Is this the Jordaan moment?
Harare – Danny Jordaan is odds-on favourite to become the new Safa president this weekend but, after his recent embarrassment as he stumbled in his quest for leadership positions in football, he knows nothing can be taken for granted.
Four years ago, the respected 62-year-old administrator was also a front-runner, in the battle for the same job, but his world collapsed around him, on a farcical election day, when he withdrew from the race at the very last minute.
His showdown with long-time rival, Irvin Khoza, dominated those Safa elections and split the country’s football family into two warring factions and when a compromise couldn’t be reached, the two heavyweights pulled out of the race and cleared the way for lightweight, Kirsten Nematandani, to take over.
Khoza is not in the running this time around, having been elbowed out of the race by Article 37.9 of the Safa constitution, which states that “the (Safa) president shall not be an owner or have any interest, financial or otherwise, in any football club under the jurisdiction of Safa”.
But the absence of his name from the ballot paper doesn’t mean that he is not a huge influence in this battle for the Safa presidency and the Orlando Pirates strongman appeared to confirm just that in his withdrawal statement.
“Where football is involved, I do not have the luxury of being a bystander,” Khoza said in his statement.
“When approached to serve, I am duty bound to give the matter serious consideration. I did indicate, when approached to stand, the limitations brought about by article 37.9 of the Safa constitution.
“My standing at this stage will create a negativity that I can’t afford to bring to football.”
Mandla “Shoes” Mazibuko, the Safa vice-president who is the other candidate in the race for the presidency, can certainly count on the support of the faction that was meant to back Khoza for this job.
The politics in South African football has always meant that those who back Khoza will certainly oppose Jordaan and while both men have tried to play diplomacy over this issue, the cracks are too wide to be healed just by a withdrawal from the race by the Pirates’ chairman.
Jordaan has tried to dangle the olive branch and told the South African media last week that he enjoys good relations with Khoza, the man who was his chairman when he ran the Local Organising Committee, as chief executive, of the 2010 World Cup.
Jordaan revealed that in 1995, after Pirates had been held at home by ASEC Mimosas in the Caf Champions League, and there were few friends for both Khoza and his team as their prospects for success dimmed ahead of the second leg in Abidjan, he was one of those who stood up in their corner.
He jumped onto the plane and was there, alongside Khoza in Abidjan, as Pirates basked in the glow of their finest hour after shocking the Mimosas in their backyard to be crowned champions of Africa.
But this isn’t 1995.
The mere fact that Khoza was ready for another battle with Jordaan, for the Safa presidency, only to be ruled out by a clause in the constitution that barred him from standing, tells a bigger story of the friction that continues to exist between the two strongmen and which could have a huge bearing in deciding who wins the elections this weekend.
Reports indicate that Jordaan enjoys support from 32 of the 52 Safa voting regions and while that, on paper could give him the lead going into the poll, delegates have been known to swing their votes at the last minute.
And Jordaan has been in such positions of strength before, going into the final weekend of elections, only to see his dreams shattered by the swings that happen when people finally decide to cast their vote.
Only this year, he was a hot favourite to win a seat on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee in Marrakech, Morocco, but he was blown away, in a huge upset, by a lightweight from Madagascar.
The voting, in the first call, could not produce a winner and a second vote had to be called and Ahmad, a football official from the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, pulled off a huge shock as he edged Jordaan for a seat on the CAF executive.
Two years ago, Jordaan was favoured to get a seat on the Fifa executive on the back of his strong performance as chief executive of the LOC that organised the successful Fifa World cup in 2010.
But the Jordaan camp was outmanoeuvred by their opponents and, just before the vote could be taken, it became apparent that the South African football official would be beaten badly in the race.
He decided to retain his credibility, which he felt would be damaged by a demoralising loss, and withdrew from the race.
It was the same story when Jordaan arrived in Gaborone last year hoping to unseat Suketu Patel and become the president of Cosafa only to be forced to withdraw, once again, at the very last minute.
“We withdrew our candidates on the basis that we felt we needed to keep our dignity,” said Nematandani, who went to Gaborone to try and push Jordaan’s bid to become the Cosafa president.
“Because this is a secret ballot, you rely on the honesty of people and when you had doubt you don’t try and say let me see where this is taking us, so we felt our candidates should withdraw and keep our dignity.
“I mean you don’t vote for yourself so you rely on others.”
Jordaan told the BBC that he believed the Cosafa region wasn’t ready yet for the changes that he wanted to bring to the region.
“I presented proposals to change the structure of Cosafa – but it was very clear that out of the 14 countries, my proposals were always split 7-7,” he said.
“So I decided that people were not ready for a new direction and a new vision. I think change always triggers resistances, and with a small majority it would have been difficult to implement change.
“I will continue to work in football and perhaps I must spend more time strengthening my relationships (with other African administrators) on an individual basis.”
He doesn’t need the support of the African administrators this weekend because his fate will be decided on the home front and Safa, which has been reeling from a match-fixing scandal that sucked in its leadership and perennial failure by Bafana Bafana, badly needs a new face at the helm.
Whether that man is Jordaan or Mazibuko, who goes by the trendy nickname ‘Shoes’, is what will be decided this weekend.