Top Maritzburg United official, Farook Kadodia, has broken his silence on the public backlash regarding the football club’s multimillion-rand sponsorship from the cash-strapped Msunduzi Municipality.
The so-called “Team of Choice” recently secured a R27 million sponsorship package from the municipality covering the next three years.
Speaking on the sides of the launch of the club’s new, ground-breaking partnership with public benefit organisation (PBO), Gift of the Givers on Tuesday, Kadodia claimed that “all the noise makers” are not just hurting his club, but also poor people.
The funding from the municipality, at R9 million per year, has been met with massive criticism from people and organisations, such as the Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics, who all believe the money should have been used for service delivery instead.
Said Kadodia: “I don’t want to be dealing with this situation too much, but I would like to say that people should look at what value the club has brought to the city from the time of its formation, when there was no team playing at this very Harry Gwala Stadium.
“We came to the rescue by saying that we will get a team to play in Pietermaritzburg. We get people from all cultures (together).”
Kadodia said the club is a much-needed stepping-stone for young, local players from poor backgrounds to achieve something in life.
He said a perfect example of this is striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane from the Bhobhonono area, who scored for Bafana Bafana in their 1-0 win in a World Cup qualifier against Ghana in Johannesburg on Monday.
“People must also understand that football is supported by the poorest of the poor.
“Those are all the objectives that we have, that those people who are making a lot of noise don’t understand,” he said.
“They need to understand where these supporters come from; what kind of social cohesion is gained between the higher LSM market and the lower LSM market through the club.
“I think there’s a lot more for people to understand about what football brings to a community like Maritzburg.”
Kadodia also said that they are not getting any money for carrying Gift of the Givers branding on the front or back of their playing shirt.
Normally, Premier Soccer League clubs reserve that space for companies who pay good money for it.
In fact, proceeds from the sale of replica Maritzburg United jerseys with the Gift of the Givers logo will go to the charity organisation, according to Kadodia.
“It doesn’t change our financial position because there’s no financial gain from this move. Some people and the media may find it difficult to understand the value of this partnership,” said Kadodia.
“There’s no money involved here, it’s a two-way benefit. The team gets a lot of support and recognition for what it’s doing and now we would like to allow the Gift of the Givers to get more exposure and do outreach through football.
“And, people who are familiar with the organisation will start looking at what Maritzburg United is.”
Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman thanked the club for the “beautiful gesture” and confirmed that his organisation is not giving United any money for it.
“People are confused and thinking we are sponsoring the club; we are not sponsoring anybody.
“We are a charity organisation, we are taking money from people,” he said jokingly.
“It’s something I would have never expected in my life.
“When someone walks into your office and offers you the front of their shirt, you think how much is this going to cost, and the guy says it’s not going to cost you anything, we are giving it to you for free.
“That tells you a lot about the club, they have values, of sharing their generosity.”
Pietermaritzburg-based Sooliman also commended the municipality for supporting United and called on Msunduzi to up its game.
“You have to look at it both ways. If there’s no service delivery on the one side, you expect people to get angry. That’s normal in any situation,” he said.
“But we have to look beyond service delivery; this is a chance for the team to be supported by the municipality to increase opportunities for the youth.
“It will bring more recognition to the city. It’s like paying advertising money. And in this case, I don’t think the money they are talking about is that big. But it works both ways.
“I think the team should be supported by Maritzburg because it’s important that the City gets behind you.
“(But) The City needs to get the balance right, upgrade the city itself and the potholes.”