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Qualifying blunder leaves South Africa down and out

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Piers Edwards | 10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Fifteen months on from the elation of receiving wide praise for staging a triumphant Fifa World Cup, South African officials are now plumbing the depths.

In case you don't know, Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday after a 0-0 draw at home to Sierra Leone.

But that tells a mere fraction of the story, for the real problem was that South African FA (Safa) officials were so unaware of the rules that they erroneously believed that a draw was good enough to take them through.

Late on, coach Pitso Mosimane even threw on a midfielder for a striker to shore up the points only to later ask: "Do you think I would have left (a striker) on the bench and put on a midfielder if I knew we needed a goal? It doesn't make sense."

South Africa's players - including captain Siphiwe Tshabalala (number 8) - celebrated qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations along with their fans and coaching staff

South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was even happy to waste time, feigning injury as the vuvuzelas grew louder, which is why the final whistle in Nelspruit was greeted with enormous celebrations.

The players did their traditional celebratory dance as well as a lap of honour, while Safa President Kirsten Nematandani even went on TV to congratulate the players on a job well done.

Then the news began to filter through - that unfancied Niger had actually qualified, courtesy of having a better head-to-head record against South Africa and Sierra Leone (with all three teams having finished on nine points).

If you were being overly generous, you could point out that it wasn't just Safa but the whole nation who had got it wrong - with broadcasting companies joining sports websites in joyously conveying the 'news' that South Africa had made their first finals since 2008.

But to be generous to Nematandani would surely be a step too far. Courteous and affable he may be but given that he is an actual member of the Confederation of African Football's Nations Cup organising committee, how safe can his job now be?

It also beggars belief that Safa is now protesting against the qualifying rules to Caf - which seems little more than a smokescreen to distract from his organisation's failings. It also smacks of the sourest of grapes to complain about the rules after you've suffered from them, rather than prior to a qualifying campaign if you really have such gripes.

To put the embarrassing matter into context, contrast South Africa's understanding of the rules to that of Libya's.

As we know, the North African nation has been ripped apart by fighting this year - so much so that at one point the football team seemed unable to fulfil its Group C campaign.

However, not only did the Libyans - playing with a new strip, flag and national anthem - finish their campaign, they also registered one of the most impressive qualifications and did so while fully understanding the rules.

The qualifying mathematics for a team finishing as one of the two best runners-up was a whole lot more complex than that needed to determine a group winner, but the Libyans were so aware of the permutations that they celebrated Saturday's draw in Zambia with tears in their eyes.

Their campaign provided perfect material for any Hollywood scriptwriter.

Football is a hugely-popular sport in Libya where the national team have managed to qualify for only the third finals in their history, and first since 2006, despite the fighting back home

They overcame the challenges of Ramadan affecting their opening game, their team doctor dying on the eve of their second qualifier and then the break-out of the anti-Gaddafi revolution, which prompted one player to abandon football for the frontlines.

"When I was in camp for our (fourth qualifier) - some people told me one of my dear friends was in hospital so I went to see him," explains Walid el Kahatroushi, 27. "When I saw the many injured Libyans, I decided to leave camp there and then and join the frontline."

El Kahatroushi explains that when he first went, none of his fellow fighters would allow him to hold a gun, sending him on relatively harmless errands, until he did finally decide to take matters - namely, a weapon - into his own hands. Nonetheless, they still eventually persuaded him to fight for his nation on the pitch.

Forced to play two of their three 'home' qualifiers in neutral Mali and Egypt, Libya qualified even though most of their players had played little football in recent times - with the Libyan league have stopped in March.

Then there was the coach. Brazil's Marco Paqueta has not been paid for six months but he funded trips himself to oversee various qualifiers - reluctant to abandon the players in their hour of need while wholly aware of football's new role in their lives.

"In their minds they are not only playing for football success but for a new government and a new country," he explained on the eve of the Zambia clash, for which El Kahatroushi had been recalled.

It is impossible to overstate the work Paqueta has done - having had to chop and change his squad, for reasons ranging from politics (when Gaddafi was still in control, he couldn't field any players from the rebel town of Benghazi) to logistics (as fighting around Tripoli raged, he was unable to field players from the capital as their routes out of the country were blocked).

While Libya's qualification was hugely significant for the manner in which it was achieved, Niger's was stunning for its sheer surprise - as the Mena won all their home games to defy all expectation and qualify from a group involving African champions Egypt, Sierra Leone and hapless South Africa.

They will be joined at the finals by fellow first-timers Botswana and Equatorial Guinea with the face of African football having undergone significant change for three continental heavyweights will be missing from the 2012 finals - after Nigeria and Cameroon joined Egypt in missing out.

In fact, when you realise that eight of the last nine Nations Cup-winning sides will be absent from Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, you realise the extent of the revolution that has seeped into the bones of the African game.

So the South Africans must be thanking their lucky stars that they have already qualified for the 2013 Nations Cup - courtesy of hosting the competition.


  • Comment number 1.

    No grounds whatsoever for S Africa to protest. It is a pretty basic thing to understand the rules! No sympathy, and how could they possibly throw another team out anyway?

  • Comment number 2.

    THat will teach them to time-waste and play for a draw. Always try and win as if they had they would be through.

    More than a hint of sour grapes rather a whole vineyard full for them to be appealing.

  • Comment number 3.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 4.

    Wow this is a monumental error which in no part can be passed on!!

    It is good to see lesser known footballing nations come th fore in Africa. Lets just hope n pray the cup passes without any off field antics tarnishing it

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't know if it is a spelling mistake or naivety, Piers, but it is "Ramadan" and not "Ramadam".

    Apart from that, good blog. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a nation has not fully understood the rules. South Africa should have learnt from such similar mistakes. Let's hope they've learnt from this one.

  • Comment number 6.

    Having looked at the qualifying groups for the ACN, it looks a bit odd... There were 11 qualifying groups , 9 of which had 4 teams in the group, Group F had only 3 teams while Group K had 5 teams.

    Anybody know why this is and why they didn't just have 11 groups of 4 teams? Is it political or...? Surely this just makes the qualification more confusing, but still no excuse on SA's part

  • Comment number 7.

    It is beyond belief that South African sport officials remain completely unaccountable for all their mistakes and shortcomings. On the same weekend that the springboks loose in the quarter finals with a team selection bereft of any youth or creativity, the football administrators embarrass themselves and the whole country with their idiocy. They have no one but themselves to blame and yet it seems to be everyone else's fault. Its time for South Africans to demand accountability and action instead of welcoming the boks as heroes and allowing SAFA to to be so inept. Sport in SA is being retarded by bad management and blind faith and patriotism by the rest of the country. We need to be more constructive through critical dialogue in both sport and politics.

  • Comment number 8.

    Incredible story!

    Not just South Africa's unbelievable mistake, but the turn around in Africa's football. Kind of make Pele's cries about African football topping the world seem a bit misplaced! But then, most of his comments about football seem to be!

    For 8 of the previous 9 winners absent is remarkable! How this has happened... who know's but it has to be more down to the politics of football in Africa than anything else!

    Would be like having a world cup without Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and Spain!

  • Comment number 9.

    re: post #5
    apologies for that typo error which has since been corrected

  • Comment number 10.

    HA! No matter how bad our own national football/rubgy teams might be, at least we arent that stupid. How can they not know the rules???

  • Comment number 11.

    It's not the first time> I seem to remember the SA cricket team being dumped out of a World Cup for not realising the +1 calculation on the Duckworth Lewis system.

  • Comment number 12.

    What is it about South African sporting officials?

    I remember Mark Boucher blocking the final ball of an over before the rain came down in the 2003 Cricket World Cup, because the team officials had miscalculated the score they needed to stay ahead of Sri Lanka, under the Duckworth Lewis method.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's beyond belief really, but there is a large part of my seemingly small brain that feels that all the qualifying systems are steeped in Rubix-cube complexity.

    Take, for example, the Euro qualifications. Different number of teams for different pools. The group winners going through through with the best 3 runner ups, who do not field a player with S in there name, automatically qualifying for the playoffs where they will meet the 2 teams with the best goal difference who haven't yet qualified, unless they were in a group with the host nation in which case they're out.

    Clear as a cow paddy. There is a certain beauty in simplicity and it is clearly a beauty that money grabbing FIFA are not privy to.

  • Comment number 14.

    re #6

    The reason for the odd qualifying groups (9 groups of 4, 1 of 3 and 1 of 5)... the group of 5 is because Togo were a last-minute entry (I think due to the issues surrounding their team bus being attacked last year), so they had to be added to a group, making one group of 5 teams. Then, some time into the qualification system, another team (Mauritania, I think) had to withdraw from their group due to lack of funds, thus making a group of 3. I think that after the withdrawal, they had to modify the rules so that the "best second place" was decided on results against the 1st place and 3rd place teams (to make up for the fact that one group now only had 3 teams in it). That could be where South Africa's confusion arose from, though they should have known all the permutations before their final game.

  • Comment number 15.

    At 11:02 12th Oct 2011, Smazzer12 wrote:
    Having looked at the qualifying groups for the ACN, it looks a bit odd... There were 11 qualifying groups , 9 of which had 4 teams in the group, Group F had only 3 teams while Group K had 5 teams.

    Anybody know why this is and why they didn't just have 11 groups of 4 teams? Is it political or...? Surely this just makes the qualification more confusing, but still no excuse on SA's part


    Originally 44 teams entered qualifying and were put in 11 groups of 4. Togo were suspended for pulling out of the last tournament following the coach ambush. At FIFA's insistence they were re-instated and added to Group K to make 5. Mautitania then withdrew from Group F - it was decided it was too late to change the groups so it stayed like that.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Whoops! Too late with my comment.

  • Comment number 18.

    It doesnt make sense, head to head results show SA is better then Niger (winning 2 - 0 at home & losing 2 - 1 away) while they played goaless draws against Sierra Leone both home and away. The table shows SA with a +2 goal difference compared to SL +1 so surely it should be SA & Niger qualifying since Niger also got a better head to head record against SL (winning 3 - 1 at home and losing 1 - 0 away). However CAF rules are different to that of FIFA's

    Then again im not surprised that SAFA's incompetence rears its ugly head as usual. To make matters worse they lodge an appeal, what are they going to achieve by doing this ?

    LoL @ the "traditional celebratory dance" Epic Failure at its best !!!

  • Comment number 19.

    A protest based on stupidity and a nation of fans who were unaware of the rules? Has SA made now made yet another transition from democracy to idiocracy?

    Great story.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the team with 3 team actually did have 4 teams until one of them pulled out for some (financial) reasons.

    For the SAF, SA coaching crew/players and even the whole SA sport journalists to be ignorant of the rules just beats my imagination. So no one knew about this while the qualification was going on. Whao! I totally agree that SAF has found a nice way to deflect the public anger somewhere else afterall even the gullible public didnt even know the rules.
    Anyway, I think Nigeria once fell victim of the same rule when Angola qualified instead and the NFF almost denied knowing about the said rule.

  • Comment number 21.



  • Comment number 22.

    I'm not sure why some people appear to be perplexed by the qualification rules.

    Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone all ended up level on points, so the head-to-heads between these three countries decided who topped the group; Niger had 6 points from these matches while South Africa and Sierra Leone only had 5.

  • Comment number 23.

    hanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic. If possible, such as gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with additional information? It is very useful for me.

  • Comment number 24.

    @18 Trezegoal.
    The mistake you make and I presume the same mistake made by SAFA is looking at results between 2 teams.
    If Niger and SA were joint top alone then SA would qualify on head to head but the fact is Siere Leone also finished joint top so the winner of the group is decided by a mini league of the 3 teams.
    Niger have 6 pts to SA and SL 5 points!!!
    You think the SAFA would hace clarified this before the match doh

  • Comment number 25.

    Could we now quickly have the new FIFA chart for african countries seeing as 5 out of the top 10 countries have actually failed to qualify for the continental finals!

  • Comment number 26.

    How stupid are the SA team staff and administration? Surely going into the game they would've known EXACTLY what they needed from the result? In fact I'm surprised nobody in their media picked this up either. Even with the useless administration we have in the English FA; the board directors, Capello, his coaches, the players and our media would know exactly what would be required from a game. We knew we couldn't lose to Montenegro last Friday because they would then have a better head to head.

    If I was the SAFA would keep my head down and withdraw my protest. Especially as a member of the SAFA would've been on the board that decided these rules.

  • Comment number 27.

    Its simple maths? do they not teach maths in SA? i'm sure they have several courses on playing plastic instruments, really badly...... Maybe they should just read the rules next time and take a calculator with them. He he. Funniest football story in ages!!

  • Comment number 28.

    I think the way they played for the draw and the time wasting makes it even worse. If they had played for the win and drawn then I think they might get a little sympathy. But they didn't and shamed themselves for not knowing the rules.

  • Comment number 29.

    @24 John

    That makes perfect sense, thanks !!!

    And you right, SAFA is to blame but sadly "majority" of the people in the country thinks the coach is to blame.

  • Comment number 30.

    Rugby is for the rich.. football is for the poor. That's your South African setting. Does it have any relevance here?

    Talking of hating both the players and the game, but for Gawd's sake at least know the rules!!!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    @22 - Saffa thought it would be decided by goal difference and direct head to head. If it was, they would have qualified.

    Their head to head with Niger had South Africa coming out on top. What they also failed to consider was that if two or more teams are level on points, the head to head of all of those matches between the teams in question are included not just those first two. South Africa had a better head to head record against Niger and an equal one against Sierra Leone, therefore by all logic you'd think you would have qualified seeing as no team could better them. However they forgot to consider Niger's record against Sierra Leone. I suppose when you are thinking about your own team, you only think about your own results and not those concerning other teams.

    Stupid nonetheless but they should have done their homework.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great Blog Piers. Loving the coach of Libya (Marco Paqueta) attitude - shows that there are people out there that are not in it for the money!

  • Comment number 33.


  • Comment number 34.

    The South African FA are in distinguished company here: The English FA clearly didn't understand "Blatter's Rules" when competing to host the FIFA world cup.
    Of course, those rules aren't written down, but lots of other people understood them only too well.

  • Comment number 35.

    Didn't the same thing happen in a major cricket match a few years ago (the world cup)? South Africa had in their heads the incorrect total needed to win, narrowly didn't make it (but thought they had) and were knocked out?

  • Comment number 36.

    I think this whole mess was all the fault of...

    ...the vuvuzela

  • Comment number 37.

    Haa haa. I am a Souf Effriken and I think it is hilarious and embarrasing at the same time. Just highlights the deep-rooted lack of meticuluos planning, Sub-standard education system system that supplies the positions of power at SAFA and the naive attitude of the majority of the country. So naive that I bet nothing major gets done about it and we march on, blinkers firmly attached. Lol.

  • Comment number 38.

    Bonkers. Nice article, improved by the news on Libya making it against the odds. Good luck to the 'smaller' nations but 8 from 9 winners missing should be worth a further look?

  • Comment number 39.

    Probably a smoke-screen laid down by some devious Premiership Manager who doesn't want to lose his South African player during the winter.

    Don't let's forget that the ACN is unquestionably the most boring football tournament on the planet. Quite apt this tie ended 0-0 really. Why-oh-why does it have to come round every two years?

  • Comment number 40.

    The last sentence of the blog...."So the South Africans must be thanking their lucky stars that they have already qualified for the 2013 Nations Cup - courtesy of hosting the competition." is controversial. It means they have qualified while the whole story of your blog implies otherwise.Or am I the only one who understood it that way?

  • Comment number 41.

    SA do it again !

    In 2003, their cricket team scuppered the chance to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Cricket World Cup by giving the batsmen wrong data in a rain-affected match against New Zealand.

    And now this. Amazing stuff, really !

  • Comment number 42.

    #40 South Africa have missed out on qualification to the 2012 tournament (which is what the blog is about), but have qualified for the 2013 tournament as hosts. They are having the tournament in consecutive years to stop the tournament being played in World Cup years, because simply making the tournament come around every four years would make too much sense.

    As for the South Africans appealing, it is completely disgraceful, and a simple scheme to try and mask their own incompetence.

  • Comment number 43.

    Abraham, 2012 and 2013 competitions. Don't know why they are having it in consecutive years though??

  • Comment number 44.

    42. Thats post wan't there when I commented in case you think I'm a bit dense! Makes sense.

  • Comment number 45.

    Why do they need this dull, pub league quality tournament every 2 years. You see better quality watching womens football. Must annoy every manager that they lose some players, at a busy time, every 2 years. Worse for them due to world cup as going to be 2 years in a row.

    People think the FA/FIFA cant make proper and sensible decisions, could be worse, could be as bad as the SAFA!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Well the league cup tournaments are equally dull and they happen every season.

    And the English FA spent £21m on a WC bid that was doomed to failure because they didn't appear to understand the unwritten rules that everybody else was aware of.

    In Africa it will give a new dimension to 'idiot proofing' the rules.

  • Comment number 47.

    @45 - The African cup of nations has been going on longer than our own European championships. If the members of CAF want it every two years (or consecutive years for the next two) then why shouldn't they?

    If the managers in europe don't like it, don't buy african players. Its simple logic. European football clubs aren't unicef. There's no rule that says you must have an african player in your team. A club aren't doing him an african player a favour by signing him.

    Chelsea for example spent tens of millions on Drogba and Essien. Both had been capped by their respective West African countries when they signed. Surely they knew the players might want to continue playing for their countries after signing or are they naive?

    As I said if a manager doesn't like it, then sell the player and refuse to sign any other african players. Problem solved.

  • Comment number 48.

    Just a 2nd note on the African players. I do have sympathy for managers whose players switch football nationality at an older age. For example Freddie Kanoute was a French U21 international with a view to playing for their senior team when Spurs bought him a few years back. Then he switched allegience to Mali. Victor Anchiebe at Everton grew up in Liverpool and played at different England youth levels. Even more so he came through their youth system. But he decided to play for the country of birth Nigeria.

    I can't blame either player for doing so. But I have sympathy for their managers when they suddenly became unavailable to them. But like I already said, any manager who knowingly signs a African international shouldn't get upset when he disappears for four weeks in January every couple of years.

  • Comment number 49.

    @34. - Very good point. But I fear you might get that comment removed. The BBC may not be FIFA's best friend at the moment. But when Sepp comes calling for help with getting rid of more of his enemies........

  • Comment number 50.

    To one poster who suggested Pele's prediction Africa would top world football by turn of century was wrong, I say not quite so. Yes, you are correct in your assessment the balance of power has 'shifted' in African football, due to the fact 8 of the last 9 winners will be missing at next years finals. But that's not the full story. All of these 'former' powerhouses have players who play in Europe, while these emerging sides have at most a player or two playing abroad, with the rest playing at home. There lies the problem; instead of having players in competitive leagues abroad being a good thing, these players are paid so much money that makes them think they are above everyone. Instead they become a negative influence on the whole team. Any African country that does well at this tournament has its players snapped up by big sides in Europe where some of them go on to command wages they would never have dreamt of; wages like £150k per week are common. This overnight transformation destroys the passion and pride of playing for one's nation, and the same sides find it hard to reproduce previous form at African tournaments. This is true for many African sides, sides that did well when they had a good mix of professional players and home based ones suddenly found themselves struggling when all their players turned pro; Nigeria, Cameroon,Senegal, South Africa, etc.

    This is why the Arab countries did better than the rest of Africa as most of their players shunned moving abroad, but now that many of them are coming this will be true in their case too. If you look at how African countries performed at previous world cups before the great exodus(Cameroon in 1990 & Nigeria in 1994 had very good chances of going all the way), Pele's prediction could've been fulfilled had they stayed and developed football in their home countries. Sadly, African football is being destroyed by their players leaving home to play abroad. In fact the whole setup is not really benefiting anyone in terms of football; once African footballers start earning mega bucks they become lazy and just don't seem bothered to take their game to that next level(a few examples spring to mind; Diouf,Adebayor,Mido,etc) Let me add this isn't true for everyone of them, but some of them just get big egos to listen to anyone. A lot of people would probably behave the same; imagine having your salary increased from something like $20 per week to £150 per week, it can get to ones head. So in a sense the European club loses out as well(paying lots of $ for an arrogant and under-performing player). I'm from Africa by the way, so I have got a rough idea what mindset most of these players have.

  • Comment number 51.

    6. At 11:02 12th Oct 2011, Smazzer12 wrote:
    Having looked at the qualifying groups for the ACN, it looks a bit odd... There were 11 qualifying groups , 9 of which had 4 teams in the group, Group F had only 3 teams while Group K had 5 teams.

    Togo were initially banned after pulling out of the last tournament, but that was overturned after the initial phase and they were thus put into group K as a fifth team.

    Mauritania should have been in group F but pulled out, presumably too late to rejig the groups around.

  • Comment number 52.

    18. At 11:52 12th Oct 2011, Trezegoal wrote:
    It doesnt make sense, head to head results show SA is better then Niger (winning 2 - 0 at home & losing 2 - 1 away) while they played goaless draws against Sierra Leone both home and away. The table shows SA with a +2 goal difference compared to SL +1 so surely it should be SA & Niger qualifying since Niger also got a better head to head record against SL (winning 3 - 1 at home and losing 1 - 0 away). However CAF rules are different to that of FIFA's

    You are wrong.

    2-0, 1-2, 0-0 & 0-0 mean 5 points and +1 GD for SA
    Niger beat both SA and SL at home, meaning they have 6 points.

  • Comment number 53.

    # 31 ,I like your comments and to the point.Again I will disagree with CAF on the qualification of Niger instead of SA. CAF was supposed to have considerd the classification of the winner of that group including Egypt no matter even if three teams finished with the same points.That is exactly what CAF did to the other 8 groups with 4 teams each. CAF considered the result of the last team when declaring the winner of each but the didn't do that at this particular group.
    That is why I say SAFA has a point to make.Reason out my point then you will know what I am talking about.

  • Comment number 54.

    Do you see champions like Spain play for a draw even when they have CLEARLY qualified? Bafana you are obviously not ready to be champions. Shame on you especially coaching staff. Do you not think of your fans. You need to play to win EVERY GAME for your fans if nothing else.

  • Comment number 55.

    We have had all the permutations for European qualification laid out by the BBC recently. Why did BBC S. Africa not understand and explain the rules for that country?

  • Comment number 56.

    All I can say, as a South African, is that I am not in te least surprised at the total lack of understanding of the rules.
    We have seen it with SAFA (and other storting bodies) for far too many years now. Too many administrators are appointed based on their "connections" rather than their ability, knowledge, experience and passion.

    WIll it change any time soon? Not likely!

    Will SA qualify for Brazil? Not likely.

    The stupidity of "appealing" and "insisting" that they are right and everyone else is wrong is just so typical of the local mentality too ..... expectations and demands rather than earning the right by meeting the obligations - in this case winning games.

  • Comment number 57.

    Obviously SA should have been aware of the rules, but I do feel there are a lot of unnecessary chopping and changing of rules lately.

    I was unaware that the head to head record was being used in Euro 2012 Qualifiers.

    When did FIFA decide to do a draw to determine the intercontinental World Cup play off allocation? I assumed they came to their sense for 2010 when South America played CONCACAF and Asia played Oceania as it makes Geographic sense and causes less of an issue with travel fatigue for the 2nd legs (taking place just days later).

    UEFA again, and this time the rule that makes the play offs seeded. This caused great controversay for World Cup 2010 when Portugal and France were gifted seedings and once again this has occurred without any clarity in the competiton guidelines on the UEFA website.

  • Comment number 58.

    45. At 15:28 12th Oct 2011, Wasted7789 wrote:

    Why do they need this dull, pub league quality tournament every 2 years. You see better quality watching womens football.

    Don't tell me - you're English. Shock! English football ''fan'' in arrogant, ignorant and xenophobic comment drama! Quelle Surprise(!)

    If you're not on a wind-up, then I'd suggest you actually look at the geographical region where dozens of EPL players come from.

    Africa is a continent absolutely brimming with classy pros.

    The only similarity between African football and women's football is the standard of their goalkeepers! Although, I obviously make that point facetiously, as you get top quality African keepers like Carlos Kameni plying their trade in the world's best league.

  • Comment number 59.

    Just shows the level of stupidity between these lot and the rest of the world, i have a friend who is south african, and this reminds me of him.HAHA

  • Comment number 60.

    Apologies for the spam, but having looked at the qualification in greater detail, I can see an area of potential confusion.

    Regarding South Africa's complaint about the ruling, perhaps they do actually have a valid cause to debate the decision. The question they need to ask, is why is the head to head calculated in a 3-way tie compared to a 2-way tie?

    South Africa would actually top the group if the head to head was calculated based on each competitor individually. See below.

    South Africa 0 - 0 Sierra Leone
    Sierra Leone 0 - 0 South Africa

    South Africa finish ahead of Sierra Leone based on overall goal difference in the group being superior.

    South Africa 2 - 0 Niger
    Niger 2 - 1 South Africa

    South Africa finish above Niger due to having a superior goal difference in their head to head.

    Sierra Leone 1 - 0 Niger
    Niger 3 - 1 Sierra Leone

    Niger finish above Sierra Leone due to having a superior goal difference in their head to head.

    That interpretation, which is the truest interpretation of a 'head to head' (implies two heads surely?) would leave the group standings as:

    South Africa
    Sierra Leone

  • Comment number 61.

    Tie-breaking rules

    The order of tie-breakers used when two or more team have the equal number of points is:[7] (article 14)

    1. Number of points obtained in games between the teams concerned;
    2. Goal difference in games between the teams concerned;
    3. Goals scored in games between the teams concerned;
    4. Away goals scored in games between the teams concerned;
    5. Goal difference in all games;
    6. Goals scored in all games;
    7. Drawing of lots.

    Where in those rules does it say that the teams are separated based on a 3-way head to head (puts Niger on top) as opposed to a set of 3 head to heads between the teams (puts South Africa on top)?

  • Comment number 62.

    61. At 17:35 12th Oct 2011, Chris wrote:

    Where in those rules does it say that the teams are separated based on a 3-way head to head (puts Niger on top) as opposed to a set of 3 head to heads between the teams (puts South Africa on top)?

    That'll be rule no.1. :P

    ''1. Number of points obtained in games between the teams concerned;''

    Niger scored 6 points in their games with Sierra Leone and South Africa, While Sierra Leone and South Africa only obtained 5 points in their matches against each other and Niger.

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 Yes, that's one way to interpret the rule... as I identified in my earlier post, but it is just as correct to interpret it as individual head to heads between the 3 sides, as detailed in my above post also...

    The rule is not crystal clear in its current form as it can be interpreted in two seperate ways with two different results. This leaves it open to doubt which in turn means a lack of fair play.

  • Comment number 64.

    63. At 18:08 12th Oct 2011, Chris wrote:

    While there is clearly confusion about the interpretation of the rule, as far as I can see, it seems that the 3-way head-to-head is the only one which makes sense under the wording of the rules.

    ''when two or more team have the equal number of points''

    In this case, there were more than two teams with the equal number of points; Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone.

    ''1. Number of points obtained in games between the teams concerned;''

    The ''teams concerned'' were the aforementioned three nations, and the number of points accrued in the relevant matches was: Niger 6, South Africa 5, Sierra Leone 5.

  • Comment number 65.

    Piers Edward conveniently forgets to mention that after the qualifiers South Africa topped the group on goal difference. That is where the mistake came in. I don't think there is anything wrong in assuming that you are through if you top a group by "normal" football means now is there?

  • Comment number 66.

    Fitting reward for the vuvuzela -- the soccer gods are fair and just! ;)

  • Comment number 67.

    65. At 18:23 12th Oct 2011, gersie777 wrote:

    I don't think there is anything wrong in assuming that you are through if you top a group by "normal" football means now is there?

    It's perfectly common practice in leagues around the world to separate teams - who are level on points - by head-to-head results.

    This is how they separated teams in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

    Regardless of the pros and cons of separating teams by head-to-heads and goal difference, it is patently obvious that all teams should make themselves completely aware of the tiebreaking process which is in place.

    South Africa messed up big-time by not knowing the rules that were in place for all teams before the qualification started.

  • Comment number 68.

    Whilst i understand the incompetence of the SAFA on this one.....and can see that point of view, surely you have to question the preperation by the management and also the knowledge/intelligence of the players.

    How could anyone involved with a team going into such a game not know the permutations required for them to qualify.
    If you were playing a game such as this you would know what you needed and if the goalie was timewasting you would lift him off the deck and surely question your coach who was telling you to play for the draw and making defensive substitutions.

    The levels of incompetence from the top to the bottom here beggars belief!!!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Indeed it is stunning. Africa's wealthiest nation cursed with Africa's most stupid football officials makes Africa's dumbest footballing decision to deliberately draw against one of Africa's poorest and most battle-scarred nations. It was not so long ago that Sierra Leone was the Somalia of west Africa. How and why the mighty SA chose to play lowly Sierra Leone, in its own pitch, with the taunts of the annoying Vuvuzeals polluting the atmosphere has left me scratching my head to the depth of my skull.

    Priceless is the photo of those ridiculous footballers dancing, without knowing, to their country's disqualification from world cup. LOL. How one can dance after performing dishonorably to a deliberate draw is beyond pale.

    SA should sack all those idiots responsible for this farce and put serious professional administrators for a change.

  • Comment number 70.

    Mediocrity has become the desired standard in South Africa in this day and age, and sheer incompetency will see you go straight to the top jobs. I know - I'm a South African. This is a monumental fail - yet nothing will be done about it. In 2 or 3 years the same thing will happen again, and again everyone will shout, "but we did not know", as if it's a perfectly valid excuse for every blunder they make.

  • Comment number 71.


    The tournament is hosted every two years because it's the main source of income for the football confederation of the planets most impoverished continent. Quite simply CAF need the cash. It also means that every two years the football infrastructure of the host country(s) gets and upgrade and that investment in football remains high. Also more countries get to host the games. It's win-win for everyone but the European leagues, but as someone mentioned above, nobody's forcing you to buy African players. And if you think the quality of football on offer is dull, you're also invited not to watch. Cheers!

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    There is nothing unusual about the head to head used in this competition. The same criteria is used for both La Liga and Serie A.

    Whilst the wording may be a little confusing, it shouldn't be for football administrators who earn their money by understanding the rules and regulations.

    Also the idea of playing for a draw was bad esp. against a team that could have knocked them out had it won.

    Spain and Germany won all their matches for Euro 2012 and that's a good example of a good attitude. Thankfully SA are the next hosts and hope lessons have been learnt.

  • Comment number 74.

    In my humble opinion I feel the tournament should be held every 4 years, and it should start the year after the world cup. Reason why I say this is because the year after that will be the EURO, CONCAF & AFC Cups and the following year will be the Confederations Cup and the next year after that the World Cup. So we got something to look forward to every year.

    The Tournament should also be be staged in June/July to avoid clashes with European club football and while many will disagree with me because in Africa most countries league season runs between January to December. The South African league season however runs the same as European so I cant see why other leagues cant be the same. FIFA should set a norm for all leagues in the world to coincide with one another. That way transfer deadlines will apply to all teams in the world.

  • Comment number 75.

    It's quite shocking that with the level of professionalism these days and the amount of admin and organisation that is present within the international scene that a mistake like this could happen. I can't believe that they are trying to appeal either in whats seems like an exercise to save some embarrassment.

  • Comment number 76.

    Trezegoal, the various climates and weather of the world would mean any plan to syncronise football seasons would never get off the ground. Quite like the idea of always having a football tournament each year though.

  • Comment number 77.

    Trezegoal, Fifa has two windows for confederations to host tournaments and confederations can choose a window that suits local conditions.

    For example, the Asian Cup can be held in either June/July or in January. This year Qatar hosted the Asian Cup in January and the next Asian Cup will also be hosted in January 2015 by Australia. It was more suitable for Australia to have the Cup in January to avoid clashing with rugby league and Afl.

    CAF chooses to host its tournaments in January and its been very good so far esp. for followers of African football. CAF should not be influenced by European leagues.

    It should be noted that the World Cup can also be hosted in January, its just that it has never happened before. But if Qatar was to turn around and say they want to host the Cup in Janaury 2022 they can do so whatever the European clubs say.

  • Comment number 78.

    I remember as Zambian We were in Similar position at the last africa cup at the group stages Zambia Cameroon Gabon and Tunisia but we were well aware of what was required of us before the gabon game and as the result was confirmed we new we had topped the group on account of having a better head to head record against gabon and cameroon .It quite simple we saw the same scenario came into play at the world cup usa 94 in the group which had italy ,ireland,mexico and norway .So south africans should just understand the rules of tournament before the get involved or else it will be so embarassing

  • Comment number 79.

    The rules are clear enough. Any country whose manager, players, officials AND fans don't understand the rules has no business progressing to the finals anyway.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ 32: oh, he's in it for the money - otherwise he wouldn't have been able to continue to do his job despite not being paid for 6 months. Why else would a Brazilian be coaching in an oil-rich North African nation? However, that doesn't take anything away from the fact that he is a shining example that there are people who not only accept all the responsibility that go with a highly paid job, but are prepared to go way beyond the call of duty on behalf of those they are responsible for. All credit to him!
    @ 40: he's talking about the next competition (which I would've thought would be in 2014, if this one is 2012 and they're every 2 years - ah, I see 42 has explained that).
    @ 50: interesting angle
    @ 59: nice friend you are, not.....

  • Comment number 81.

    "the tournament should be held every 4 years"
    "why is it played in january"

    I really don't understand people telling us what to do. As Africans we can play our tournament every year, two, three, five, seven years or every decade. We schedule according to the weather in Africa because unlike in Europe or the Americas we don't have yet stadia fully covered that can be used during any weather conditions. We also schedule based on what please us and on some agreements with FIFA. UEFA or CONMEBOL and other confederations do not need Africans' approval to schedule their tournaments or decide how long it should take to host the next. Why are people from other confederations telling us what to do? If our football is an issue for you just ignore it. We do not need your approval to enjoy it.

    About South Africans it's a shame they should stop embarrassing themselves. It's sad they did what they can to draw against minnows Sierra Leone on their own turf and vuvuzelas not knowing that with such result Niger was going to qualify even if they lost 50 to zero.
    What would they have said if it was Niger that was in their situation? The same thing everybody is telling them: "learn the rules of the tournament"

  • Comment number 82.

    The comment by xerviar is very disturbing because when speak of our education system, you bring back the issue of who architected that system and as for vuvuzelas will blow them till we get our house in order. I hope you all enjoy it while it last.

  • Comment number 83.

    The South Africa (Bafana Bafana) coach should have concentrated on winning the match on the ground rather than concentrating or relying on the 'complex' CAF computation. Now that they have realized that there are currently few underdogs in African football, they should move on. Sierra Leone Leone Star's are no push overs. Statistically, they have a superior record against South Africa. Won 1, Drawn 3 , Lost 0. Football or soccer is a ball game played out on the pitch, not a 'legal' manouver decided in CAF or FIFA board rooms. Bravo Leone Stars!!

  • Comment number 84.

    EISH. Someone is so stupid and whoever that someone is should get the sack. Did it happen when SA were bundled out of the Cricket World Cup for the same sort of mistake.. Coach Eric Simons was replaced in 2004 and Shaun Pollock lost the Captaincy over it.


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