With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ little over eight months away, presiding over the South African Football Association is a paramount, prestigious role. It is one Kirsten Nematandani assumed around two weeks ago, when he succeeded Molefi Oliphant as SAFA president.
He today visited the Home of FIFA in Zurich, where he was welcomed by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke. Nematandani was accompanied by a high-profile delegation that included SAFA vice-presidents Dr. Irvin Khoza, Mwelo Nonkonyana and Mandla Mazibuko, as well as Dr. Danny Jordaan, the CEO of the Local Organising Committee for South Africa 2010.
After their meeting, Nematandani sat down with FIFA.com to discuss next year's showpiece event and the South African national team.
FIFA.com: Mr. Nematandani, what is the purpose of your visit today?
Kirsten Nematandani: We launched this new committee a few days ago. From the onset, FIFA showed great interest in ensuring the SAFA elections went according to plan. Now it's time for us to come back and assure President Blatter that the competition will go according to plan and be the best World Cup in history. We are behind the whole World Cup and are giving it 100 per cent support. It means a lot to our country. We want to assure him that he should sleep in peace, knowing this World Cup is in safe hands. We are committed to ensuring that nothing whatsoever will disturb this World Cup. That's why we've brought the Chairman and the CEO of the LOC, who made this commitment once again. We are leaving this place very, very happy and are looking forward to the World Cup. And on the 4th of December, when the Final Draw takes place in Cape Town, we will say to the world: ‘Come to South Africa and enjoy the excellent hospitality you will receive'.
What topics did you discuss with the FIFA President?
We discussed issues regarding our commitment to grassroots football, and issues regarding our national team. As a new executive committee, we have started to give support to the national team. We have met with the technical committee and the coach, and have listened to the challenges they are facing. We decided to give them the best of support possible. We have chosen former Bafana Bafana players and coaches to help, including Clive Barker, who guided the team to the African Cup of Nations title in 1996. Jomo Sono has been at the Bafana help many times and Gavin Hunt, the coach of SuperSport United, has won the league twice. This group will begin to asses the performance of the team and to advice the national team coach, Joel Santana. We believe the coach needs support and we are trying everything possible. And when 2010 comes around, Bafana Bafana should go places. Our vision is to ensure that South Africa become the best side in Africa. It's not a dream, it's realistic. We were there in 1996 and I can't see any reason why we can't be there again.
How far can South Africa go at next year's FIFA World Cup?
I'm certain we'll reach the knockout phase. We want to bring in a sport scientist. South Africa has a wealth of sports scientists and we want them to tell us what we can do to support the team. What we have realised is that when the players leave the national team and go back to their clubs, the training methods and fitness levels go down. That's why you saw a different team during the Confederations Cup. And come the World Cup, that team will be super fit and ready to go.