S'Busiso Mseleku

FIFA finding could prove huge blow for SA football

2017-03-24 13:27
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

The South African Football Association (SAFA) once more finds itself entangled in a scandal - albeit not of its own making.

Or one hopes so.

Out of the blue this week, world football governing body, FIFA, issued a statement that they had banned Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey for life “match manipulation”.

This stems from his odd decision to award Bafana Bafana a dubious penalty in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in November.

Lamptey shocked many (maybe except fired coach Shakes Mashaba and a few dyed in the wool patriots) when he pointed to the spot after the ball had struck the hand of Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly after the ball had clearly hit him on the knee.

The Senegalese team on the field as well as their technical staff on the bench went livid but the Ghanaian official stuck to his guns.

But now FIFA has found that there were some shenanigans around that match.

This brings back memories of the scandal that shook South African football to its core when it emerged that Bafana Bafana’s impressive results in their run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup had been cooked somewhere in Singapore by match-fixers.

It might come as a little consolation that assistant referee David Laryea, who is Lamptey’s compatriot, has been exonerated of any involvement or wrongdoing.

This has also led to a belief that SAFA might not be involved in whatever took place ahead of that match. That would be such a relief. South African football does not need to be involved in another scandal.

Not again.

However, the fact that the scourge of match-fixing that is damaging football all over the world has once more reared its ugly head on our shores, is cause for concern.

This - FIFA’s revelation - could not come at a worse time, as SAFA is busy trying to root out corruption from the local refereeing scene.

Reports of shenanigans that go on - mostly in the lower leagues, of which the elite sector is not also fully clean - are a source for worry. There have been many attempts at uprooting corruption in South African football, including the much publicised Operation Dribble, but there seems to be no end in sight.

But going back to the FIFA matter, South Africa must be holding a collective breath as the global body is still considering whether to take any more steps that might include nullifying the result of that particular match.

Remember, the win put South Africa second in Group D and within reach of the top qualifying spot for the 2018 shindig in Russia.

So having the match replayed will be a huge blow to South Africa as there will be no guarantee that they can once more pull off an upset (albeit with the referee’s assistance) as it happened in the last encounter.

It also becomes a huge moral issue. If the result was to stand, would South Africa be happy to proceed to the World Cup knowing that they - even if unknowingly - cheated their way through.

I think Senegal Football Federation (FSF) vice-president Abdoulaye Sow Was spot on when he told BBC Sport this week that: "All cheating and stealing will be punished according to its gravity.”

We wait with bated breath.

S'Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    safa  |  fifa  |  s’busiso mseleku  |  soccer
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