Veteran official shares his views on silky Celtic

Veteran soccer administrator Petros Molemela is known for speaking his mind, though at times he found himself on the wrong side of the law with officialdom.

Molemela is one of the few soccer administrators who were conferred with honorary degrees for contributing to the success of the sport.

Sowetan's Ramatsiyi Moholoa (RM) caught up with him this week to check what is it that the old man has been up to after "selling" Bloemfontein Celtic.

Petros Molemela (PM) is also using the opportunity to share his views on the club's support base, which has been described by almost every South African as amazing.

RM: Ntate Molemela, the 2010 Free State World Cup political champion Joe Mafereka announced that plans were at an advanced stage to honour you.

MEC Mafereka said there will be two major tournaments - one for Free State schools and the other for professional clubs. How do you feel about this gesture?

PM: Naturally, it is a great honour. If you show respect to other people and also assist in terms of improving their lives, they will always be there for you.

I must say it has never been my motto to do things to impress the community. I must confess that I did not expect such a great honour because there are many people out there who are doing great things.

I appreciate the honour that one gets from the people of Free State. It is always great to be honoured when you are still alive.

RM: Many people would like to know what you are doing after selling Celtic?

PM: First of all, let me confess that I may have donated the club, but soccer is still in my blood. I always go to stadiums when Phunya Selesele are playing.

I still sit in front of the television set at home and watch soccer. Coming back to your question, I'm now fully involved in the building construction business.

I am building a big community clinic here in the Free State, it's situated about 100km from Bloemfontein on the way to Kimberley.

With the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup also coming to Mangaung, it will be great for local people involved in construction to benefit.

RM: Why did you sell Celtic?

PM: Lack of sponsorship, the club was beginning to take everything that was meant for my family and I felt I needed to do something. The problem, at that time, and even now, is that clubs in Gauteng are the ones who always get massive sponsorship.

Those outside Gauteng get crumbs, which is not fair especially if you look at the attendance figures when Celtic are playing.

The stadium is painted in green and white when Celtic are here at home. People running our companies should change their attitude towards clubs outside Gauteng.

RM: There are reports that Benoni Premier United were recently sold for R50 million to a KwaZulu-Natal consortium. Did you make money by selling Celtic?

PM: Let me correct you my son, I did not sell Celtic. I gave it away for R600 000 only, it's a give away because that money does not even buy a player.

I did not want to sell it because there were people from other provinces who wanted it, all that I wanted was for Celtic to remain in Bloemfontein.

That was the agreement with the current owners that it won't go out of Bloemfontein. I wouldn't have given it away if I had a sponsorship.

RM: I see the curtains, fence, gate and garage doors of your house are all painted in the popular green and white colours of Celtic? You also drive a car painted in green, are you still involved with Celtic?

PM: Celtic is my life. I'm not involved anymore except that the current management appointed me life president of the club, I don't have a say in the club.

RM: At some stage there were reports that Celtic were on the verge of being sold and would also relocate? What was your reaction when you heard the news.

PM: Let me confess, I felt bad because when I gave it away, part of the agreement was that it will remain a property of the people of Bloemfontein.

You see the problem is that soccer is now big business, people want to make quick bucks. I never went to soccer to make money.

RM: You must be feeling great about the passion displayed by Celtic's supporters.

PM: Siwelele sa Maselesele are incredible, I'm happy that some of them have already started preparing for the 2010 World Cup.

There are songs that they will be releasing soon. It feels great when you get congratulatory messages from people in other provinces who envy the commitment of Siwelele.

The atmosphere is electrifying at stadiums when Celtic are playing, that is why I always make it a point that I don't miss home games.

RM: Any regret of selling Celtic:

PM: I can only say I feel bad that we could not get a sponsorship. We had people who gave us cellphones instead of money, I took them back after learning that other clubs got money.

RM: How would you like to be remembered?

PM: As somebody who always preached the spirit of ubuntu in the black community. It makes me feel bad to see what some of our youth are doing.

There was a day when I was driving, one youngster was chatting to a friend right in the middle of the road where I was supposed to pass.

The problem with such people is that you have to give them way if you don't want to be embarrassed, our children have lost respect.

The other thing is that I was able to help make Celtic one of the top brands. I feel proud that today Celtic are one of the best in the country, not only in soccer.

Finally, I once more appreciate the support from Sowetan, it makes me proud that you guys always remember there is an old man who loves football in Bloemfontein.