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Patrice Motsepe – a lucky charm for African football

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File picture by Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix: CAF president Patrice Motsepe speaks during a press conference at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon on 25 January 2022.

By Herman Gibbs

In many respects, and justifiably so, South African mining billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe, was hailed as the saviour of African football following his ascension to the CAF (Confederation of African Football) throne in March 2021.

Media commentators at the 43rd CAF General Assembly, in Rabat, Morocco, said the googly-eyed 54 national federations presidents (CAF have 54 affiliates) saw the dollar signs when one of Africa’s richest men would head up the continent’s supreme football body.

In just over a year none of the federations would be disappointed. With each passing meeting of CAF, Motsepe weighs in with regular announcements of increased cash prizes and now the players are seeing the dollar signs. Under his watch, Motsepe has also created new events at schools and club levels.

Before the Motsepe there were no long-term broadcasting deals in place for CAF competitions and in South Africa, there was no chance of watching Kaizer Chiefs playing Champions League. All has changed dramatically and in the past few months, football fans on the continent enjoyed regular Television coverage for both Champions League and Confederation Cup competitions.

The Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza is another who saw the dollar signs. Two weeks ago, Khoza announced that the National First Division (NFD) sponsors withdrew from the GladAfrica Championship and that Motsepe has stepped in. The Motsepe Foundation agreed on a five-year deal to sponsor the NFD.

For several years, the Motsepe Foundation has sponsored the second division and overall third tier of South African football. These divisions, with around 200 teams participating, play under the SAFA ABC Motsepe League banner.

In a matter of months, Motsepe now has a finger in football every pie on the continent. He has made all his promises good and all that remains now is for African teams to make an impact in international competitions.

Just over a week ago, the Women’s African Cup of Nations kicked off in Morocco and Motsepe told the 12 participating teams that there would be an increase of 150% in prize money. The overall prize money had been increased from USD 975 000 (R16.5m) to USD 2 400 000 (R40.6m).

The winner’s purse increased from USD 200 000 (R3.38) to USD 500 000 (R8.5), The runners-up prize jumped from USD 175 000 (R2.96m) to SD 300 000 (R5m).

The President of CAF and the CAF Executive Committee have identified women’s football as amongst the top priorities of CAF.

The biggest event yet during Motsepe’s reign will be the African Super League which will kick off in August 2023. The official launch in the East African country Tanzania is in August 2022. Details, including the official name, will be unveiled at the launch event.

It will be a massive feather in the cap of Motsepe if the Super League takes off. The concept has failed in Europe, despite the backing of FIFA and its head honcho Gianni Infantino.

Motsepe enjoys the support of Infantino who is overwhelmed that CAF will be launching the continental Super League. Motsepe has assured all and sundry that the competition will breathe new life into African club competition.

“Winners and participants of the inaugural African Super League will receive significant prize monies and the proceeds from the tournament will include substantial solidarity payments to all 54 CAF Member Associations,” he said.

“We will be engaging with stakeholders over the next few weeks to discuss the mechanics of the tournament and will release further details shortly.

“A significant amount of the money from the CAF Super League will be invested back into African football and part of the process involves giving $1 million every year to every one of CAF’s 54 Member Associations as a contribution to football and youth development.

“We also want to look to increase the prize money for the men’s and women’s CAF Champions Leagues.”

Motsepe has also undone some history and Federations will no longer bid for the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League final. Motsepe announced that the final will now be played over two legs.

For once Morocco lost a bid to host an event. CAF received bids from Egypt and Morocco for the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations 2024. The Executive Committee resolved to award Egypt the rights to host the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations 2024.

Herman is a sports journalist and editor of the Cape Dreams online magazine in South Africa.