JOHANNESBURG – Patrice Motsepe’s inauguration as the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) yesterday in Rabat, Morocco, was a great reward to a man whose selfless contribution to African football has shifted so many boundaries.
It’s easy for an external observer to think that Motsepe was bound to make the funding and contribution he made to the beautiful game as part of his corporate social investment projects to avoid the taxman.
But let’s face it, there were so many avenues he could have chosen from.
Instead, his ultimate project has been Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club and recently the Blue Bulls where he has sole ownership and a 37% stake respectively.
Sundowns, though, has been his first love, since taking over the reins 17 years ago.
By the time Motsepe became the sole owner of the club, Sundowns were already a fully-fledged club, having won many local titles, including multiple championships.
But the mining mogul isn’t one to be mediocre – he wanted to go big or go home.
In as much as it was local coaches who won all the league titles between 2004 and 2012, he wasn’t hesitant to cast his net wide, importing renowned coaches to the Premier Soccer League, including Bulgarian and Dutch greats Hristo Stoichkov and Johan Neeskens respectively. But you’ve got to admire the man for being flexible, finding solutions when initial plans are not working out.
From the vast European coaching pool that he may have chosen from to replace the non-delivering Neeskens in 2012, he opted for son of the soil Pitso Mosimane.
Mosimane was dejected at the time: fresh from being sacked as the senior national team coach.
But with the backing of his president and the board, Mosimane grabbed the opportunity with both hands, inspiring Sundowns to their greatest success ever.
The Brazilians won 11 trophies in just seven and a half years under Mosimane, including the CAF Champions League and Super Cup, and they qualified for the Fifa Club World Cup.
These were achievements that announced Sundowns to the world.
By the time Mosimane left, he had made more money for the club than any of his predecessors, exporting home-brewed players to major parts of Europe. But Motsepe, again, wasn’t fazed about the return on investment, instead finding the next holes he could plug in the game.
This is a man who was already sponsoring the third tier in local football, the ABC Motsepe League, among other projects.
From the big three clubs in the country, alongside the Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns are the only club with a women’s team.
Sure, the salaries vary but the two Sundowns teams are treated with almost equal professional courtesy.
That has borne fruit as the Brazilians’ women’s team became the first side to win the inaugural National Women’s League and qualify for the incoming Women’s Champions League.
No man is an island. And that’s why Motsepe surrounded himself with experts of the game, from administrators to ex-professional footballers.
Building up to his inauguration, he received resounding praise from administrators and advocates such as Norman Arendse.
Former players such as Neil Tovey, Benni Mccarthy and Lucas Radebe who hung up their boots for either a place in administration, coaching or ambassadorship all spoke with one voice this week: “African football will get the leadership it deserves!”
But perhaps kudos should also go to Safa president Danny Jordaan, NFF president Amaju Pinnick, and BFA president Maclean Letshwiti for appointing Motsepe and mobilising his campaign.
There’s no doubt that Motsepe’s business and football acumen will resurrect the ailing federation.