Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|March 13, 2021|5 Minutes|In Billionaire Watch

Billionaire Watch

How billionaire Motsepe plans to give African football failure the boot

An African billionaire who grew up kicking a football across rough pitches is now in charge of the entire game from Cape Town to the Mediterranean.

Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe – worth an estimated $3 billion – has become President of the Confederation of African football. He is the first South African to take the top job; Motsepe relinquishes his post at top South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, in favour of his son.

Motsepe was elected unopposed and there have already been rumblings in CAF about so called interference by the world football body FIFA. The body brokered meetings with contenders Ivorian Jacques Anouma and Mauritanian Ahmed Senghor. The two were given vice-president roles leaving Motsepe as the sole contender. 

Former Africa Cup of Nations winner Claude le Roy said FIFA would not dare to carry out such an intervention in South America and Europe.

Yet in South Africa, the Motsepe appointment was applauded. 

“Everybody is looking to a brighter future with someone with new ideas. Motsepe can’t afford to fail,” says veteran South African football journalist Thomas Kwenaite.  

“I think Patrice Motsepe had the pedigree as a leader and businessman to lead CAF right now,” says Kalusha Bwalya the former Zambian international and 1988 African Footballer of the Year.

“I am happy that Motsepe will travel and meet the heads of all the football associations across the continent, in the next 12 months. This is important because each country has its own problems.” 

Motsepe has nurtured a lifelong passion for football and by all accounts was a talented young player. He plied his trade with Dynamos FC and Magnificent FC. two of the biggest teams near his home area of Mmakau, near Rustenburg, in South Africa’s North West Province. 

Study overtook midfield endeavour, as the years wore on, but many who knew Motsepe believed he could have made it further in the game.

When he wasn’t playing, Motsepe used to watch the professionals play at Pretoria Sundowns – the forerunners of Mamelodi Sundowns- the team he was to bankroll to the title of African champions. 

Insiders say Motsepe plans to tackle the top job in African football, as he would a business, with a strong management team and targets. He expected to use his business contacts in the search for new sponsors. 

Motsepe – aged 59 and a lawyer by trade – has his work cut out. For years, African football has struggled against poor organisation, corruption and infighting. There are fears that the African game is being overshadowed by the European football beamed across the continent. The game has suffered a talent drain to Europe for decades.

There is also a dearth of money in the African game. In Mozambique’s qualification campaign for the  2010 World Cup, in South Africa, the players were instructed not to swap shirts at the end of qualifying games because the football authorities in Maputo had spent the entire budget on air travel to away games and couldn’t afford a new set of jerseys!  

Critics say that the African champions are given just over $2 million dollars in prize money. They say that nations in Europe will spend that much merely preparing for a continental competition.

All of these issues – from empty stadiums, to empty pockets – will have to be tackled by Motsepe in the next year if he is to leave his mark on the job.  

Motsepe has prided himself in steering clear of politics and controversy in nearly three decades of amassing a multi-billion-dollar fortune. In this new job, running African football, he is likely to find it very difficult to continue to do so.     

“Everybody is looking to a brighter future with someone with new ideas. Motsepe can’t afford to fail.” 

“I think Patrice Motsepe had the pedigree as a leader and businessman to lead CAF right now,”