FIFA weighs controversial South Africa-Ghana qualifier as D-Day looms

Published on: 23 November 2021

Not since the World Cup was awarded to SA 17 years ago has the nation been as invested in the outcome of a Fifa meeting as it will be when the world football governing body meets on Tuesday to make a decision that could have serious ramifications for Bafana Bafana.

SA’s journey to the global showpiece in Qatar 2022 came to a screeching halt on November 14 when Bafana were beaten 1-0 by Ghana in a controversial qualifier.

The SA Football Association (Safa) suspects the match might have been fixed and asked Fifa to investigate the conduct of Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye, who awarded a match-winning penalty and made other questionable decisions that benefited the West Africans.

Safa wants the game to be replayed at a neutral venue and for action to be taken against Ndiaye and his assistants Samba Elhadji Malick, Camara Djibril, and Gueye Daouda (fourth referee).

Bafana’s hopes of continuing the journey to Qatar are now dependent on the Fifa disciplinary committee ruling in their favour on Tuesday.

Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe said on Monday that a strong case has been presented to Fifa and it is up to the world body to decide on the way forward. Fifa asked the Ghana Football Association to communicate any comments it deemed appropriate to Safa’s protest by November 20.

“We will hear from them [the Fifa disciplinary committee] after they have met and they will inform us if they want us to make oral representations in addition to the documents we have submitted,” Motlanthe said.

Safa sent a comprehensive list of documents to the world governing body and to the Confederation of African Football, including a report compiled by former Fifa referee Andile “Ace” Ncobo.

Ncobo said in his report that 90.9% of the incorrect decisions, of which there were an unusually high proportion, made by Ndiaye went against Bafana in the qualifier. He said this proves the game was “unlawfully manipulated” and that, in terms of Fifa rules, the result of a 1-0 win to Ghana should be made null and void.

The Ghanaians have responded by ridiculing Safa’s protest, preferring to ignite a war of words with their SA counterparts, even though the complaint is about the referee’s conduct rather than about Ghana. The West Africans have issued statements and also circulated videos firing barbs at Safa and Bafana.

South Africans have a lot invested in the Fifa disciplinary committee’s decision as the national team has not played in the World Cup since hosting the event 11 years ago. This year is the closest the team has come to staking a claim for one of five qualifying berths for the global tournament.

Whatever the outcome of Fifa’s meeting on Tuesday and whether it benefits Bafana or not, Ndiaye cannot be allowed to get away with bringing football into disrepute and he should suffer the consequences for his bias and unfairness.