Poor Bafana Bafana. They just can’t seem to catch a break.
Wounded following this month’s back-to-back World Cup qualifier defeats to Cape Verde, ranked 48 spots below Bafana, Fifa this week instructed South Africa to replay last year’s tie against Senegal after the sport’s governing body found the referee manipulated the result.
Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey awarded a nonexistent penalty to Bafana in the November 2016 qualifier in Polokwane, which Bafana won 2-1, and has been banned for life. His appeal was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
It was Bafana’s only triumph in four Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which means they only have a point to show at the halfway stage of their qualifying campaign.
Burkina Faso and Cape Verde have six points, while Senegal have five. Only the group winners of Africa’s five zone groups will qualify for the World Cup.
If you ignore South Africa’s automatic qualification for the 2010 World Cup as hosts, you would have to go back as far as 2002 to the last time the country qualified for a World Cup.
That’s a horrid record for a nation that used to be regarded as one of the continent’s powerhouses. With Bafana struggling to find their feet, Russia seems a long, long way off.
So, do the South African Football Association (Safa) have a legitimate reason to object? No one can argue that the penalty was a shocker.
Safa would have some points to the argument if they were to contest the decision. One, by the time the qualifier is replayed, a year would have passed.
That’s a long time for a result to be overturned. Two, poor decisions are part and parcel of sport and teams that have been victims in the past had to suck it up and move on.
However, the referee has been found guilty of matchfixing. If the sport wants to send out a clear message to stamp out the scourge of match fixing, then this is the way to do it.