in to question constantly. Jordaan will put country ahead of club at last, and he will focus on development rather than short-term goals.

But Nematandani claims he can keep the pair from going to war, his presidential mandate from the start. Perhaps this strange compromise is the way forward, the only peaceful solution.

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