The South African Football Association (SAFA) announced on Tuesday that they would not appeal FIFA’s decision that their 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal be replayed.
It is a climb down from SAFA, whose president Danny Jordaan had previously stated the organisation would not entertain any ideas of a replay. But they have now realised that any challenge will be costly, both financially and in terms of the politics of global football … and ultimately futile.
SAFA have dressed their stance as not wanting to benefit from cheating, but they had no choice.
“Following additional information SAFA received from world governing body FIFA, the Association resolved on moral and ethical grounds that we cannot be beneficiaries of corrupt activities,” SAFA said in a statement on Tuesday. “Therefore, we have decided that we will comply with the FIFA directive to replay the match against Senegal at a date to be decided.
“During the SAFA Emergency Committee meeting on Monday, there were two positions on the matter — whether to go the legal route since there are lots of unanswered questions from FIFA, or the ethical and moral route.
“SAFA’s zero tolerance on corrupt activities within football are well documented and it is in this light that we decided to comply with the FIFA directive.”
SAFA have also claimed that the referee at the centre of the controversy, Ghanaian Joseph Lamptey, is still fighting to clear his name through the courts, but it is not known which one. The Court of Arbitration (CAS) has already knocked back Lamptey’s appeal against his lifetime ban from the game, so he would appear to have little other recourse.
“We have, however, noted that the official at the centre of all this controversy has appealed his case to the courts of law and if the courts overturn the decision, everything becomes null and void and SAFA will reserve its right to challenge the decision of FIFA to replay the match.”
That does make it sound like SAFA are still itching for a fight, but they would be ill-advised to take on FIFA over this issue as it could potentially sour future relations between the governing body and the South African association — and ultimately they will lose.
It is a climb down from Jordaan, who in May said they would challenge any attempt to replay the game. “We will not accept it. If you must start replaying matches where referees make mistakes we will still be playing the [domestic] league,” Jordaan told EWN Sport.
“That referee was appointed by FIFA, that is a FIFA match, it’s not our match so they must deal with their referee and that is end of story. It’s not our referee, we did not appoint him and we won the match.
“Our position is that the referee’s decision is final. Referees make so many mistakes. Maradona scored with the hand and then [Argentina] became world champions. So many [other] things, Thierry Henry played the ball with his hand and scored and qualified to come here to the 2010 World Cup.”
Jordaan’s view has been mirrored across social media by irate South African fans, who accuse FIFA in being selective in the action they take. But both Jordaan and these fans are wrong for one very simple reason: Lamptey did not make a “mistake”, he intentionally manipulated the result of the game in favour of South Africa. That is a big difference.
In Jordaan’s examples, did the referees intentionally cheat to allow Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ or Henry’s dubious goal against Republic of Ireland? Perhaps, but they were not found guilty of doing so like Lamptey has been and so we cannot say for sure.
What has been poor through this whole episode has been FIFA’s communication of the process and the outcomes. SAFA are 100 percent correct when they say they feel aggrieved at having to find out a day before the rest of the world that there was a chance that their match against Senegal would have to be replayed.
And the lack of detail from FIFA, even now that Lamptey appears to have exhausted his legal challenges, has left too many questions floating up in the air. Will they ever come clean on what they know? Probably not, because they don’t seem to feel the need to.
But what they have got right is the decision to replay the game. It was the only logical, sporting decision that could be made. It is tough on South Africa — and Burkina Faso — in the group, but they did profit from a devious act and Senegal should have the opportunity to win on a level playing field.