Rest in Peace: The final nail in Bafana’s coffin?
would seem by all logic to constitute the final nail in the coffin for South Africa’s Soccer World Cup qualifying hopes after FIFA announced on Wednesday that the controversial game in which Bafana Bafana beat Senegal 2-1 would now be replayed.
The decree was delivered with the impact of a hammer blow, although not unexpected in view of the life ban imposed on shady match referee Joseph Lamptey for what was described by world soccer’s controlling body as “manipulating the outcome of games.”
It means that wooden spoonists Bafana, in bottom position of Group D of Africa’s World Cup qualifying procedure, with one point from three games, will now have to win all three of their remaining matches against the formidable Senegal (twice) and Burkina Faso to have any chance of making it to Russia next year.
And the stark implication of Bafana’s plight is reflected by the fact that two wins and a draw in the three remaining games will not be good enough – and even three unlikely victories might not be sufficient if the results in other matches do not fall neatly into place for South Africa.
Other countries in the world might be suffering from tornados, hurricanes and such-like right now, but in a purely sporting context it would be difficult to find anything quite as devastating as that which is confronting South Africa’s soccer-mad fans after the events of the calamitous past six days.
In the first instance the 2-1 away defeat against the naively under-rated Cape Verde Islands, whose entire population in the vicinity of half-a-million is less than the total number of soccer players in South Africa’s population of more than 55 million.
But then the repeat of the result at the Moses Mabhida Stadium against the cagey Cape Verdians in Durban on Tuesday night, after many of the Bafana players were proclaiming beforehand that a cruel revenge result was little more than a formality, left all and sundry in South Africa aghast and groggy.
And topping it all, the replay debacle, resulting from the disgraced Mr Lamptey awarding Bafana an outrageous penalty and two questionable goals, is a blow of knockout proportions.
Ironically, after the news of Lamptey’s life ban was revealed five months ago, SAFA president Danny Jordaan pooh-poohed the suggestion of a replay of the Senegal game – and furthermore declared it would not be accepted “because referees make mistakes in almost every game without any talk of replays.”
Obviously, however, any decision taken by FIFA is out of Jordaan’s control and open defiance by SAFA would open South African soccer to lengthy bannings of unprecedented proportions – never mind immediate disqualification from the World Cup qualifiers.
And on Wednesday the reaction from SAFA was more sombre, with a release from South African soccer’s controlling body disclosing that “an appeal is being considered”, with the case entrusted in the hands of Advocate Norman Arendse SC.