My last conversation with Bra Stix

Kaizer Chiefs

On Tuesday, September 24, just four days before the Safa presidential elections, it will be exactly eight years since the former Safa president Solomon ‘Stix’ Morewa passed away.

Bra Stix passed away on Saturday evening, September 24, 2005, at the age of 61. At the height of his career he was the giant of South African football.

In 1991 he played an instrumental role in South Africa’s readmission into international football, alongside Professor Lesole Gadinabokao and Danny Jordaan.

He was also at the helm of Safa during the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, and was a visionary behind South Africa hosting the Fifa World Cup.

But his empire came crumbling down when the damning findings of the Pickard Commission of Enquiry into financial mismanagement in Safa in 1996 cost him his place in football.

In December 2001, five years out of the spotlight, I decided to track Bra Stix down and pay him a visit at his Houghton estate offices. Expecting to see a man full of life I was greeted by a quiet and reserved figure. Bra Stix was truly a shadow of himself but nevertheless we had a great conversation that lasted more than two hours.

“For the last five years I had people calling me and all of them wanted to talk about the Pickard Commission and who else was in involved. And I told them, I don’t want to talk about it.

“I don’t mind talking to you as long as you will respect the fact that I don’t want to talk about my past,” Bra Stix said emphatically as I sat down in his boardroom.

Of course I was there to talk about the Pickard Commission and other issues surrounding football, including losing the 2006 World Cup bid to Germany. But of course I promised Bra Stix that I wouldn’t touch the subject.

We sat down for a chat and hit it off on a good note and, for the duration of the conversation, the Pickard Commission subject was the elephant in the room – being a journalist I was tempted to mention it but I kept my word.

And now, 12 years after I last spoke to him, it still baffles me that most of the things Bra Stix spoke about in our football have not improved.

However, while most people vilify him, I still regard Bra Stix as a true hero and a man who deserves a special place in our football.

May his soul rest in peace ...

 

Excerpts from our prescient interview in 2001

Bra Stix’s views on South African football
To move forward, I think South African club bosses must get rid of the old mind-set of wanting to run their clubs totally, expecting to do everything themselves. They should realise that football is a commercial business and you need specialists in all divisions in order to make sure that things run properly.

In this country you still see club bosses doing the PR’s function, or sometimes even shouting instructions to the players. We really can’t afford the kind of situation where you will find people approaching sponsors with a pen and paper in hand, telling them that I’m so-and so, I do this and that and I need this or that.

We want to see professional accountants do negotiating on the financial side. A club boss does not have the time or the specialised skills to do everything in today’s football.

 

On the PSL Board of Governors
To my mind our clubs are running themselves. It’s really sad to see the current state of affairs at PSL level, where you see club bosses running the show and then electing themselves to be on the Board of Governors.

It’s natural and logical that if you enter the BoG as a club boss, your focus will be mainly on your club and not the association in general and that is exactly what is happening at the PSL today.

Basically what the South African club bosses are doing is perpetuating mediocrity. We need to move to another level. The way forward is that clubs must get specialised people to represent them in the PSL and the BoG so that they can devote more attention to their own club affairs.

 

On PSL CEO Robin Petersen (now with Safa)
I don’t know the guy that well. I think he is a super gentleman and soft-spoken.

Perhaps that is why most people are taking advantage of the situation. People should not shy away from the fact that the League needs someone who is more aggressive, a person who can be independent and have no connections to a club whatsoever.

 

On Jomo Sono saying Kaizer Motaung should be the next Safa president
I fully agree with Sono. Kaizer has the charisma and leadership skills and, apart from that, millions of people have faith in him. That is the kind of a leader South African football needs.

People should look at how he runs his club – he has a huge business empire with many specialised people in different departments, which is why sponsors are queuing up to be connected with his club.

Now if we can have that kind of a person as a president of our national football association, a number of our problems will be solved.

 

On Bafana Bafana failing to attract fans
One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the regular chopping and changing of the players. The present team has not yet been perceived as a solid unit that fans can relate to.

Fans are unsure of the scheme and cannot relate to players they know very little of ... and that doesn’t encourage supporters’ loyalty.

The secret of emotional support of the team is based on players with whom supporters can identify. Another aspect is the manner in which the movement of the players is being handled. That leaves a lot to be desired.

A typical example of this is when on the eve of the game we are told Shoes Moshoeu is not arriving for the match or so-and-so’s club is refusing to release him. This all adds up to the uncertainty and confusion and people turn around and say: ‘We don’t know who is going to play, so why should we bother?’

Then you have the problem of inconsistency. So the answer in a nutshell is that national team is not an identifiable brand.

 

On a perception that Africa is copying Europe
Well, if following Europe means great efficiency then so be it. But sometimes you have to copy from someone else to learn.

You don’t have to invent everything. CAF must really consider the Nations Cup situation because when the Nations Cup is played in the same year as the World Cup, it puts soccer administrators under incredible pressure because of the number of call-ups. This results in federations fighting with clubs who pay a lot of money for players they want to use in League.

[Ed’s note: CAF changed the timing of the Afcon nine years after Stix Morewa mentioned it in our interview and the 2010 Afcon in Angola was the last Afcon to played in the same year as the World Cup.]

 

On the standard of coaching in South Africa

In this country we still sit with a sickness that we have inherited in the past, we didn’t develop coaches like the rest of the world did.

Now we are unable to draw top class coaches from our own development programme. Now with the continuing weakening of the rand, it is becoming prohibitive in terms of costs for local clubs to hire top international coaches.

Coaching is a source of pride and to have a local coach and technical team at the helm of a national team is the ultimate.

 

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