SAFA sorry, withdraws appeal
SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani (File)
Johannesburg - The SA Football Association (SAFA) apologised on Wednesday for the national team's failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
"We want to take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to South Africa, the government and the sponsors for the team's failure to go to the Equatorial Guinea and Gabon next year," said SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani.
"Given the resources that we have, failure is inexcusable and this will be the second edition we will miss after not qualifying for Angola 2010."
The association also withdrew an appeal to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after Bafana's 0-0 draw in their final group qualifier match with Sierra Leone in Nelspruit two weeks ago.
SAFA disputed article 14 of the CAF competition rules.
Not being aware of the competition rules, SAFA appealed after South Africa's failure to qualify when the team played for a draw in the second-half, thinking that would be enough for them to win Group G on a better goal difference.
With the AFCON qualifiers, a head-to-head record determines who finishes first, hence third-placed Niger qualified ahead of first-placed Bafana Bafana because they had a better record in their two meetings against the South Africans.
The appeal has garnered negative reviews from the football public, with most labelling it as an embarrassment and not wanting to accept defeat.
"We were not seeking to challenge our result or find a back door entrance to the tournament, and we've always said this," said SAFA chief executive Robin Peterson.
"We've also received calls from other countries that supported us in saying article 14 has led to an unfair outcome and expressing concern about Article 14.
"We would like to congratulate Niger and we wish Equatorial Guinea and Gabon the very best. We look forward to working with CAF when we host the 2013 edition."
Last week, Sports minister Fikile Mbalula advised SAFA to withdraw the appeal and apologise to the nation.
SAFA said the decision to officially apologise had not been swayed by Mbalula.
"This was our position before the sports minister made his recommendations so we are not responding to that, it came from us," said Peterson.
"This was our position before we had heard from him."
SAFA will now hold an internal enquiry with the technical team to investigate South Africa's failure to qualify and to find out why the article 14 rule was not understood.
Peterson said SAFA would look to bolster the technical team to give adequate support staff to national coach Pitso Mosimane and his Brazilian assistant, Jaero Leal.
"Pitso is not being singled out, his primary role is to get the team ready," Peterson said.
"We have recognised the need to bolster the technical team and realise that this might have been a contributing factor to not qualifying.
"They will need to provide him with what he needs, and we have a legal department now to ensure that we will be aware of things like the rules."