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Black Stars ride South Africa storm - Set for 2022 World Cup playoffs

BY: Maurice Quansah
Black Stars laughing all the way into the playoffs
Black Stars laughing all the way into the playoffs

Football’s world governing body FIFA yesterday dismissed a protest lodged by the South African Football Association (SAFA) demanding a replay of the 2022 FIFA World Cup group qualifier over alleged manipulation of results.

FIFA stated that the protest filed by the South Africans lacked merit as it did not meet the basic requirements for filing a protest.

The verdict by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee puts to rest the hopes by SAFA to overturn the 0-1 loss suffered against the Black Stars in their final group qualifier in Cape Coast which earned Ghana a ticket to the final leg of the qualifying campaign as group winners ahead of the 2010 World Cup hosts on superior goals.

FIFA’s decision gives the green light for Ghana to begin preparations for the two-leg playoffs to determine which five countries represent Africa at the mundial in Qatar.

Ghana qualified as Group G winners and will join African champions Algeria (Group A), Tunisia (Group B), Nigeria (Group C), Cameroun (Group D), Mali (Group E), Egypt (Group F), Senegal (Group H), morocco (Group I) and DR Congo (Group J).

A terse statement signed by Mr Jorge Palacio, chairman of FIFA’s Disciplinary committee who was the sole judge in the case, noted that South Africa’s protest was “inadmissible” and, therefore, dismissed outright.

FIFA stated in its one paragraph decision: “To declare the protest lodged by the South Africa Football Association on November 15, 2021 inadmissible”.

However, the decision is subject to an appeal.

In failing to admit the protest on technical grounds, FIFA did not consider the merits of South Africa’s complaints.

GFA General Secretary, Mr Prosper Harrison Addo, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that the football governing body was with the verdict as it supported its defence that the protest was technically defective and lacked merit.

“We were expecting this kind of decision but we will officially write to FIFA to furnish us with the grounds for its decision,” he said.

The Graphic’s sources at FIFA explained that the protest was defective because “it did not meet the requirements foreseen under article 46 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and article 14 of the Regulations of the Preliminary Competition of the FIFA World Cup 2022.”

Hours after FIFA’s verdict, SAFA said it would weigh up its options once the world football body furnishes it with the ground for the dismissal of the protest.

“We have received the decision without details and we will request FIFA for the reasons and consider our options,” SAFA CEO, Mr Advocate Tebogo Monthlante, told the association’s website (safa.net).

In the immediate aftermath of Ghana’s 1-0 victory, courtesy a spot kick converted by Black Stars captain Andre Ayew, the head of the South African delegation, Mr Aubrey Baartman cried foul and hinted they would challenge the result citing bad officiating and manipulation of results by the Senegalese referee Ndiaye Maguette.

SAFA’s protest was accompanied by a purported independent report by a retired South African referee, Ace Ncobo, outlining a catalogue of alleged dubious calls by the Senegalese referee, including the disputed penalty. The report claimed that 30 out of 33 incorrect decisions made by the referee went against the Bafana Bafana and that it showed a clear pattern of bias and manipulation of the result, for which they demanded a replay of the match.

However, SAF stopped short of incriminating the GFA even though it raised red flags of alleged unusual betting activities around the time of the penalty decision to strengthen its case of manipulation.

It was also accompanied by propaganda by sections of the South African media suggesting the Bafana Bafana team were made to travel nine hours from Accra to Cape Coast for the match, including demands for FIFA to probe an alleged visit to Senegal by an unnamed GFA official to determine whether or not he may have had contacts with the referee ahead of the November 14 match.

Article 14 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code deals with protests and says any protest must reach the world body within 24 hours of the end of the match in question.

The GFA’s strongly-worded response to FIFA on SAFA’s complaint indicated that the “protest was not properly lodged” as did not pass the critical tests of the 24-hour time limit as well as the full payment of a protest fee of 1,000 Swiss Francs for the protest to be admitted.

It, therefore, prayed that the protest be dismissed as it was defective and did not comply with FIFA’s requirements on protests.

In a direct response to an press conference by SAFA in Johannesburg, during which SAFA president Mr Danny Jordaan, highlighted perceived injustice against the Bafana Bafana, the GFA issued a strong statement accusing SAFA of “a planned scheme and a calculated attempt to shift focus from the defeat, divert attention from their failure to qualify for the play offs”. It further accused SAFA of incompetence, a description the SAFA boss found insulting and could set the two FAs on a collision course.

For Ghana, the FIFA’s decision provides a big respite for Black Stars coach Rajevac as he awaits the draw for the playoffs next month to strategise for his next opponent in the two-leg playoff scheduled for March 2022.

The Serbian tactician had a tight qualifying schedule as his side played four matches in his first six weeks in charge. However, he has some time to continue his team building process and test his side’s combat readiness at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun next month before the World Cup qualifying playoffs in four months’ time.