Usuthu owner believes there's still money in soccer despite Covid

Zungu's not in football for charity, he means business

17 November 2020 - 08:14
By Sihle Ndebele, sihle ndebele AND Sihle Ndebele
Sandile Zungu president of AmaZulu
Image: Backpagepix Sandile Zungu president of AmaZulu

New AmaZulu owner Sandile Zungu still sees football as a financially viable business despite the current economic downturn forcing clubs like Bidvest Wits and Highlands Park to sell their Premier Soccer League (PSL) franchises.

Zungu, 53, bought the Usuthu status from the Sokhela family before the start of the season. His investment in football surprised many as it happened at a time when most business people were exiting in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Umlazi-born tycoon, who owns a fleet of different businesses countywide, feels  football is still an industry capable of producing profits even in the midst of the bad economic climax.

“I am entering soccer as a businessman. I am not entering soccer for social welfare issues. I am not entering it because I have lots of money and I need to spend on corporate social investments,” Zungu told Sowetan in an exclusive interview.

“I see football as a huge opportunity of making money. I see an opportunity for commercial success. Everyone wants to associate themselves with big companies, so we must grow our fan base, attract more people and win trophies. That can lay a foundation to make money for the club.”

However, profiting from football isn’t the only pull factor that saw Zungu buy Usuthu. The AmaZulu head honcho wants to use the club to unite the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

“When AmaZulu is doing well, the mood of KZN people becomes much better. The spirit among ordinary people really improves. Also, soccer is a tool for social cohesion,” said Zungu.

“For someone like myself, who operates at the highest level in business, being the president of the Black Business Council and operating at a level where I interact directly with government and other social partners, I truly appreciate the value of social cohesion.”

Zungu’s faith in the PSL leaders also played a role in his decision to venture into the beautiful game.

“To be honest, there’s no way I’d have put my hard-earned money into soccer if I didn’t have confidence in how soccer is run in this country,” said Zungu.

“[Last Wednesday] I attended my first annual general meeting of the National Soccer League (NSL). I think I was vindicated… [PSL] is a very well-run institution. Dr Khoza and his executive committee are doing a brilliant job.”

For the past few seasons Usuthu have been relegation candidates. Zungu aims to end that. The new owner has targeted a top-four finish this season.

“We want to finish in the top-four this season, AmaZulu is a sleeping giant. Usuthu is potentially the biggest football team in this country and my intention is to make the club the biggest, otherwise I’d not have come in,” he said.

Zungu's fact file 

Full names: Sandile Muziwenkosi Zungu

Date of birth:  February 10 1967

Place of birth: Umlazi township, Durban

Some of his business interests: 

  • Zungu owns Shuter & Shooter Publishers
  • He is involved in gold mining as he has shares at Gold One, which owns Sibanye-Stillwater
  • Zungu owns Seriti Resources, which supplies coal to Eskom
  • Zungu owns properties, mainly office properties, through a company called Inani Properties (they own 25 commercial buildings throughout SA)
  • He also has forensic investigation businesses 
  • He owns The Zunguness, a popular wedding venue in Howick, KZN
  • Zungu also owns a couple of restaurants (Spur and John Dory’s)