|High hopes for the President: Danny and me|
THE breathtaking betrayal of South African football is neatly summed up in two minutes on a cell phone with SAFA president Danny Jordaan - just 24 hours before another humiliation for our national team.
At the end of a rocky week which saw our top football administrator co-opted by the ruling ANC to become mayor of his home city, Jordaan launched in with: “I have never been paid a cent by the South African Football Association.”
Seconds later, he was detailing how, just this year, he was “awarded R80,000 after tax” by SAFA officials.
Confused? Obviously. We all are. Jordaan and his acolytes have been on the warpath ever since his elevation to mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay municipality was announced. Text messages, tweets and phone calls designed to hush my voice of utter disappointment have been flying faster than Bafana Bafana goalkeeping changes.
But Jordaan, typically, sees no contradiction between “not being paid” and “receiving an honorarium” from SAFA. Just as he sees no difference between “political bias in football” and “being appointed mayor by the government”. Just as he cannot understand why “I can do both jobs” jars heavily with “I need more time to achieve my objectives at SAFA”.
And yes, there he was the next day, shaking hands with Shakes Mashaba's Bafana Bafana before a penalty shoot-out defeat against Botswana in the COSAFA Cup quarter-final on home soil. For clarity: Botswana are ranked 105 in the world, Mashaba has not won in five competitive games and we are going backwards at an alarming rate. But Jordaan feels none of my desperation.
The man is a walking conundrum. He is able to say one thing and do another without blinking an eyelid. But do not mistake this for a hatchet job. Danny and I have been close since before the World Cup in 2010, we have lunched together on several occasions (see picture above), he was my preferred choice for SAFA president when the unlamented Kirsten Nematandani stood down.
I really thought Jordaan would sweep through the mess that is South African football. That he would sort out the match-fixing allegations so boldly laid out by FIFA; that the FIFA World Cup legacy fund – showing a balance of more than R350m when he gave me copies of the account – would be used to develop our game from the bottom up.
Sadly, Jordaan has achieved NOTHING since his appointment. Something I believed impossible. To the match-fixing and the legacy fund nightmares, we can now add a host of new problems which have arisen since Jordaan took office.
It was never going to be easy. In our discussions, Danny told me how – before the fall of Apartheid –he was summoned to the ANC in exile in Lusaka, and asked by the late Oliver Tambo, to “look after our sport, particularly football” when freedom came in 1994.
In one emotional exchange, Jordaan – banned by the old fascist government – told how he was forced to go underground only to be told when democracy came “you are not black enough to run football in South Africa”.
But Jordaan battled through. Elected to serve as an ANC MP in the 1994 elections, he stood down in 1997 to oversee the Cape Town Olympic bid which never quite made it. He went on to spearhead Sepp Blatter’s great ambition – to bring the World Cup to Africa. In 2010 he received great credit for his role in a near-faultless tournament but in truth, it was Blatter’s triumph, and Jordaan’s closeness to Jerome Valcke did little more than make our nation more profitable for the dictatorial guardians of the global game.
Becoming president of SAFA was supposed to be Jordaan’s crowning glory. His attempts at progressing up the slippery slope of Issa Hayatou’s Confederation of African Football failed utterly but he still had SAFA and promises.
When he appointed Shakes Mashaba to run our national team a year ago, Danny fully recognised the risks. He told me “Shakes needs technical help. I will be sending him to see FIFA’s technical guru Gerard Houllier and we will be appointing a Techinical Director to help.”
Of course, neither of those things happened, and South Africa returned from AFCON in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year with a single point after an impressive qualifying campaign. Technically, Bafana were woeful. Mashaba actually boasted about changing goalkeepers three times in three games, his inability to grasp modern tactics was there for all to see, the team disappeared for days after a disastrous exit.
But fawning SAFA officials insisted on lauding Shakes for “a great AFCON” despite producing the worst showing of the 16 qualifying nations despite leading in all three group games. Mashaba went in to the tournament promising victory, he returned to offer a report on the event which never reached the public sphere.
Jordaan insists everything is still in hand. When he rang me, I was about to board a flight at King Shaka International airport. My notes are dotted all around a page of the newspaper I was reading in the departure lounge. It makes for difficult reading if you’re a Jordaan fan, as I had been up to his “mayoral appointment”. I guess I was hoping for a sudden burst of success, a miraculous solving of our problems. Not anymore. Not when you look at the problems facing the FOURTH mayor of his home town in a trouble decade of corruption and incompetence.
Jordaan says: “Neal, you must get the facts right, you must not rush to conclusions. I can’t appoint a Technical Director until we have built a new Technical Centre (an R65m development south of Johannesburg). Dennis Mumble is in charge of that. We are having problems with the paperwork.
“But you cannot appoint the doctor until the hospital is built. When the new Technical Centre comes on-line, we will appoint the Technical Director.
“Houllier? I’ll be speaking to him at the FIFA Congress next month (when Blatter is likely to be voted in once more) or at the World Cup draw. I’m sure I’ll be able to persuade him to come and speak to Shakes.”
A year later, and this is the level of “service delivery” Nelson Mandela Bay’s new mayor can offer. How about the gun amnesty for our Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa, promised after he was shot and killed at Kelly Khumalo’s house last year? And the statue Danny promised to build from the melted down weapons?
“Look Neal, what I can tell you is the government has promised to review the legislation on gun ownership as a result of pressure from SAFA. That is our tribute to Senzo.”
Again, that painful gap between reality and truth. Like the payment issue. There was widespread disbelief when Jordaan insisted he was not paid by SAFA. And he’s at it again on the phone: “I have no SAFA credit card. I have no SAFA petrol card. I work for nothing as a non-executive President.”
But when I ask him if he received money from the ANC he admits to the honorarium: “Every year when we pass the financial report, SAFA delegates agree to a “gift” for all National Executive members. The amount varies. But I can tell you that, after tax, the last one came to R80,000, but that’s over a 12 month period.
“Nobody owns me. Nobody pays me. I have FIVE houses, all paid off. I have two cars, all paid off. My wife and my son work. You are asking me personal questions about my income and I am answering them.”
But he’s not. Jordaan tells me how he used to be a university lecturer and a member of parliament, but he doesn’t explain how that paid for five houses and two cars. Clearly there were some significant “honorariums” in previous years.
But a steady income is just around the corner. He tells me: “I am not the major of Nelson Mandela Bay yet. I still have to be confirmed in the role, but I will be paid a salary by the municipality from June, I think.
“There is no political problem with me running SAFA and Port Elizabeth. Many SAFA members have political roles, not just with the ANC. And internationally, many FA officials have political affiliations.
“You must relax Neal, it will all be fine. I can do both jobs. You must come down to Port Elizabeth, I’ll show your around the offices.”
And how else do you end such a call, other than: “Okay Danny. Best of luck. I think you might need it.”
And you put down the phone. And put your head in your hands.