Johannesburg - Heads must roll at the SA Football Association (Safa) following further misinformation regarding the alleged suspension of Andile Jali.
The nation was duped into believing that the KV Oostende midfielder was suspended for Friday’s World Cup Qualifier against Senegal, only to realise later that this was not at all the case.
An eligible Jali would have been a sure starter following his five-star performance against Burkina Faso last month, but he was left on the bench.
Following the dance of shame in Mbombela in 2011, when Bafana thought they had qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), one would have thought Safa had learnt its lesson.
Someone at Safa seems to be sleeping on the job and the Jali saga has once again exposed the inept administration of the national association.
Coach Stuart Baxter was at pains to explain what really happened without apportioning the blame to anyone.
Baxter said his elaboration could be “misinterpreted and make a lot of people look silly. Immediately it was bandied about that Andile was suspended; we then got some sort of correspondence from Fifa and the referee’s report was wrong. We acted on that initially until Andile himself flagged it up and we started digging around".
The question is why, when it was clear that the midfielder was eligible to play, did Baxter leave him on the bench and only introduce him later in the match?
“We were worried that if we put him in the team anyway, it would be the case, like Ethiopia, when they had something like that. We were scared, but I said to them I have not prepared with Andile because in my mind he was suspended and I can’t just throw him in the team – that would be amateurish. I’m not gonna penalise any player because of other people having problems in their correspondence".
Baxter said one official report he saw said Jali scored the opening goal against Burkina Faso and he did not receive a yellow card.
“So it was very ambiguous to the point that we were nervous about selecting him and we all made the decision to put him on the bench.
“Without pointing fingers, that was the information I was given until 48 hours ago, when I was told the opposite,” Baxter said.
In 2011, Bafana thought a draw against Sierra Leone was enough to qualify for the 2012 Afcon, thinking their superior goal difference over Niger would see them top the group. This was not the case as CAF uses the head-to-head results when teams are tied.