Bafana vs Ghana: Safa doubles down on accusations of match manipulation

The South African Football Association (Safa) has crossed the Rubicon. 

In an extraordinary press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the country’s football barons doubled down on accusations of match manipulation in the loss to Ghana on 14 November. One by one, the association paraded officials, staff and players to the media, each of which offered stern – sometimes tearful – rebukes of the referee’s performance.

Following Bafana Bafana’s controversial loss to Ghana on Sunday evening, Safa had immediately announced its intention to file a complaint against the game’s match officials.

Hugo Broos’s side entered the game at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium needing only a draw to advance to a 2022 World Cup qualification play-off. However, in the 31st minute, a corner was lofted into the South African box and Daniel Amartey fell to the ground in front of defender Rushine de Reuck. There appeared to be little to minimal contact, but referee Maguette Ndiaye promptly pointed to the penalty spot. Andre Ayew converted and the Black Stars held on for the win.

“Fifa has a responsibility to protect the integrity of all of its competitions, and that is a responsibility that arises from the Fifa statutes,” Safa president Danny Jordaan told the media.

“Our duty as Safa is to recognise first whether there is any bias that we can prove against our team and then report any match manipulation to Fifa.”

Jordaan said a comprehensive report had been handed over to the global governing body that strongly made the case that Sunday’s results were manufactured. While he admitted that Fifa would be better resourced and equipped to investigate the specifics of the situation, he remained uninhibited in making wide-ranging accusations and insinuations.

“Was there betting on the match? Yes, there was betting on the match. According to the bookmakers, there was a mistake in the favourite and it is a fact that there was betting on the match,” he said, while posting a screenshot of a punditry website that had listed the odds before the game.

“The last issue is, was the profile of the match such that there was interest outside of football and yes, there was. If Ghana loses, there were major problems even for the president of the country.”

Jordaan then handed over to members of the team who each recounted their own anecdotes of the match.

Coach Broos said that in his career there had often been times when the high emotions of the game had caused the squad to look for blame in the officials. This, however, was unequivocally not one of those occasions. He said that in the 50th minute he turned to his assistants and told them the game was lost – that there was no way they could overcome the biased officiating.

Goalkeeper and captain Ronwen Williams recounted that the referee had taken it upon himself to threaten him with a booking before the game even started. When he later sought the referee’s assistance he was promptly shooed away. 

“The moment when Ghana scored, the ballboys disappeared,” he said.

“It would take long for the balls to be back. When I went to the referee to tell him that the ballboys were soft, he didn’t want to hear anything about it but said he would rather book me for time-wasting. It was a challenge and in the second half, the ballboys practically vanished.”

To bolster its case, Safa recruited the services of Ace Ncobo, a firebrand former referee and one-time political opponent to Jordaan. His analysis found gross evidence of prejudice and will be included in the files sent to Fifa.

“If you look at the pattern of bias, you will see that there was no way that South Africa was going to score in that match. This is not only about the penalty but the match in its entirety,” Ncobo said.

“There were 71 major incidents and the bulk of those were in the first half. These are incidents that affected the outcome of the match.”

In a standout statistic he said that 89.3% of the incorrect decisions went against one team. Fifa has confirmed receipt of the complaint and said that it will be submitted to a member of the Fifa disciplinary committee on 23 November.

The Ghana Football Association responded to Safa’s allegations on Thursday morning and rubbished any suggestion of foul play.

“It is shocking, irresponsible, and outright disrespect to note that our colleagues from South Africa Football Association (with whom we have good relationships with and mutual sporting respect) have chosen to spread falsehoods to the media rather than project the real picture of events before, during and after the game, ” It said in a statement.

“First and foremost, before the game itself, lies about the distance between Accra and Cape Coast were released to the extent that it was alleged that the South African football team took nine (9) hours to make the journey from Accra to Cape Coast after they arrived in Ghana. Then again, the official handle also tweeted during the match that the South African team was being intimidated, molested, and robbed in Cape Coast.”

The association called on South Africa to accept that the better team won and wished the country better luck next time.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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