Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe: 'We own up as the Association to say we failed the nation'

Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe briefed the media on March 31 2021 in Johannesburg.
Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe briefed the media on March 31 2021 in Johannesburg.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Like an alcoholic‚ if the South African Football Association (Safa) cannot even take that first step of agreeing that there is a problem in the sport in the country‚ then it will not be addressed any time soon.

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki was released from his contract on Wednesday at around 10am by Safa‚ on the back of the team’s failure to reach the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The announcement was made by CEO Tebogo Motlanthe and technical committee head Jack Maluleka at Safa House at just after.

With Safa president Danny Jordaan not in attendance‚ the pair had the distinct appearance of having been fed to the wolves. They faced a media‚ many of whom might have acknowledged that Ntseki might have been out of his depth for the scale of the job‚ but who also had burning questions on then why he was appointed‚ and the deeper issues in SA football.

Motlanthe did apologise to the nation on behalf of Safa’s leadership and National Executive Committee (NEC) for the Cameroon 2021 failure. But he would not commit to any form of fundamental restructuring of South African football‚ rather than treating the symptom by replacing coaches.

“That’s why the association‚ because the aim has been to qualify‚ we have apologised to say‚ ‘Look‚ it happened’‚” Motlanthe said.

“And we own up as the association to say we failed the nation. You don’t apologise if you don’t take the blame.

“So the NEC‚ when they sent me here‚ they took the blame to say we need to apologise to the nation‚ to say we know what it does emotionally to the nation.”

Disappointingly‚ presented with an opportunity to say that as CEO he might undertake to even just explore the possibility that Safa and SA football might need restructuring to escape its groundhog day of failure‚ Motlanthe‚ like so many of his predecessors‚ chose denial of the existence of a problem instead.

He said‚ strangely‚ any‚ notion of a restructuring would have to be initiated by Safa’s members of its bloated structure‚ rather than its leadership.

“It goes to the constituents of football. You know when they meet in the congress it’s not just to elect‚” the CEO said.

“It’s first to make sure that programmes that were undertaken by this leadership [were completed]. And then of course‚ if they were not happy they would then vote them out‚ or in of they are happy.

“So I think that question in itself needs the membership of football. If they think there are reforms that need to take place‚ they need to come to that general assembly and say‚ ‘We want to move that we have those reforms’.

“And then members have powers in terms of the constitution to say‚ ‘Maybe we are taking a wrong direction’. Because sometimes the leadership may not see its taken the wrong decision‚ but the people who voted them in‚ who have the power to say to them‚ ‘We have given you a mandate’ could say‚ ‘You did not accomplish the mandate‚ that’s why we are not retaining you’.”

Asked if Safa can learn from their mistakes in coaching appointments‚ and also if he can agree that there is a greater problem in SA football‚ Motlanthe responded: “As Mr Maluleka has said‚ there will be a report from the coach and we will take the lessons form there.

“ … But one will not say there is a problem. Out of 54 countries 24 have qualified and 20 have not. That does not mean that there is a problem.

“Yes‚ there is a disappointment that we did not qualify. But we should not make that a problem. It means there are processes that need to be looked at.”

A 2-0 defeat to second-placed finishers Sudan in Omdurman on Sunday meant Bafana finished third in Group C of the Cameroon 2021 qualifiers‚ with Ghana in first. This was the fourth Nations Cup of the last seven Bafana did not qualify for.

Safa now have to identify a replacement for Ntseki with appropriate haste as the huge group stages of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar begin in late June.