The order for a rematch was met with shock and dismay but it seems as though Safa accepted their fate without even putting up a fight
DID the South African Football Association (Safa) cowardly give up without even putting up a fight?
It appeared so yesterday when the organisation’s head Danny Jordaan, flanked by his deputy presidents Elvis Shishana and Lucas Nhlapho and lawyer Norman Arendse, who had been leading the charge last week in challenging Fifa on its decision that Bafana Bafana should replay their 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal, sheepishly accepted their fate.
The order for a rematch by the world governing body last Wednesday had been met with shock and dismay by Safa, Bafana fans and the Burkina Faso Football Federation, who felt the pronouncement would impact their chances of qualifying for Russia next year given that they were in pole position alongside Cape Verde in Group D.
“The information we now have has been classified as highly confidential, but what I can say is that there is now evidence that the game was targeted for manipulation and the score could have gone either way,” said Arendse, Safa’s voice last week in the midst of confusion and panic as the national team’s hopes of playing at the World Cup took a big hit.
Fifa had since issued a lifetime ban to Joseph Lamptey, the Ghanaian referee who was in charge of Bafana’s 2-1 win over Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in November last year. Arendse (pictured) had told the press six days ago that Safa had a strong case, especially seeing that Fifa had in fact moved quickly to clear South Africa of any wrong-doing in a match that now appears to have been fixed.
But yesterday morning he was singing a different tune – this as a result of an emergency committee meeting in Nasrec the day before, where Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza was also in attendance. The decision to accept Fifa’s call, the first of its kind in world football, was taken there.
“Fifa paid Ireland $5 million,” said Arendse, referring to the payment that was made as compensation to the Irish for missing the 2010 World Cup after striker Thierry Henry’s handball set up France’s winning goal in the play-offs for a place at the global showpiece, which was to be held in South Africa.
There was wild speculation yesterday on whether Fifa could have offered Safa some kind of reimbursement outside the minimum
R5 million guaranteed as payback for the costs incurred in planning the Senegal game in Polokwane.
Safa felt taking the moral route, when there were probably grounds to appeal the decision to replay the match in two month’s time, was the easier path.
“We don’t want dirty points,” Arendse said in a complete contrast to his remarks last week when he asked whether Bafana should be punished for an alleged betting syndicate that had nothing to do with them.
“We were unconvinced by the evidence given to us so far, but what we received lately suggest that the game could have been manipulated. But this is not to say it was for Bafana to win. No, the scoreline could have been 2-1 in favour of Senegal.
“Fifa, through their tracking system, saw a spike when there was a penalty (converted by Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo). Maybe the bets were to see the referee give a penalty, and it didn’t matter who would get it.”
Although Safa have accepted the process and will begin to make arrangements to host Senegal again not long after Bafana face Burkina Faso at the FNB Stadium on October 8, referee Lamptey is still fighting to clear his name.
“He has appealed through the Swiss courts, but it might be a while before there is an outcome there. Maybe it will affect our replay, maybe it wont,” Arendse said. “What we are still aggrieved about is that there was no due diligence from Fifa. We were not involved in the decision-making process and we believe there were no background checks done on a referee that was not short of controversy, and was appointed by Fifa, not Safa.”
Why, then, is Safa throwing in the towel?