South Africa’s football boss, Tebogo Motlanthe has urged Bafana Bafana fans to turn down their optimism around a chance participation in the Africa Cup of Nations due next month, in the wake of an anticipated Zimbabwe ban from international football by FIFA.
Zimbabwe stares possible disqualification from a delayed AFCON 2021 in Cameroon next month after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended the ZIFA board last month over a slew of accusations centring on mismanagement of the domestic game.
FIFA brooks no government interference in the administration of member associations.
The world’s football governing body has since written to SRC demanding the unconditional reinstatement of the Felton Kamambo led board or face sanctions that could include a ban from AFCON.
South Africans, still smarting from their painful exit from the Qatar FIFA World Cup following an impressive show, are rubbing their hands with glee, hoping their national team could be an automatic choice to replace their troubled neighbour.
Bafana finished third in their AFCON qualifying Group C behind qualifiers Ghana and Sudan.
Their placing as the best third-positioned finisher in all 12 groups on 10 points sparked speculation, especially on social media, that if Zimbabwe were removed from the Covid-19-delayed 2021 Afcon, Bafana might have a chance of being installed in their place.
But Safa CEO, Motlanthe urged fans to lower their expectations as the game’s statutes pointed to a different direction.
“First of all I would say don’t get ahead of yourself because Zimbabwe might still resolve their issues,” Motlanthe said.
“But, yes, you are reading the rule correctly, so even if Zimbabwe were banned there would be no path for Bafana to still qualify.
“I think people were just getting excited because Caf sometimes has the format in qualifying where the best runner-up or third-place team sometimes can qualify.”
Article 86 of the regulations for the 2021 Nations Cup states: “If a team withdraws after its qualification in the final tournament, but before its actual start, it shall be replaced by the team classified next in the group of the team in question. In default, the group to which belongs the forfeiting team shall be composed of three teams.”
What that translates to is that if Zimbabwe were removed, Guinea, currently the third-ranked side in Group B, would move up to occupy Zimbabwe’s current second ranking.
The group would then become a three-team contest, involving top-ranked Senegal, Guinea in second and Malawi, who would move up from fourth to third.