JOHANNESBURG - The South Africa Football Association (Safa), desperately trying to exhaust all its options in terms of appealing world governing body Fifa’s decision to order a replay of Bafana Bafana’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal, says it is not chasing a lost cause.
On Wednesday Safa received confirmation from the game’s head honchos in Zurich that the controversial 2-1 win over Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in November last year had been nullified and that it would have to be played again in two month’s time.
Joseph Lamptey, the Ghanaian referee who was in charge of that game, has since been issued a lifetime ban for manipulating the result, although Fifa cleared Safa of any wrongdoing.
This has come as a kick in the teeth for Safa, whose members are still reeling from the shock back-to-back defeats away and at home against Cape Verde in Group D of the qualifiers for next year’s World Cup in Russia, which had left the national team bottom of the log with only four points from the same number of matches.
Fifa’s decision, however, leaves coach Stuart Baxter’s men with a mere one point with only three qualifiers remaining against Burkina Faso on October 7 and Senegal (twice) - a year after that controversial fixture in Polokwane.
Bafana were punished for their abysmal performance in Praia last Friday when they lost 2-1 to a side that had, until then, been the whipping boys of the group following successive defeats in their opening two games against Senegal and Burkina Faso.
Cape Verde then travelled to Durban on Tuesday night and put Bafana to the sword yet again with the same scoreline.
“This decision can’t be final,” said Safa lawyer Norman Arendse. “We now have to see how we go about challenging it because Fifa have said that we can’t appeal. But in the same statement they say this decision (to order a re-match) is subject to confirmation by the organising committee (for Fifa competitions) next week (September 14).
"To come to this decision is unprecedented because there have been so many of these controversial mistakes by referees and you have not seen the games being replayed.”
The only time Fifa has ordered for a match to be replayed was 12 years ago in a 2006 World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain.
“What happened there was that the referee gave a penalty to Bahrain and the Uzbekistan players were encroaching in the box (while the spot kick was being taken). But instead of ordering a retake, the referee gave an indirect free-kick,” Arendse explained.
He said Safa CEO Dennis Mumble was in a race against time to get more details from Fifa on its decision because the statement issued did not reveal why it is that the world football governing body insist that Bafana be docked all three points and host Senegal again in a qualifier.
“We are curious to know who manipulated the Ghanaian referee and we want to see how they came to their findings,” said Arendse. “The report we got was very brief, and it was in relation to the referee, his appeal and it mentions the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who upheld the decision to give the referee a lifetime ban.
"That is not enough. Suddenly Fifa has treated this as a matter of urgency, and we want to know how that has become the case 10 months after the game was played. Maybe these sort of rules only apply to African teams. We are definitely taking the matter forwards.”
Mumble, who had referred all questions regarding the replay to Arendse and would not answer any Fifa related questions, did confirm, however, that coach Baxter still had the association’s full backing despite the immense public backlash following the horrific results against Cape Verde.
“You know, I am emotional about this,” said Mumble. “We understand the country is not happy and we are not happy either. But please don’t ask me about the coach and the future. It’s too early for us to get to that point, and I’m not going to entertain any questions about the coach’s future.
"We are going to lean on people, including the players, to perform. We have to think positively. We want to be at the World Cup - it’s been a dream for us. But we absolutely have to support the coach.”