SOCCER lawyer and accomplished sports administrator Advocate Norman Arendse SC has hailed the imminent appointment of South Africa’s “self-made” billionaire Patrice Motsepe as the new supremo of African soccer.
At today’s Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections in Rabat, Morocco, Motsepe will be the sole candidate for the presidential election at the 43rd CAF General Assembly. Motsepe, 59, will become the eighth CAF president since its founding in 1957 in the northeast African country Sudan.
Motsepe’s ascension to Africa’s football throne means that CAF will have an English-speaking president for the first time. His appointment brings an end to a long list of presidents from francophone African countries.
Legal eagle Arendse has an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of football at all levels of the game. Over the years, his clients were from both sides of football’s fence. He has dealt with Fifa, CAF and Safa. Football officials have turned to him for advice, and organizations have used him as a consultant.
He is a former Safa Cape Town president, and his administrative experience in sports goes well beyond soccer circles. He is a former president of Cricket South Africa and has served on several International Cricket Council (ICC) bodies. He has strong ties with several other sports codes. Last year, he acted for Athletics South Africa at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland where he tried to overturn the controversial regulation which prevented Caster Semenya from competing internationally.
Against this far-reaching background, he has a fair understanding of the challenges facing Motsepe.
“One of the shortcomings of CAF in the past has been regionalism,” said Arendse. “When officials are to be appointed, it was always important to ask: ‘where does he come from?’. As a result, the best person was often not nominated.
“This ensured the continued domination of francophone countries, who were strongly supported by members from north, east and central Africa.
“This situation led to the exclusion of southern African officials from CAF structures.
“Over the years, we have seen how this domination extends to the playing fields. Look at how North African teams have dominated club and country competitions on the continent.
“Motsepe comes on board at a time when there is a lack of corporate integrity, sound governance and favouritism.”
Arendse said the transition that Motsepe brought about since he purchased Mamelodi Sundowns has been an eye-opener. Motsepe must be given the chance to use his collective knowledge, skills, and experience.
“Sundowns have now emerged as a driving force in African football,” said Arendse. “On two occasions, Sundowns hosted Barcelona, one of the world’s biggest clubs, in South Africa at huge expense. This reflects Motsepe’s incredible entrepreneurial enterprise.
“One has to admire Motsepe’s handling of coach Pitso Mosimane’s transfer. Given Mosimane’s success rate, other club chairmen might have enforced the existing contract, but Motsepe decided it was a wonderful opportunity for the coach to move on to greener pastures.
“There is much to admire from this self-made billionaire. He commands great respect and ticks all the boxes. His appointment is a masterstroke by Safa and Fifa who spearheaded his election.”
A decade ago, South Africa delivered Africa’s first-ever Fifa World Cup. Now for the first time in 65 years, South Africa unearthed a president for African football.