16 March 2021- It is said that if you win, then you have many friends but if you lose, you’re an orphan. It therefore goes without saying that no one dares to lose. It still rings in my ears, the sound of victory when the former President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, announced South Africa as the hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Immediately, South Africa had many friends as the impossible became possible.

Around 6 November 2020, Dr Jordaan, the SAFA President hatched the idea that South Africa must contest the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Presidency. The question was, WHO should be nominated to contest the presidency. Having been exposed to the shenanigans on the continent, his own name was a consideration but not an option. Dr Jordaan then touted the idea of Dr Patrice Motsepe as a possible candidate. Dr Motsepe’s name was put forward and the majority of the National Executive Committee (NEC) agreed to make him the official nominated candidate for the CAF presidency. But first, Dr Motsepe had to agree to the nomination. Dr Jordaan was dispatched to sell the idea to Dr Motsepe. Initially Dr Motsepe wasn’t comfortable but eventually agreed.

As the closing date for nominations was 11November 2020, time was not on our side, causing SAFA to go into overdrive to make it happen. By this time, about 44 countries already nominated Ahmad Ahmad (former CAF President) to run for another term. SAFA was also lobbied to support this nomination however refused as we already had our own preferred candidate.

For a candidate to get onto the ballot sheet, four countries had to endorse the nomination. On this score, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Sierra Leone endorsed our nomination. Our great relationship with countries on the continent is a direct result of the work done by Dr Jordaan. He made the calls and did the footwork to get the endorsements at such short notice.

Armed with the signed nomination forms, endorsement letters from our friends in Africa, complete candidate details, SAFA dispatched a staff member to deliver the forms to the CAF Head Office in Egypt, in person. This was done in person to highlight the importance of this nomination. Too often than not normal mail or courier services aren’t able to adequately deliver packages on time. The “package” was delivered and signed for by the CAF head office. In fact, when signed for, it was marked, “Received on time” by the Acting Secretary of CAF. Being aware of the shenanigans and possible dirty play, SAFA was at a knife edge and ready to strike if and when needed as we needed to defend our nomination.

True to form, the first salvo was fired from inside the country by a prominent Sunday Newspaper, questioning the wisdom of Dr Motsepe accepting the nomination and SAFA’s standing on the continent. This newspaper was obviously out of its depth in understanding the football landscape on the continent. The second shot came from a so-called media expert who lambasted both the nomination and the abilities of Dr Jordaan to lead the campaign (after the NEC decided that Dr Jordaan must be the driver of the campaign). Some South Africans also joined the chorus, though some of them did not even know that Sao Tome and Sierra Leone are two completely different countries. However, an overwhelming number of South Africans came out in full support of Dr Motsepe. This further fuelled our endorsement as the naysayers became a distant memory.

Dr Jordaan then started to map the strategy and immediately arranged a visit to Egypt, Morocco and then West Africa. These visits and continuous lobbying included interactions with the other Presidential Candidates. On the road, one so called media expert released vitriol fact less information stating that Dr Motsepe does not know football and that Dr Jordaan is a born loser and should never have been the driver of the campaign. This so called media expert went further by threatening a NEC Member with legal action, for openly correcting his factless information on Facebook.

Then the anticipated CAF move came via the Compliance Committee, claiming that the nomination forms did not arrived on time. SAFA produced both slips from the courier and the CAF officer. Both indicating that the forms arrived on time. CAF had to go back to the fault-finding drawing board. The Compliance Committee came back with a different disqualification. This time clearing two candidates but questioned Dr Motsepe about bribery (receiving guests at the 50th Anniversary of Mamelodi Sundowns). Another candidate was also questioned. The mere fact that two were immediately made eligible for candidacy and the other two not, was a clear indication as who they favoured for the presidency. This was not to be, as Dr Jordaan used his CAF Exco position to convince the CAF Exco that FIFA should have the final say on eligibility. This is due to the fact that the CAF President automatically becomes the FIFA Vice President (direct link between CAF and FIFA).

FIFA cleared all candidates and declared them eligible. Still CAF refused to accept the outcome, despite them referring the matter to FIFA. The Compliance Committee also wanted to have their say which was later on rejected by the CAF Exco. This cleared us of the last hurdle and now it was campaign time. Again the so-called media expert, although being steadfast against Motsepe’s nomination, started to warm to the candidacy of Dr Motsepe. It was rumoured that FIFA was favouring another candidate however, when they saw the positive support Dr Motsepe had garnered, they decided to warm up to the idea of him possibly being the CAF president. COSAFA unanimously decided to support Dr Motsepe, likewise so did the other Regions. One Country who openly decided to support Dr Motsepe was Nigeria. Their football association President, Amaju Pinnick supported the nomination from the start and we are forever grateful for his support. All of this was made possible because of the NEC decision that Dr Jordaan, who understands the African football landscape, be the chief and only driver of this campaign.

Significant in the campaign was the visit from the FIFA President to South Africa during the COSAFA Congress in February 2021. Although COSAFA once again agreed to support the candidacy of Dr Motsepe unanimously, the SAFA office followed up with each country, individually. All of them pledged in writing, their support to Dr Motsepe. Armed with those commitments, the house of cards started caving in for the other candidates. Then the final straw, The Morocco Protocol, where the deal was brokered for the three to formally step down in favour of Dr Motsepe. The deal secured Vice President positions for Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania), while Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast) was promised a senior advisor position. The Morocco Protocol was brokered by FIFA as they took into consideration the strength of the votes that overwhelmingly weighed in favour of Dr Motsepe.

Come 12 March 2021, history was made. For the first time in the 64-year history of CAF, it’s president does not come from a Francophone country. Is this an indication of the shifting of the balance of power? Only history can tell. Dr Motsepe emerged victoriously, likewise the rest of the COSAFA nominees, Elvis Chetty (Seychelles), Letsiti Mclean (Botswana), Samir Sobha (Mauritius) and Kanizar Ibrahim (Comoros). A first for COSAFA to have so many people on the CAF Exco. We are also pleased that Pinnick of Nigeria recorded the second highest number of votes to make it to the FIFA Council.

It is no coincidence that, an infamous South African Newspaper decided to release a critique of FIFA’s expertise, instead of complimenting and providing good advice to Motsepe. We just waiting on them to congratulate and thank Dr Jordaan who worked tirelessly to deliver on this SAFA Campaign. Few are aware that he worked until the early hours of Christmas eve on this campaign and was back on the campaign trail on the 2nd January 2021. This when most of us were enjoying the Festive Break. Let us give credit where it is due and recognise the sacrifices this campaign caused.

It is a known fact that CAF was started by four countries, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa. The aforementioned have all had the opportunity to lead CAF, except South Africa. 2021 has rewarded South Africa for being a founder member of CAF with the Presidency. The circle is now complete.

Thank you SAFA and in particular our President Dr Danny Jordaan for not only nominating Dr Patrice Motsepe but for also driving his campaign and thereby playing a pivotal role in the historic event of producing the first Anglophone President in CAF’s 64 years of existence.

Again, like with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we have delivered.

Opinion piece by Bennett Bailey

SAFA Cape Town President