Mark Keohane, writing for “Keo’s Corner” on IOL Sport
What a week it will prove for Mamelodi Sundowns when its owner and inspiration Patrice Motsepe today is confirmed as the first South African to lead CAF.
South Africa’s national standing on the African continent has been in decline ever since Bafana Bafana’s 1996’s African Cup of Nations triumph.
It is 25 years since the late Nelson Mandela and Bafana captain Neil Tovey beamed in the trophy presentation to confirm South Africa as the best on the African continent.
Nationally, there has only been heartache since that glory day, but at club level it has been Motsepe’s Sundowns who have always provided the light. Not only have they dominated the domestic scene, but they have earned the right to be called one of Africa’s club giants.
South Africa teams have so often struggled to transfer domestic form into Africa, but Sundowns have transitioned seamlessly.
Last Saturday they inflicted a first home defeat on TP Mezembe in the Champions League in 11 years. Any visit to the Congolese suburb of Kamalondo in Lubumbashi was accepted as torture. Teams didn’t beat Mezembe, until Sundowns arrived and left 2-1 victors.
The Congolese supporters appreciate a quality football team and locals, through applause, acknowledged the significance of Sundowns’s triumph when the team return to their hotel.
Motsepe would have smiled the most, given this remarkable victory would come on the eve of his history-making appointment.
CAF’s leadership historically has been tainted and several of Motsepe’s predecessors have been synonymous with claims, allegations and confirmations of corruption and self-interest.
Motsepe is viewed as the light to lead African football out of the darkness.
The game in Africa needs a statesman, whose pedigree is beyond reproach and whose integrity is not in dispute.
Motsepe is that individual.
He is a billionaire, whose businesses flourish and he is a person with the Midas touch.
Motsepe’s Sundowns in the last decade have been record makers and record breakers. They are South African soccer’s symbol of excellence and consistency.
Motsepe’s entry into rugby, through investment in the Blue Bulls, has also had the desired effect. The Bulls are the current Currie Cup champions and also won the once-off Super Rugby Unlocked.
Motsepe is very much the Pied Piper and the expectation is that he will play an African tune that will have the rest of the world viewing African football governance with delight instead of disgust.
Motsepe takes over from Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad, who was banned from FIFA for two years because of governance issues.
Motsepe has historically been very private and he and his family have been the exception when it comes to seeking out the media spotlight. They have never indulged in or desired the media circus.
Motsepe will find it hard to protect his privacy now that he has accepted the task of restoring dignity to the continent’s football governing body.
The spotlight will be on him, some in the hope that he fails, but most in anticipation of a new dawn in African football.
Motsepe, born and raised in Soweto, will find it more challenging to govern in African football than it is to own a football club in South Africa.
But he wouldn’t have accepted the position if he didn’t believe he could make a difference.
Bafana Bafana will also indirectly be the beneficiaries of Motsepe’s African football elevation.
He will demand a certain standard as president and it may just translate to Bafana finally restoring its former glory on the African continent.
Sundowns are doing it on the club fields of Africa and Motsepe will do it in football’s boardrooms.
If Bafana can also get it right, then South Africa may finally be on the brink of being the powerhouse in all things African football so many assumed they would be a given 25 years ago.