New Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe raised the bar Tuesday for national teams in the continent by insisting one of them must win the World Cup soon.
“An African team must win the World Cup in the near future,” said the 59-year-old South African billionaire at a press conference in Johannesburg.
Motsepe was elected unopposed last Friday to lead trouble-torn CAF after a two-year ban over “governance issues” prevented Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad from seeking re-election for a second stint.
The mining magnate promised to quit after his four-year term if CAF “does not make real progress” under his leadership.
“We must stop being excessively pessimistic and negative (about the World Cup), there is no continent that has succeeded by dwelling on its failures.”
No African team has gone beyond the quarter-finals of the World Cup, and only Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) have got that far.
Africa fared dismally at the last World Cup in Russia three years ago, with its five qualifiers — Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia — eliminated after the group stage.
But Motsepe was upbeat as he spoke in South Africa for the first time since his ascension to the highest position in African football.
“I am confident African football will succeed, become self sufficient, and the best in the world,” predicted the owner of 2016 CAF Champions League winners Mamelodi Sundowns.
Turning to the Africa Cup of Nations, Motsepe said he wanted it to continue as a two-yearly tournament despite suggestions from FIFA president Gianni Infantino that it be staged every four years.
– Tug of wars –
The biggest sporting occasion in Africa has traditionally been held during January and February, triggering tug of wars between European clubs and national teams for the service of players.
When Cameroon were crowned African champions in 2017, they did so without seven potential first-choices who feared falling out of favour at their clubs had they travelled to Gabon.
Ahmad moved the 2019 finals to June-July in Egypt, but coaches and players involved in early kickoffs railed against the 40 degree celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat.
The delayed 2021 tournament will revert next year to a January-February time slot because host nation Cameroon experiences torrential mid-year rain.
Motsepe said the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup prize money was unacceptably low, echoing the complaints of many club officials who say they compete at a loss.
“When Sundowns won the Champions League, I had to give some of my personal funds to the players because the prize money was insufficient.”
Champions League winners pocket $2.5 million (2.1 million euros) and clubs winning the Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, become $1.25 million richer.
Answering a question about whether he had ambitions to be FIFA president, Motsepe said: “Absolutely not. Infantino is doing a great job and must be supported.”
FIFA-brokered talks played a significant role in the election of Motsepe, who was chosen after his rivals, Ivorian Jacques Anouma, Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya and Senegalese Augustin Senghor withdrew.
Yahya and Senghor will become vice-presidents of the Cairo-based organisation and Anouma a special advisor to Motsepe.