Johannesburg - After losing back-to-back matches against Cape Verde in the Russia World Cup qualifiers, South Africa suffered a further blow on Wednesday.
Fifa announced that last year’s 2-1 win over Senegal had been nullified and that the match would be replayed.
The decision, which still has to be ratified by the World Cup Organising Committee on Thursday, would leave Bafana with a single point from three matches and virtually demolish any hopes of going to Russia.
Mathematically, they would not be totally out of contention, but Bafana would need to win their remaining three games. The decision gives Senegal – who are third in Group D with five points – an advantage.
Fifa-accredited match official
Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, who handled the contentious match, has since been handed a life ban for “match manipulation”.
He was appointed by Fifa as an accredited official at the time. By overturning the result, Fifa is shifting the blame and making a mockery of the rule that “the referee’s decision is final”.
The South African Football Association (Safa) was cleared of any wrongdoing, while Fifa has not revealed who paid Lamptey to manipulate the match, nor how much money exchanged hands.
This flies in the face of Fifa’s “fair play” policy. It also goes against the part the organisation plays in the laws of the game regarding the referee’s decision being final. It can open the door to referees’ decisions being challenged every week in different leagues in the world, and throw the game into unprecedented turmoil.
It also has serious implications for Group D as it affects all the countries in the group – Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Senegal and South Africa.
Burkina Faso, who are topping the group with six points, have indicated their intention to appeal the decision, claiming it gives their west African neighbours an unfair advantage.
The decision puts Bafana at a disadvantage as they would have to travel to Dakar in November and back for the return match within a week. Senegal would have to make just one trip in that time frame.
Another question is whether Fifa secretary-general Fatma Samoura, who is a Senegalese, played a role in this saga. Why did it take Fifa 10 months to come to this conclusion?
Fifa says Safa could receive financial recourse for staging last year’s game.
“Moreover, please be informed that we acknowledge Safa’s claim for ‘cost relief’ for the cancelled match of November 12 2016, and we would kindly request that you provide details of any incurred expenses not offset against revenues obtained for such match for review,” it said.
It costs millions to stage an international game. Costs include bringing in overseas-based players, daily allowances, accommodation, the venue, hospitality, ground transport, security and catering.
There are also emotional issues, which money will not be able to fix, as well as the invaluable three points. Let alone the supporters – who used their hard-earned cash to travel to the game, with some having to book accommodation.
Bafana are their own worst enemies though, as failing to beat minnows Cape Verde – home and away – clearly shows they do not deserve to go to the World Cup.
What’s wrong with bafana?
Team selection and wrong calls
Stuart Baxter should shoulder the blame for making incorrect calls. In the end, his team selection was not spot-on.
He left ball players and experienced campaigners Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Thulani Serero, who should be automatic starters, on the bench.
Substitutions in both games were also not kosher and failed to yield positive results.
Another area that Baxter must urgently fix concerns discipline– the players are not tactically disciplined.
They concede stupid and unnecessary free kicks in dangerous areas, which they then fail to defend.
Bafana have conceded three penalties in four games, proving their lack of discipline.
Eric Mathoho’s sending off in Cape Verde is another example of ill-discipline.
Itumeleng Khune factor
When Itumeleng Khune is not in the team, the other goalkeepers – Ronwen Williams, Wayne Sandilands, Jackson Mabokgwane and Darren Keet – fail to step up to the plate.