Johannesburg and Pretoria have experienced “shutdowns” that have seen foreign nationals attacked by South Africans and businesses looted with some torched. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP

Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana’s international friendly against Zambia has been called off due to the ongoing xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) regrets to inform members of the public that the international friendly match between Zambia and South Africa that was scheduled for National Heroes Stadium on Saturday, 7 September 2019 has been called off in view of the prevailing security concerns in South Africa,” FAZ said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The general secretary of FAZ, Adrian Kashala, said Zambia would now play Namiba in a friendly on Monday.

South African Football Association (Safa) communications manager Dominic Chimhavi said: “We have just received correspondence from FAZ to say that they cannot undertake this match with the ongoing violence in South Africa, including the targeting of their own people.

Johannesburg and Pretoria have experienced “shutdowns” that have seen foreign nationals attacked by South Africans and businesses looted with some torched. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele met with the community leaders on Tuesday with the aim of quelling the tensions. He promised to hold an imbizo with them on Sunday. But while that was happening, South Africa’s image on the international stage was taking a battering with the Nigerian government hinting at taking action against the country as some of their nationals in Johannesburg and Pretoria have been heavily affected by the violence. 

Zambia's withdrawal has left the South African Football Association (Safa) scrambling to get a friendly to ensure that they get competitive action before the crucial 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers in November.

It will be difficult with most of their neighbours involved in the preliminary round Afcon qualifiers. Bafana will start those qualifiers with a trip to Ghana before taking on Sudan at home. 

This cancellation is a major blow to Molefi Ntseki who would have led Bafana for the first time against Chipolopolo since being appointed head coach on a permanent basis.

Bafana were already in camp with plans to go to Lusaka on Thursday. On Tuesday they held a training session at Steyn City School with all players including the European based contingent.

IOL Sport