Qualification of National Teams for 2012 AFCON & 2012 London Olympics: briefing by South African Football Association

Sports, Arts and Culture

07 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Dikgacwi (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Football Association (SAFA) briefed the Committee on the reasons concerning the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the crisis concerning the release of players for the under-23 team for qualification for the 2012 London Olympics. The SAFA leadership was concerned that the South African National team did not qualify for AFCON 2012 because there was a question about the interpretation of the rules. SAFA accepted that it failed the nation and the SAFA leadership took responsibility and reiterated that apology.

Regarding the release of under-23 players for the Olympic qualification tournament, FIFA had its own calendar with official qualifying dates. According to FIFA regulations, clubs were obligated to release player for these FIFA calendar dates. The dates fell within the Confederation of African Football calendar dates, but did not fall within the FIFA calendar dates, thus clubs were not obligated to release their players. SAFA would have to negotiate for each PSL club to give the National team one player for a total of 16 players. Some clubs agreed to provide the national team with the players that SAFA wanted, while some have not provided SAFA any players at all. This had presented SAFA with a conundrum. SAFA and the Premier Soccer League were working hard at negotiations.

SAFA presented its National Development Framework, which focused on three areas: football infrastructure, social support and player development at the summit of the pyramid. There were currently 30 artificial pitches and throughout the country and the goal was to eventually reach 52. SAFA wanted to have a centralised database of between 3.5-4 million players throughout country in order to track talent identification at a local and national level. The Grassroots football programme was a FIFA priority, there were 700 coaches trained so far at the grassroots level. SAFA was in the process of ensuring that at the regional levels there were under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-19 leagues all the way to provincial leagues. South Africa needed 18 000 coaches across the country at all levels in order to deal with the development challenge. There were currently 7 000 coaches, but the country still needed a further 11 000.

The failure to qualify for AFCON 2012 was a setback; as a result SAFA instituted a number of internal processes. There were four areas of failure: 1) Process failure: reading the rules and regulations was taken for granted.  2) Technical failure: there was an incorrect assumption based on earlier CAF regulations that mentioned goal difference, was the way to determining the two qualifiers, but not the group winner. The team made assumptions based on FIFA qualification rules (as opposed to CAF qualification rules), ambiguities and problems were not clarified before hand. 3) Management support failure: legal support needed to be involved in rules and regulations briefing 4) CAF issues: the rules were ambiguous and published late. SAFA took the corrective action of apologising and taking internal disciplinary measures and chose not to fire anyone, as it was a collective mistake. SAFA allocated responsibility to the head of delegation to boost national capacity.

Committee members stated that the belated apologies were unacceptable and it was unacceptable that SAFA could not understand the rules. Concerns were raised that players needed to be released from their clubs and that the Premier Soccer League was undermining one another and in turn undermining the country. What role did SAFA play in the school sports programme? What was SAFA doing to market the women’s team?

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson opened the meeting and stated that there was concern about the under-23 South African football team’s qualification for the 2012 London Olympics and the release of players from their clubs. The media reports surrounding the team was troubling. Under preparation was a problem and these issues did not happen in other countries. The Chairperson stated that if the Committee needed to call the South African Football Association (SAFA) back to Parliament together with Premier Soccer League (PSL) representatives then it would. He asked the SAFA delegation to explain what happened with the qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) because this sort of thing did not happen in other sporting codes.

Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, Vice-President of SAFA informed the Committee that SAFA President Kristen Nematandani was in London and thus he was representing the organisation in the capacity of Acting President. SAFA apologised for not circulating the report to the Committee members in advance.

Mr Nonkonyana stated that the SAFA leadership was concerned that Bafana Bafana (South African National team) did not qualify for AFCON 2012. There was a question about the interpretation of the rules. SAFA accepted that it failed the nation and the leadership took responsibility and reiterated that apology. Hopefully Parliament accepted the apology. South Africa needed to make sure that its teams qualified for future tournaments. Qualification of the under-23 team for the 2012 London Olympics was also a concern due to clashing dates with PSL clubs. SAFA had held several meetings with the PSL. The league had representatives on the SAFA board, however there was a need to form a joint committee and on October 9th 2011; the committee convened and highlighted the need to work together as one. It was the National duty for players to play when called up to the National team and the interests of country were paramount.

The Chairperson stated that next year, England was coming to play rugby in South Africa and the dates were already known. When did SAFA draw its itinerary? Was there a calendar to know the national team dates in advance, so that they did not clash with clubs dates?

Dr Robin Peterson, CEO of SAFA responded that the rules governing rugby were very different than those governing football. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had its own calendar with official qualifying dates. According to FIFA regulations, clubs were obligated to release players for these FIFA calendar dates. Problems arose when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had its own rules for Olympic qualification. CAFs rules were different from Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)’s. Through a series of qualifying matches, South Africa reached a final eight teams. The qualifying tournament was originally scheduled for Egypt, but had now moved to Morocco. The dates fell within the CAF calendar dates, but did not fall within the FIFA calendar dates, thus clubs were not obligated to release their players. SAFA was faced with a difficult situation and agreed on a process with the PSL. The PSL obliged to release players until the day of the final match. SAFA wanted to take the national team to Morocco for two exhibition matches prior to the qualification match. Other national teams were doing the same. The challenge was that South Africa had a strong domestic league, and other countries did not have this problem. SAFA would have to negotiate for each PSL club to give the National team one player for a total of 16 players. Some clubs like Chiefs and Pirates agreed to provide the national team with the players that SAFA wanted, while some have not provided SAFA any players at all. This had presented SAFA with a conundrum. SAFA and the PSL were working hard at negotiations rather than compulsion. This situation put the National teams in a difficult situation because most of their tournaments fall outside of the FIFA calendar.

Mr G Mackenzie (COPE) stated that one year after a fantastic World Cup brought funds to South African football, SAFA had sunk. The apologies that came belatedly after the failure to qualify for the AFCON qualifiers were totally unacceptable. It was unacceptable for South Africa to be hosting the tournament without playing in it. On the issue of player releases major sports could not have a league telling the country ‘who could play and who could not. The Committee did not care about clashing dates. Players needed to be released for the Olympic qualifiers. There could not be a situation where some clubs release players and others did not. The dates were known ahead of time thus it could not be accepted that a player would be prevented from playing for the national team.

Mr D Lee (DA) stated that the football team was under-prepared, and added that he was unprepared for this meeting and it was unfair that SAFA did not circulate their briefing in advance to Committee members. This was the last time that he would attend a meeting where the documents were circulated at the meeting. He emphatically stated: “No documents: no Donald Lee, no DA”. He asked whether the issue of players being picked was a new concern. It seemed as if the PSL and SAFA wanted to undermine one another and this was undermining the country. In the interest of South Africa, this could not happen. He was embarrassed when the players danced and jumped up but did not actually qualify in the end. What was the mentality behind playing for a draw when South Africa could win?

Mr J McGluwa (ID) stated that he was also unprepared for the meeting because documents were not circulated to Committee Members in advance. He asked whether AFCON qualification would be addressed in the presentation.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) suggested that the Committee first allow SAFA to present its briefing before engaging with the issues.

The Chairperson thanked Members for their inputs and state that Committee members represented the people, and needed to let SAFA know what the people were saying regarding football in South Africa.

South African Football Association (SAFA) on qualification of National Team for 2012 AFCON and under-23 Team for 2012 London Olympics
Dr Robin Peterson responded as a point of clarification to Mr MacKenzie’s statement on AFCON, that South Africa did not qualify for AFCON 2012 in Gabon. However as hosts, South Africa automatically qualified for AFCON 2013. He stated that SAFA was also embarrassed by the failure to qualify for AFCON 2012. SAFA’s overall vision and the goal was to be #1 at all levels and the administration was geared towards achieving this goal. The key was to develop talent. SAFA’s development committee adopted a National Developmental Framework. The National Development Framework focused on three areas: football infrastructure, social support and player development at the summit of the pyramid. SAFA’s regulatory framework was important- SAFA aligned its constitution with FIFA’s. Therefore SAFA was a governing body, but not fully autonomous. FIFA had to endorse and sign of on articles in the constitution such as: player release issues, code of conduct, facility standards and availability. There were currently 30 artificial pitches throughout the country and the goal was to eventually reach 52. The football infrastructure was insufficient without stakeholder support and IT administration. SAFA wanted to have a centralised database of between 3.5-4 million players throughout country in order to track talent identification at a local and national level. The National Soccer League comprised of the PSL and National First division. The NSL was governed indirectly by SAFA, but had its own constitution that governed the clubs directly. SAFA directly governed the two provincial leagues for men and women as well as the two regional leagues that had 1800 clubs throughout the country. Women’s football was a critical part of SAFA’s programme Banyana Banyana had qualified for Olympics.

Dr Peterson stated that on the issue of value chain the goal was that by the time a player reached the top level, the player would have at least six to eight years of international exposure. The Grassroots football programme was a FIFA priority, there were 700 coaches trained so far at the grassroots level. SAFA was in the process of ensuring that at the regional levels there were under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-19 leagues all the way to provincial leagues. This would drive the regional talent identification through SAFA’s football infrastructure where there would be an artificial pitch and clubhouse and the players would be fed into the regional non-residential academy and then move the player into a provincial academy and then to the national academy. This rich pipeline of talent would feed talent into the National under-17 team. South Africa needed 18 000 coaches in order to deal with the development challenge. There were currently 7 000 coaches and a further 11 000 was needed. This was a proven pipeline as the women’s academy produced 17 members of the national team. Next year women will attempt to qualify for the World Cup.

After the new Senior National team coach Pitso Mosimane was appointed in 2010, he created a vision called ‘Vision 2014’ for how the team would be led. The key objectives were to achieve second round qualification for World Cup 2014. In order to do that South Africa needed to win its qualification group and win an unseeded home and away draw against one of the top ten teams. This was a serious challenge. Because the team failed to qualify for AFCON 2012, it was no longer possible for South Africa to achieve its goal of ‘doing well’ at AFCON 2012. The goal was set to reach the final match of 2013 AFCON competition. In order to prepare for that competition, a series of friendly matches with top six African, South American and European teams would be scheduled. The calendar was fluid, but South Africa needed to find teams to play friendly matches with.

The failure to qualify for AFCON 2012 was a setback, as a result SAFA instituted a number of internal processes to answer the questions of: how did it happen, who was accountable and what lesson were learned? There were four areas of failure: 1) Process failure: reading the rules and regulations was taken for granted.  2) Technical failure: there was an incorrect assumption based on earlier CAF regulations that mentioned goal difference, was the way to determining the two qualifiers, but not the group winner. The team made assumptions based on FIFA qualification rules (as opposed to CAF qualification rules), ambiguities and problems were not clarified before hand. 3) Management support failure: legal support needed to be involved in rules and regulations briefing and the head of delegation needed a training boost 4) CAF issues: the rules were ambiguous and published late. This was the first time in AFCON qualifying that there were three teams, who finished on equal points and the team with the best goal difference did not go through. South Africa had performed better than Niger and Sierra Leone, but be that as it may the rules were clear that South Africa did not qualify. The team did not understand to its own detriment.

The corrective actions that were taken was an apology from SAFA. The apology took a while because SAFA needed to review legal processes, and decided not to follow through with an appeal of the qualification result. It was incorrect to say that SAFA did not apologise; Dr Peterson stated that every time he was in the media he apologised. Coach Mosimane was instructed not to speak to the media in the wake of the qualification debacle. SAFA concluded internal disciplinary measures and chose not to fire anyone, as it was a collective mistake. SAFA allocated responsibility to the head of delegation to boost national capacity. Based on a legal opinion, SAFA had formally asked CAF to review and change its qualification rules for the future. CAF were reviewing the request and would report back to SAFA with a legal opinion.

Getting back on track, SAFA’s goal was for Bafana Bafana to win its qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. The team must also win during the 2013 AFCON. In order to prepare for these challenges SAFA had arranged for series of competitive friendly matches beginning with the Ivory Coast, who are the number 1 team in Africa, according to the FIFA rankings. Banyana Banyana had qualified for the Olympics, which will be a challenge since no African team had ever got out of the group stage

Regarding the qualification tournament of the 2012 London Olympics, Dr Peterson appeal to committee to assist SAFA in finding a solution to the player release problem, as SAFA was limited in its mandate. 

The Chairperson thanked the CEO for presentation and opened floor to discussion

Discussion
Mr McGluwa stated that when it was simple: when partaking in any competition rules were submitted beforehand. The timeframe of January through September was enough time for SAFA to learn the rules regarding qualification. The Deputy of SAFA was sitting on the CAF board, what was his responsibility? Mr McGluwa suggested that perhaps all the role players were not present before the Committee today. Coach Mosimane had complained however there was no way that Bafana Bafana would win a game in the boardroom. Mr McGluwa indicated that he had pulled the rules for qualification off the Internet and they were simple enough that a child could understand them. This was complete incompetence from SAFA and the only positive thing that SAFA did for the country in this instance was to withdraw the appeal. Why did the coach not study the rules himself? The coach needed to take responsibility. How dare South Africa go into a tournament on assumptions? Did SAFA inform the coach that the team only needed a draw? Was this why the Goal Keeper was using delaying tactics? What did the post match celebrations say about South Africans? If SAFA fired anyone, it needed to fire everyone. Who was SAFA going to act against? On October 19th SAFA stated that ‘the right actions would be taken.’ What was this action?

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) asked whether the leadership of SAFA knew the rules, and if they deserved to lead the country.

Mr M Mdakane (ANC) stated that the Committee would like to see the artificial turf in the interest of the society to ensure that there was proper development in the country as a whole. SAFA should ensure that football in South Africa was professionalised. Notwithstanding the history of South Africa, the sport was not new; it had been around since the 1800s and should be at the highest level. This was about the politics of development and the sustainability of football in South Africa. How did the SAFA leadership address this at the highest level? South Africa should be the best in Africa. He agreed with some of the issues that McGluwa raised, and stated that the country needed to look beyond these issues and SAFA needed to have a long-term strategy for development of soccer in South Africa.

Ms S Lebenya-Ntanzi (ANC) stated that it was a well-known fact that black people in this country were naturally good at football. The question was how gifted children in rural areas were given the opportunity to showcase their talent? What programmes did SAFA have to address that? There was a new programme by the Minister to revive school sport. Where did SAFA see itself playing a role and contributing to the school sport programme?

Ms G Tseke (ANC) stated that on the artificial turf issue, the last time the Committee heard, there were eight fields and today there were 30. The Committee needed to see a list of where they were, and how far had SAFA had gone in popularising these facilities?

Ms T Litshiva (ANC) asked if the grassroots programmes for girls football were working?

Ms M Dube (ANC) reiterated the concern of the lateness of the presentation documents. She asked if South Africa had not lost this match, when was SAFA going to find out about the rules She further raised the concern that there was lots of publicity for the men’s team, but not for the women’s team. What did SAFA mean when it referred to ‘getting back on track’ in the presentation. Was SAFA not already on track?

Mr MacKenzie stated that rules were rules and SAFA was not organised as these were not new rules. Why was the NSL constitution not in line with the PSL constitution? He added that the story about why the apologies were not made immediately was unacceptable. The Committee was under the impression that SAFA did not want to take responsibility.

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) stated that the value chain portion of the presentation was promising. In addition, he asked why it that women were coached by men. Why were CAF and FIFA “two worlds apart?”

Mr J Van De Linde (DA) stated that the problem in football was “too much money and too little production”. SAFA was the richest sporting body in Africa but had no performance. On the selection of the under-23 team, why must the clubs only release one player each? The coach needed to select his best team. If the clubs did not want to release players, then the club needed to suffer. It was unacceptable that local players were not released for national teams. Were the planned 52 facilities going to be available for other codes as well who did not have the financial luxury?

Mr L Suka (ANC) stated that it was important to hold the sport indaba to communicate the ideals of patriotism and the national interest so that clubs and interested parties could understand. Did SAFA have an audit of its players at the developmental stages? On the issue of player release for the under-23 team the Minister of Sports and Recreation should intervene. He stated that this was not interference, but an intervention. He wished that SAFA could ‘walk their talk’ and there could be progress in terms of the changes highlighted in the presentation.

Mr Lee raised a concern about FIFA. What was SAFA’s view of FIFA? South Africa was given the opportunity to host the World Cup, but at what cost? The only thing missing from FIFA was the “Ma-FIFA”(laughter). All those things happened in FIFA’s interest to the detriment of the countries and their players.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the issue of TV rights and the high commission of negotiation for sponsors. Had the PSL been on board with the plan that SAFA presented to the Committee? Could SAFA look into the issue of Banyana Banyana not being treated equally? The marketing of women’s football was a problem and the games should be televised. When would SAFA its ex-players involved? What was SAFA doing about the disciplining its players? Footballers needed to be role players on and off the field. The Chairperson suggested that the Committee secretary should write a letter to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to intervene concerning the release of players.

Mr Nonkonyana thanked the Committee for its contributions and reiterated the apology that SAFA could not circulate the document to the Committee members in advance.

In response to the suggestion of intervention by the Minister, Mr Nonkonyana stated that the Minister of Sport and Recreation was very hands on and talked to SAFA directly, not through the media.

On the issue of the apology, it was profound and sincere. Mr Nonkonyana read the apology statement to the Committee.

The Chairperson interjected and stated that re-reading the apology statement was not helpful because it re-opened the issues.

Mr Nonkonyana responded that although the SAFA President and Vice President served on the CAF board, it was unfair to blame them for South Africa’s failure to qualify.

Mr Mandla Mazibuko Vice-President of SAFA agreed with the statement about intervention vs. interference and SAFA required the intervention and would require more frequent engagement with the Committee.

On the question of did SAFA deserve to lead, he responded yes it did, because SAFA acknowledged its mistakes. SAFA accepted member comments were a harsh reality of inexcusable incompetence.

On the issue of facilities, it was important for SAFA to popularise these 52 facilities, especially in rural areas, so that they did not become white elephants.

In response to question on the school sports launch, SAFA played an integral part of the school football component of the national school sports plan and SAFA was fully on board.

On the issue of the under-23 team player release, it boiled down to patriotism and national interest. There was not much that SAFA could do except for to have a dialogue about how football is run in South Africa. The team planned to leave on November 9th 2011 and this presented a serious disaster and crisis because there were only 10 players available and issue of visas and training dates still had to be sorted out.

Mr Mazibuko stated that he was overall impressed with the contributions from the Committee.

Ms Lebenya-Ntanzi requested a written response to the question on the role of school sport.

The Chairperson thanked SAFA and the members for their contributions. On behalf of the Committee, he accepted SAFA’s apology and adjourned the meeting.



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