It came as a bitter shock to millions of South Africans when the Confederation of African Football took a decision considered by many as a snub to South Africa and awarded Egypt the rights to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Dakar last week.
It was a bitter pill for me to swallow, especially after having earlier toured Goree Island. To the uninitiated, Goree Island is situated on the shores of Dakar and was known as the “House of Slaves” a first stop for millions of Africans destined for the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean.
El Hadji Diouf, now ambassador of Senegalese football, took pictures with tourists including yours truly, on the doors of a structure called the “Point of No Return” as it was from that very exit that millions of Africans were forcibly shipped to the United States to toil their lives away as slaves in cotton and sugar plantations.
Although in 1978 UNESCO declared Goree Island a World Heritage site, I still got goose bumps touring that tiny, carless island as it sharply brought into focus memories of our own Robben Island, where many of the country’s liberation stalwarts were incarcerated.
But the wailings, the despair and the death cries of millions of slaves as they departed Goree Island from the “Point of No Return” stayed with me when CAF President Ahmad Ahmad later that day announced Egypt as the preferred hosts of the 2019 AFCON tournament.
Naturally, I received tweets from my compatriots back home, all of them condemning the South African Football Association (SAFA) and its President Dr Danny Jordaan for failing to “bring the hosting rights home,” as they were unable to accept defeat at the hands of Egypt.
We are all entitled to our opinions and I respect the views of thousands of my compadres, who did not mince their words in their condemnation of both Ahmad Ahmad and Danny Jordaan for being anti-South Africa.
However, I will not condemn CAF or its President Ahmad Ahmad, because instead of taking Egypt head-on, our government dropped the ball and allowed Egypt free entry into the penalty area where they hardly struggled to tuck the ball into an empty net.
The Egyptians arrived in Senegal in a delegation of more than 10 cabinet Ministers, the entire Football Association executive committee and a contingent of 44 journalists. Danny Jordaan was the SA lone ranger against such formidable odds.
The SA government failed, yes FAILED to submit a simple letter of guarantee to CAF while the Egyptian State President personally called CAF headquarters, requested their demands and then signed off the required document.
While the SA Minister of Sport refused to submit guarantees and demanded to know how much it would cost to stage the tournament, the Egyptians had by then established a Bid Committee and coupled with the documents from the State President, gained a head start.
The problem with my people is that we labor under the misconception that the continent owes us a favor; that Africa is dependent on our generosity; that we have superior, world class stadiums that would guarantee us success, well, the truth is that we are not the hotshots that we believe we are.
The sooner we accept that in order to win, you have to work, the better for our people. Africa or CAF does not owe us anything, not even gratitude and we must just accept that we lost a bid because we were complacent and stop pointing fingers elsewhere, the better citizens we would become.