Motsepe gets it wrong

Contentious: Motsepe says only clubs that have a women's team will participate in CAF competitions. PIC: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES
Contentious: Motsepe says only clubs that have a women's team will participate in CAF competitions. PIC: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES

Scores of CAF delegates, including a group from the Botswana Football Association (BFA), arrive in Cairo today (Friday) to deliberate on the state of the game at continent level. But as Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE notes, there is an important message delegates need to pass along to football’s relatively new emperor, Patrice Motsepe, regarding an awkward decision on CAF club participation and women’s teams

Patrice Motsepe’s financial power and his success at Mamelodi Sundowns were the undoubted magnates that convinced a regime-change hungry football family to give the wealthy South African the CAF top post. Motsepe’s predecessor, Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar had found himself tangled in allegations of corruption, barely four years after he clawed African football’s Goliath, Issah Hayatou.

Despite his ascendancy to power, with the promise of a balance in football power, Ahmad’s reign was largely underwhelming. Motsepe’s charisma and well-documented success in the business world provided a refreshing prospect, too appealing to resist. Although Motsepe’s path to power was not the most democratic, he was already an overwhelming favourite in a contest that was to feature challengers from the usual dominant West Africa. Motsepe entered into a deal with other candidates who dropped out of the contest like flies. It was hardly the most ideal or orderly manner to ‘win’ the elections.

However, as a tried and tested billionaire businessman who has overseen the rapid transformation of a Sundowns side into a global brand, there was all the trust in Motsepe.

The mining magnate has presided over Bafana Ba Style's transition from a township side into a continental powerhouse and a model of professionalism. These are the characteristics needed at the continental level, where African football has continued to lag. Facilities in most member countries remain a sore thumb, while the quality of football has continued to plummet over the years. Africa has become a trusted conveyor belt, producing top talent for export to the lucrative European markets, leaving the domestic product in a poor state.

Only an appealing and rewarding African football product would halt the talent drain, and Motsepe is seen as the man to change the course of the game. He has already announced a raft of proposed changes, which include improvement of infrastructure, a super league, and building partnerships and sponsorships with the private sector.

He has indicated that the professionalism and appeal of CAF competitions should be enhanced. But he recently stirred the hornet’s nest after indicating that no men’s football team will take part in a CAF competition if it does not have a women’s side.

The majority of the Botswana Football League sides do not have a women’s side. In fact, across the COSAFA region, even top sides do not have a women’s team within their ranks.

There is nothing untoward about this. But Motsepe feels to accelerate women’s football, it should be made mandatory for any football club to have both men and women’s teams. The thinking is flawed in that it ignores some dynamics instead of embracing the unsustainable one-size-fits-all approach. Motsepe could have thrown the issue for wider discussion, cascading the matter down to local associations. Such an important and far-reaching decision should not be the preserve of one person or a few elites who sit on the CAF board. Football is about the people and for the people. In coming up with the decision, Motsepe ignored a number of fundamental issues, top of the list being local dynamics.

The one-size-fits-all approach ignores localised challenges that need specific treatment. A blanket approach cannot work; clubs in Djibouti face a different challenge from sides competing in South Africa’s DStv Premiership. There is a gulf in class that cannot be ignored, with lack of finance at the core of determining the class differences.

The majority of clubs are already struggling to maintain just the one men’s team.

They do not have reserve or development sides, not out of a liking, but due to their desperate financial situations. In Botswana, the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) last year indicated up to 10 clubs were struggling to pay their players on the senior side. Some fail to honour fixtures. How then does Motsepe expect clubs to have an additional financial burden? Clubs should not be arm-twisted to adopt a model that does not suit their overall objectives. Motsepe might have been noble in trying to push for the development of women’s football, but he failed to cover himself in glory with his directive. A women’s team can exist in isolation.

It does not need to be under the wing of a men’s team. By so doing, Motsepe is unintentionally sustaining or driving certain gender stereotypes around women in sport; that they cannot operate independently and that their success is dependent on men.

He might have wanted to ride on the popularity of the men’s game, but women are already making significant strides on their own that they do not need to piggyback on the men’s game. Double Action, Mexican Girls and other local teams are unattached to a men’s side but are doing well building their own unique brands. The women’s national teams have done well with the Mares and the Under-20 sides on the verge of continental and global qualification. They do not need the men’s national teams to push their progress.

Women’s teams should be allowed to be stand-alone brands, without being subjects of the male dominated clubs. The CAF meeting in Cairo today should explicitly tell Motsepe that while his is a noble idea, it however falls short on several fronts and must be abandoned forthwith. If the emperor is naked, the delegates should be bold enough to tell him in no uncertain terms that he is exposed.

Editor's Comment
More resources needed to fight crime

The Fight Crime Gaborone Facebook page is always filled with sad complaints of hard working Batswana who were robbed at knife point at some traffic lights or at their home gates when trying to get inside.These thugs have no mercy; they do not just threaten victims, they are always ready to use knives, and sadly, they damage car windows. While this happens at different traffic lights, there are those where such incidents happen more frequently...

Have a Story? Send Us a tip
arrow up