the boss speaks

The South African Football Association is excited with the spinoffs from the 2010 World Cup, with the corporate world already pumping millions of rands into the game.

The South African Football Association is excited with the spinoffs from the 2010 World Cup, with the corporate world already pumping millions of rands into the game.

Safa president Molefi Oliphant also praised PSL chairman Irvin Khoza and his executive for the turnaround strategy of the league.

In this interview, Oliphant talks about Bafana Bafana's readiness for the World Cup, development of players, officials, his greatest South African players, love for music and golf.

Ramatsiyi Moholoa (RM): South Africa is hosting the 2010 World Cup, as Safa are you happy with the preparations?

Molefi Oliphant (MO): In terms of the organising agreement of Fifa, we are supposed to appoint the Local Organising Committee. The fundamental purpose of the LOC is to plan, organise and host the 2010 Fifa World Cup finals. That we've done - established a Section 21 company with the board.

Dr (Irvin) Khoza is the chairman, we also have Safa deputy president Mohamed Mubarak and also seconded Dr Danny Jordaan to be the CEO.

We have a monitoring mechanism where several executive members serve on the board, like the president, Mohamed Mubarak, Kenneth Lebenya and Anastasia Tsichlas. We also have Kaizer Motaung on the board. As for the progress, I must say Safa is happy that we are well on track for the World Cup.

RM: You must be happy that professional soccer is already benefitting from the World Cup, with the corporate world pumping millions of rands into the PSL.

MO: Definitely. Our professional league is one of the best, if not the best, in Africa. Credit to the chairman, Dr Khoza and his executive committee for a job well done. The big money (flowing) into the PSL shows the level of confidence that the corporate world has in the football leadership in this country.

When you look at the senior national team, 50 percent of the players are from the PSL. It is 100 percent with the Under-23s.

RM: How are the amateur clubs going to benefit and what are you doing to help them in terms of the World Cup legacy projects?

MO: The PSL in its sponsorship deals has decided to make a R7million annual contribution towards the development of football. As Safa we are looking at starting an Under-17 league and competition. We also believe that the World Cup itself is a business venture; in business there is profit.

It must go towards our development projects, like the training of administrators, referees, coaches, infrastructure of Safa head office, regions and football associations.

The development of our players will also benefit (development) through the leagues and competitions. The offices we are sitting in (Safa House), is the first legacy project.

On the issue of development of infrastructure we also have facilities like Soccer City, though the government is funding them. We are going to have proper football stadiums for the first time in this country.

RM: A few months ago many people, including minister of sports Makhenkesi Stofile were concerned about Bafana Bafana's preparations for the World Cup. As Safa where do you stand? Are we on track, especially in view of the recent 3-0 win over Paraguay?

MO: Safa is the governing body of football in the country. Amongst its other responsibilities, is to present competitive national teams.

As the executive of Safa, we have gone to corporate South Africa to ask for funding for the national teams. We are grateful that Castle and Absa came to the party.

We have employed one of the best coaches in the world (Carlos Alberto Parreira), who has done well with his country, Brazil in the World Cup.

That shows our commitment. We are paying (Parreira) a salary that many people were not happy with (R1,8million a month) but that's the international market rate.

We thank the PSL for coming to the party.

We will have four weeks to prepare for the Confederations Cup and four months for World Cup. It is the same model adopted by Korea (during the 2002 World Cup). South Africa is not unique, all Fifa affiliates will also be affected by the World Cup preparations.

RM: One of the things said by coach Parreira on his arrival here was that we need to have junior national leagues, how far are you?

MO: We may differ in terms of interpretation - we have the Metropolitan Under-19 League. I also told you about the league and competition for the U-17s.

RM: Our junior teams have not been doing well, the last achievement was when Amajita won a silver medal in Morocco in 1997 and reached the World Youth Championships. What is the plan of action to rescue them?

MO: Yes, It is a true that our junior national teams are not performing to that level of participating in the World Cup.

We (Safa) have done everything we could to get all the best possible resources for the national teams, including getting the best coaches and organised training camps.

RM: The Under-23s also failed to qualify for the Olympics again. Your views?

MO: It should be back to the drawing board to look into what went wrong. As for the coach, his contract is linked to the period of the Olympics and availability of sponsorship.

We are in discussions with Sasol for a new contract.

RM: Dr Oliphant, you are the president of Safa, deputy president of CAF, convenor of CAF indoor and women's soccer, board member of the LOC, member of the Fifa World Cup, Confederations Cup organising committee and a businessman. How do you find time to further your studies now that you are doing a PhD after completing a masters in education?

MO: When I grew up, my aunt (Khanki Oliphant) taught me to always wake up early and read school books. I still do it now. My day starts at 4am.

RM: I hear you are doing well in golf, what is your handicap?

MO: I play social golf with Dr Khoza and executives from other companies. The individual handicap is 23 and better-ball 18. We also have a club called Knights Golf Club.

RM: ...the type of music that you enjoy?

MO: Swiss singer Andreas Vollenweider and Luther Vandross.

RM: Your favourite SA soccer player of all time, including a goalkeeper because I hear that's the position you played as a youngster.

MO: I have three, Kaizer Motaung, Jomo Sono and Ace Ntsoelengoe.

As for the goalkeeper, it was Jimmy Bene.