Johannesburg - Dear Danny and Safa executive members
Seven years ago, I wrote an open letter to the South African Football Association (Safa). I feel compelled to do so again.
At the time, I was disappointed that Safa was trying to retrospectively change a rule that, in effect, meant Niger qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations ahead of Bafana Bafana. At the time, I said Safa had simply either not read the rule, or understood it and needed to accept its own mistake.
Fast forward six years and Safa is again crying foul after Fifa ordered the World Cup qualifier against Senegal to be replayed.
This time though – I hasten to add – the mistake is not of their own doing. First Fifa and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport found the referee guilty of match manipulation. That means he did something to influence the game.
The actual findings have not been released, but, having done a lot of research into match fixing and manipulation for the sake of betting, I am quite sure the following happened – the referee was bribed. Not by Safa or Senegal. As someone who likes to place a small bet here or there, I believe that someone (or a syndicate) placed money on a penalty being awarded either in the first half, or shortly before the break, or something like that.
The referee – or as we should call him the bribe taker – had no interest in who won or lost the game, which is why I think he tried to get Senegal to equalise at the end, and which is why he allowed the ridiculous amount of extra time. Had they managed, his bought decision would presumably not have caused so much fuss.
Neither Safa nor the players are to blame. The blame lies firmly with the referee and those who paid him to manipulate the game.
Danny, I seem to recall that when the referee was first banned, you said that you would not accept the result not to stand as South Africa has had refereeing decisions go against them. There is a huge difference between a poor decision and outright corruption, which is what this was.
Given that it was ruled to be corruption that benefited one side and caused harm to the other, there is only one thing that can and should happen – the game has to be replayed.
Trust me, like all South Africans, I would love to see South Africa go to Russia and, if they make it, I will be there, proudly wearing the Bafana jersey and waving the South African flag.
But I would feel bad if we were there because a referee was bought and we benefited from that. That is corruption and that is something all South Africans should be wary of. It makes no difference if it is political corruption, economic corruption or, as in this case, sporting corruption. It is wrong.
If we are in Russia, we should be there because we are the best (in our group). If we are not, let the best go, be it Burkina Faso, Cape Verde or Senegal.
So, Danny, I am asking you – no, I am begging you – do the right thing. Accept the Fifa decision as being the right one because it is so. Let’s beat Senegal twice – and Burkina Faso – and go to Russia because we should be there, not because of corruption.
Fight corruption with the same zeal with which you fought apartheid!