Sunday, 14 March 2021

I WAS NOT THE KINGMAKER, SAYS CHIYANGWA

MAMELODI Sundowns Football Club owner and business mogul, Patrice Motsepe, was on Friday elected Confederation of African Football president during the 43rd Caf congress in Rabat, Morocco.

He was uncontested following the withdrawal of fellow hopefuls Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania and Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma, who opted to back the South African billionaire.

Motsepe’s election to the continental football body has been welcomed across Africa as he is seen as someone who can unite the football family and help to grow the African game.

Former Zifa president and current Cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa played a hand in the ascendancy of Motsepe to the Caf throne, with the southern African football bloc throwing its weight behind the South African.

Chiyangwa has in the past been credited in ending the 29-year reign of Issa Hayatou as Caf president, which was characterised by endless corruption scandals that hindered the growth and development of football on the continent.

Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar, with the help of Chiyangwa, took over from Hayatou and only served one term.

Ahmad’s victory involved a lot of horse trading behind the scenes and the ugly side of continental football politics as Hayatou tried to hold on to power, but this was not the case with Motsepe.

Motsepe’s reputation and stature in both football and business warmed the hearts of many.

Chiyangwa by virtue of being the boss of the southern region football body contributed again to Motsepe’s victory which was achieved way before Friday’s congress as he was elected uncontested.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in South Africa last month for the Cosafa Annual General Meeting in Sandton, Johannesburg at the invitation of Chiyangwa.

Infantino, who has a sound personal relationship with Chiyangwa, brokered the deal that cleared the way for Motsepe’s ascendancy.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday after Motsepe was confirmed as the new Caf president, Chiyangwa downplayed his contribution and argued that Motsepe’s profile was the biggest selling point.

“Motsepe was a good choice, and his success is well documented in Forbes Magazine and you can read more about him.

“We worked with him all the way and we agreed with the other candidates that he is our best choice,” said Chiyangwa

Pressed on whether he was king maker of African football following the role he played in sending Hayatou packing after three decades at the helm, Chiyangwa chose to be diplomatic and humble.

“I’m merely a football leader in the biggest region of Africa, and coupled with the fact that Motsepe comes from our region as Cosafa or Sadc, we stood by him and said let’s support our own because the one who was in office for only one term (Ahmad) was our own, so let us ensure that this power does not move to another region as it would be very difficult to bring it back to our region,” quipped the former Zifa president.

Motsepe’s presidency will excite and give hope to many in Zimbabwe and that excitement is not unfounded. His football club Sundowns has been home to many Zimbabweans from Esrom Nyandoro, Method Mwanjali, Nyasha Mushekwi, Cuthbert Malajila, Lionel Mtizwa and Peter Ndlovu, their current manager, among others.

It is Motsepe’s history with Zimbabwean footballers that brings hope that Zimbabwe as a country may enjoy some Caf spinoffs that could help to develop football in this part of the continent.

This is something that Chiyangwa also strongly believes in. “What are the benefits, basically the balance sheet of Caf is very small and when you want to draw attraction to an investment you must also put in good leadership,” he said.

“God leadership assures you of better prospects so that is the way I look at this and that is exactly what has happened here.

‘‘With him comes a lot of other interested parties who will be interested in supporting what he supports so let’s give it a chance and also ensure that football is played.’’ Daily News

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