2007 a mixed bag for SA soccer

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

South Africans cannot be blamed for bragging about the roaring success of the 2010 Fifa World Cup preliminary draw in Durban last month.

This was after the country put on a great show where Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other influential soccer and political leaders were smiling from ear to ear.

Even the record 204 countries who attended the draw, including the English, applauded South Africans on their preparations for the World Cup.

Irvin Khoza, Danny Jordaan, Molefi Oliphant, Kaizer Motaung and many others serving on the World Cup board of directors deserve a pat on the back for their efforts.

The preliminary draw, which the Local Organising Committee used to showcase South Africa's readiness, was the first official 2010 World Cup event.

Sowetan has decided to go back from January to date for the highs and lows of 2007, which I must say was an eventful one on and off the field.

The highs ...

It goes without saying that the billions of rands acquired by the Premier Soccer League is great news for the development of the sport.

It all started with the whooping R1,6 billion television deal with SuperSport International, which ended the monopoly enjoyed by SABC Sport.

The two parties are engaged in negotiations for the radio rights, where the PSL and clubs will get 30 minutes of airtime to sell themselves.

While the dust had not even settled on he television deal, Khoza and company then announced a R500 million sponsorship for the Premiership.

The PSL is now ranked among the best leagues globally in terms of sponsorship after Nedbank also came on board with R400 million.

Still on the PSL, it was also a good idea to bring in a new chief executive, Norwegian Kjetil Siem. He brings massive multimedia expertise.

With his term expiring in 2010, the PSL is on record as saying they will headhunt or ask him groom an African to serve as his successor.

As for Bafana Bafana, it is good that they have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations but we are keeping our fingers crossed that they do not disappoint - as usual.

At the 2006 Afcon in Egypt, Bafana Bafana were booted out in the first round and also failed to score a goal, even an own goal.

The year will not be complete without congratulating Jose Torrealba, who sacrificed his R35000 a month salary for almost eight months to challenge Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Kaizer Chiefs-bound Torrealba argued that he was in Europe on the day it is alleged he signed a new deal.

Sundowns took the matter up with the PSL dispute resolution chamber where two independent writing experts stated Torrealba's signature was forged.

The Brazilians then appealed and lost the case and were ordered to pay the legal costs on a high court scale.

It is now history that Afzal Khan, former Sundowns executive director, was fired (or parted ways with the club, to be diplomatic) after the failed appeal.

It was also great to see Deidre Mitchell making history as the first woman to referee a Premiership match between Santos and Chiefs.

In the end, South Africans had Khoza and Jomo Sono appointed to serve on Fifa organising and development committees by Blatter.

And the lows ...

It can only start with the untimely death of Gift "Continental" Leremi, one of South Africa's most talented and popular players, in a car accident.

A few days later yet another professional player, Mozambican international Fernando Matola and his family were also killed in a car accident.

It is also sad that Timothy "Oom T" Monyama, a veteran Limpopo soccer boss and businessman, is also no more.

Some of us are still wondering what should be done after the South African Under-23s failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

This is despite getting just over R40 million in financial assistance from Sasol. It is the second consecutive time that the U-23s failed to qualify.

While we all agree that the team embarrassed us, Safa must start as early as next month to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics.

Also failing dismally to make their first appearance at the Olympics are Banyana Banyana, who were beaten home and away by Ghana in a two-legged qualifier. The U-23s and Banyana are not the only South African national sides who continue to disappoint.

Majimbos were booted out in the group stages during the African Under-17 Championships, once more failing to qualify for the elusive World Junior Championships.

The U-17s and Amajita were defeated by Zimbabwe on two consecutive weekends two weeks ago in the finals of their southern Africa regional tournaments.

Back to the PSL TV rights and sponsorship deals, there was a brouhaha after it was announced that the sponsorship committee members would each get a 10 percent commission. Trevor Manuel, the minister of finance, administrators like Jomo Sono and John Comitis made it clear that they were against commission payments and so did Butana Komphela, chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport.

It was, however, later agreed at the National Soccer League annual general meeting that a R70million "token of appreciation" be paid to the sponsorship committee members, including other "deserving" people.

Butana's committee also endorsed the decision amidst murmurs of discontentment.

On the refereeing side, there were a number of own goals scored by the match officials, including those on the Fifa penal, in some of the games.

The biggest of them all was during the Telkom Knockout final featuring Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns in Tshwane last month.

Referee Abdul Ebrahim, the reigning Premiership referee of the season, and his assistants allowed Sundowns to introduce Patrick Apataki during the penalty shootout.

Apataki replaced Benson Mhlongo at the end of extra time, which could have had serious implications if Sundowns had won the game. Ebrahim, assistant referee Luyanda Lfiki and match commissioner Robert Pillay should have not allowed it.