Thursday, 21 July 2016

LIARS AND BUYERS: South African football slides in to chaos... even if Lesufi can find R55m by Friday

WEEKS ago I said the PSL were getting in to awkward territory when they agreed to John Comitis buying Mpumalanga Black Aces while Panyaza Lesufi was publicly expressing his desire to buy a place for Moroka Swallows back in the top flight.

For the third time in a year, I produced FIFA and NSL documents showing that the “buying of promotion” was illegal in modern football, that it had been out-lawed since 2007.

But nobody listened. Comitis was allowed to demolish Aces, taking 14 of their players 1000 miles south to his new-fangled Cape Town City, while swapping coaches with Orlando Pirates.

Turk Muhsin Etrugral was grabbed by Khoza amid surprising levels of optimism from Bucca fans, Eric Tinkler was dispatched to Cape Town where, as far as I can tell, another eight players are still needed to complete a workable squad for the “boys in blue”, who plan to play their games on Friday nights in the Mother City.

All this in a tourist mecca that barely produces enough paying fans for one club, let alone a second one apparently constructed purely to under-mine Ajax Cape Town.

That was bad enough. What has happened with Free State Stars and Moroka Swallows’ powerful ANC MEC for Education Lesufi is sending South African football headlong in to chaos.

Eight days ago, after much huffing and puffing, Lesufi went on Metro FM with Robert Marawa and, though he would not say which club he had bought, the mighty Marawa assured us: “This deal is done.”

With Lesufi proclaiming The Birds were now owned by a “consortium of supporters”, we looked forward to “final authorisation” from the PSL last week with R55m promised to ease the pain of Free State Stars, who would duly buy an NFD franchise and play their way back to the top flight.

It was at that point, Orlando Pirates got involved. An agent was dispatched to Bethlehem even as Lesufi made his brave proclamations. Within 24 hours, Justice Chabalala, wanted by Kaizer Chiefs, Sello Japhta and the talented Ayanda Nkosi had all decamped for the Sea Robbers.

And Bradley Carnell, the former Bundesliga star who helped Stars sign up new French coach Denis Lavagne, suddenly found himself at a “big club” for the first time. We chatted about it, I’ve always rated Carnell... but the whole saga surprised us both.

A week later and, apart from a rabble-rousing meeting with Swallows fans on Sunday, nothing happened. No official announcement from the PSL. No word from Stars to their bemused fans, though they played in a local tournament over the weekend under Lavagne but without the trio who had left for Pirates.

And then Irvin Khoza, chairman of both Pirates and the PSL for over 20 years, called an emergency conference at the PSL to tell us NO DEAL, the money hadn’t been deposited, Lesufi has until Friday to come up with the cash or Free State Stars would be resurrected like a footballing Lazarus.

As a rambling, almost incoherent Khoza told us: "We hope that Ntate Lesufi is listening together with the people of the trust he's involved in.

"I want to appeal to MEC Lesufi that together with whoever he's involved with in the consortium to finalise this ASAP.

"If we we don't have clarity by the end of the week there will be no transaction, change of club or anything like that. There will be nothing for us to consider. Our position as the League, right now, is that we await a full report from the parties."

Khoza, who stands astride our football like a gold-toothed Robert Mugabe, rambled: "I spoke to Mr Lesufi and he apologised. I hope they will conclude it this week. Because we can't wait too long.

"We are dissappointed because they let the cat out of the bag prematurely. As it stands, no application has been made.

"If the intention of this trust is to buy the club and seek a name change, that is a matter to be dealt with when the time comes (Khoza claims the name Moroka Swallows had NEVER been mentioned).

Khoza went on to make similar contradictory, never-ending comments on Metro FM a couple of hours later, waxing lyrical about footballing traditions, and the pain caused to Free State Stars “players, officials and family”.

But of course, he was being economical with the truth. A deal HAD been done, and Khoza himself was part of that deal, as he immediately grabbed as many Stars staff as he could for free.

The only hitch? Lesufi failed to deposit the R55m, money that, for some reason, is linked to an agent called Francesco Ferreri, an Italian South African who has featured before without distinction as an agent involved at Moroka Swallows and named by sources in Zimbabwe during their recent match-fixing scandal.

I’d like to say such chaos is normal in the running of a football league, but it’s not. This goes way beyond Greek and Turkish footballing mayhem and in to the dark reaches of corruption and fraud.

Khoza knew about the Lesufi deal - the proof is in the pudding with Nkosi, Japhta, Chabalala and Carnell - and to say Panyaza’s “brand” will be ruined by non-payment is pure hypocrisy.

Lesufi has only himself to blame for the mess he now finds himself in. But if the money is paid by Friday, the YESMEN culture in our game will rescue his reputation and, as Marawa said over a week ago, Panyaza will return to being a candidate for South African President for his manic bid to rescue Moroka Swallows who, whatever happens, are scheduled to play in the third division ABC Motsepe League next season.

Khoza sits with the spoils of the deal in the Pirates training camp in Potchefstroom. Lesufi is scrabbling around for R55m (Khoza said it was “more than Comitis paid for Aces”) and Free State Stars don’t know if they’re in the PSL, the NFD or the grave yard.

These are the facts. The questions that move us beyond this chaos are these:

Will Pirates return the three Stars and their new assistant coach Carnell to Free State Stars if the deal falls through?

Can Free State Stars continue to function given the club's silence during this sordid affair? Will their tiny band of fans simply give up?

Can Khoza, 68, continue to run the PSL where he has presided for over 20 years given his bizarre outbursts which appeared to amount to threats against ANC MEC Lesufi?

Just a political thought: can Lesufi himself escape unscathed as a prominent politician given his part in all this?

And all this of course, flying in the face of FIFA’s directives. You can’t buy promotion, politicians can’t be involved in football, players cannot be discarded or sent to another club unless they are consulted.

In proper footballing nations, teams are deducted 10 points if they go bankrupt. They are demoted, like Scottish champions Rangers, to the LAST available division.

It’s a mess. A terrible mess. Even if Lesufi gets his money by Friday and Khoza goes silent, we face a PSL season like none other. FOUR new clubs, 10 teams out of 16 who look very different to last season. And barely a transfer fee in sight. Millions paid to change clubs, not a penny spent on academies or development.

Though the PSL won’t confirm it, our national premier division suffered their lowest EVER attendances last season, dipping under 6,000. Will Cape Town City, Moroka FC, Highlands Park and Baroka stop that decline? I seriously doubt it.

We are caught up in something called the Carling Champions Cup which involves the fifth and seventh best teams in the country. Two of our Olympic squad are going to be late for Rio because of it.

And PSL sponsors ABSA? Do they get told what happens to their millions?

One final point: Is SAFA, the umbrella under which all this happens, even aware? Has Danny Jordaan, like Lesufi a prominent ANC politician, shown ANY interest?

Here's what I wrote when AmaZulu football, my favourite team, were trying to buy a place back in the PSL a year ago:


  1. All these transactions are illegal. They are against Fifa laws of the game. The less I say about the Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral candidate the better. For the first time in my footballing life, will see four new teams in a season. I doubt Swallows FC and Cape Town City FC will ever be relegated. Deep pockets will come to their rescue.

  2. Yoh yoh, this is a fiasco.There will be a conflict of interest when a club's chairman is also the league's chairman,including the exec.Sadly its been normalized.Rotten to the core Ace Ncgobo once said!