Sponsors get behind SA football

28 August 2007

With the core of the Bafana Bafana team that won the 1996 African Nations Cup in attendance at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on Monday, SA Breweries and Absa announced a joint sponsorship of South African football worth R500-million over the next five years.

Coming hot on the heels of a massive R1.6-billion broadcast deal for the Premier Soccer League with SuperSport International, the R500-million sponsorship for the SA Football Association (Safa) is yet another reflection of the positive spin-offs of winning the bid to host the World Cup in 2010.

“SAB, through Castle Lager, has supported and invested in South African soccer through all its highs and lows for almost 50 years and, after Safa’s readmission to Fifa in 1992, it was only logical to sponsor the national team,” said SA Breweries (SAB) marketing director Ian Penhale.

“Now, with the World Cup on the horizon, it seemed only logical to up our commitment significantly for the coming historic chapter.”

The marketers came up with a clever slogan for the deal, calling it “the new ABC of South African soccer – A for Absa, B for Bafana and C for Castle.”

For the members of the 1996 Bafana side in attendance, including former captain Neil Tovey, Shaun Bartlett, Andre Arendse, Doctor Khumalo, Mark Williams and David Nyathi, the announcement must have come as welcome news.

Ascending the ladder
Since the heady days of 1996, when South Africa ranked inside the top 20 of the Fifa world rankings, Bafana Bafana have slipped some way down the standings – to 61st, according to the July 2007 rankings – and those proud players would, no doubt, be happy to see this considerable investment as a means of helping South Africa start climbing the ladder once more.

Safa president Molefi Oliphant said the money would not be used for Bafana Bafana only, indicating that all national teams would benefit. “You can’t build an imposing pyramid without a solid foundation as its base,” Oliphant said.

However, he recognised that the success of the national soccer team was crucial to the development of the game and its popularity.

‘Historic moment’
“This is a historic moment in the history of Safa,” said Oliphant. “We have developed a strategy for Bafana that began with the appointment of Carlos Alberto Parreira [as coach] last year.”

Part of that strategy, as put forward by Parreira, is to play international friendlies against stronger opposition. He hopes this will help to turn Bafana Bafana into a competitive and dangerous host side at the World Cup.

The extra financial muscle will help ensure the international friendlies he is interested in arranging take place.

Bafana’s performance crucial
Looking ahead to the World Cup, SAB’s Penhale said the overall success of the tournament would depend greatly on the performance of Bafana Bafana.

Considering past history – in 1995, when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup, and 1996, when Bafana won the African Cup of Nations – his assessment has merit; both the aforementioned events were extremely well supported by the South African public.

Oliphant’s thoughts echoed those of Penhale. “It’s a great privilege for South Africa to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup,” he said. “A well-organised event, world-class infrastructure, as well as a successful home team, are key ingredients to the World Cup’s success.

“We believe this ground-breaking co-sponsorship arrangement will ensure Bafana Bafana exceeds all South Africans’ expectations at the 2010 Fifa World Cup and beyond.”

Steve Booysen, Absa’s chief executive, said the joint deal broke new ground. “The partnership of two of South Africa’s major brands, unthinkable 40 years ago, heralds a new era for South African soccer,” Booysen said.

“It will spark the nation’s energy and excitement, and further turn the spotlight on Bafana Bafana.”

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