Why oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, does Safa love you so?
Soccer body appears to be in denial about some of the controversies that have dogged Jordaan’s tenure
The more Danny Jordaan consolidates his power as president of the South African Football Association (Safa), the more of an intangible figure he appears to become, and the more in denial about some of the controversies that have dogged his tenure.
We should start by asking whether Jordaan, given the seriousness of a rape charge laid against him by former ANC MP Jennifer Ferguson, should continue as Safa president at all right now, or step down until his name is officially cleared.Not that too many people at Safa seem to care much as Jordaan was re-elected unopposed on Saturday.
The bloated structure of the association was evident in all its Chinese politburo-like glory at its elective congress on Saturday: row upon row of delegates from the 52 regions filled a huge hall at Sandton Convention Centre, facing a platform on which sat the power structure – the vice-presidents, CEO Dennis Mumble and the new Safa Council.
Jordaan sat in the centre, two seats from vice-president Irvin Khoza, as the two never said a word to each other. It would be a surprise if they even made eye contact.
The most powerful men in football were involved in a vicious exchange in the past month, Jordaan accusing Premier Soccer League (PSL) and Orlando Pirates chairman Khoza – the Soviet Union to his US in the simmering cold war in South African football for the past 20 years – of having been behind Ferguson’s allegation.
This was debunked by evidence of falsified documentation being used to open a case of defamation against Khoza by Jordaan. That event alone, in some places, might have been damaging enough to cost some FA presidents their jobs.
On Saturday, apart from Jordaan and Khoza’s coldness, you would not even have noticed it had happened.The Safa delegates, overwhelmingly, and not just judging by the 95.12% vote (236 out of 246) in favour, were in love with Jordaan.
The attempt by his only opponent, Andile “Ace” Ncobo, and some of his backers and other nominees who pulled out of the election, to portray Safa as a body unhappy under the dictatorship of its president was nowhere evident in the adoring applause and laughter when Jordaan spoke.
Ncobo had made himself the outsider trying to raise objections about electoral process and statutes not adhered to, with technicalities such as the nominees list being released in nine and not the stipulated 14 days before the congress. He walked out after a failed attempt to have the election called off. Had Ncobo stayed, the landslide result would have been little different.
No one else cared about his technicalities. They just wanted Jordaan elected again.Given that sort of reaction, it is little wonder the former World Cup Bid Committee and Organising Committee CEO sees no reason to even consider standing down, and is oblivious to much public sentiment that Jordaan's first tenure of five years was at best a five out of 10, in which Bafana Bafana again failed to qualify for a World Cup.
Jordaan’s exchange with journalists, asking for a response to Ncobo’s allegations of the election’s illegality, was illuminating. It certainly seemed to hint at a level of disconnect: “No‚ no‚ no. You guys [the media] must stop nonsense‚” Jordaan fumed. “It’s nonsense. Absolute nonsense. And you only do it to football. And why do you do that?“
It was pointed out to Jordaan that Ncobo made the allegations.
“No‚ but some of you actually wrote as if it’s true. And it’s nonsense. Here you are‚ witness to the election. You are sitting in the room. You see for yourself. You have in this room the electoral committee. Some of these men are senior advocates. They have acted as judges in the Supreme Court. In this room we have a representative from Fifa.
“So it’s your choice. You can pick whose opinion you want to listen to. You listen to a Supreme Court judge‚ you listen to the Fifa representative‚ or you listen to an opinion that is not based on anything. That is your choice. And as journalists you have the right. You have the pen‚ and you write what you like — and we grant you that licence.”
Well, that’s nice to know.What Jordaan seems unaware of, and what he needed to address, is that the dirtiness of the buildup to the election, the zeal with which his attack dogs discredited potential opponents and eliminated them based on the sort of technicalities that were railroaded over in the statutes of process of the election, have tarnished the image of the game and Safa.
Jordaan needed to be less defensive in the face of allegations, and more open in revealing his plan to restore that image. In keeping with a persona that, in the face of the damning allegations against him, has become increasingly withdrawn and reclusive, he spoke only briefly to the media afterwards.
Jordaan named strengthening women's football and bidding for a Fifa Club World Cup as objectives in his second term. He could have added a lot to that.
In his first term Jordaan promised to restore the nine provincial satellites of the School of Excellence, but apparently just three were achieved.The National Technical Centre at Fun Valley remains more a pleasure resort – open to the public on weekends as a valuable source of income to Safa – and accommodation base for the national teams than a genuine, world-class training and development facility.
Strides were made under Jordaan. The junior national teams returned from an inexplicable period of inactivity, were given support, and reached youth World Cups. Most Local Football Associations, Safa says, have had under-12 and under-15 leagues started. Thousands of coaches have been coached. Banyana Banyana have been a beacon of success.
But these should be considered normal activities by any association. Far more needs doing if South African football can genuinely turn a corner. Safa’s sole purpose for existence, stripped to its barest form, is to develop football with the aim of Bafana qualifying for the World Cup.
Crucially, the standoff with the South African Schools Football Association (Sasfa), another feature of Jordaan’s first five years as he aimed to dissolve the body and bring the running of the schools game under Safa’s ambit, needs to be resolved. Fewer than 2,000 out of 20,000 schools playing the game is the one factor crippling football more than any other.
So Jordaan, from his sycophantic following within Safa, should not fool himself into believing that all is rosy, or even satisfactory. Because it clearly, as the dirty politics that preceded this election revealed, is not.