Sunday, 16 June 2013

World Cup heartbreak: Bafana Bafana beaten by the greatest headed own goal you are ever likely to witness

Somewhere amid the wreckage of South Africa’s failed World Cup campaign, we must pick up the pieces and assess the real value of Ethiopia’s quite unbelievable 2-1 win over brave Bafana Bafana on Sunday.

NOTE: Breaking News of Ethiopia possible points deduction at the foot of this story.

It was never about altitude. It was about attitude. And Gordon Igesund’s men had that in spades in lofty Addis Ababa. The opening goal from Bernard Parker gave the nation hope, the real prospect of a THIRD weekend success after highly-fortunate results for both our cricketers in Cardiff and our rugby team in Mbombela.

Then came the Ethiopia equaliser minutes before half-time. Hearts in mouths time. Anything less than a win wasn’t going to be enough for South Africa, with Botswana at home to come while the Ethiopians would be left to beat bottom-of-the-group Central African Republic.

Yes for fully 20 minutes, Bafana outplayed the home side, despite a raucous gathering of 25,000 inside the stadium and 10,000 outside. The winner looked like it would come at any moment.

Tokela Rantie, the Malmo striker curiously ejected by Orlando Pirates, very nearly scored with his first series of touches when he came on as a substitute. The Ethiopians, hacking down any South African on the run, were giving away copious free-kicks in dangerous positions.

The Ethiopians, workmanlike at best in their enthusiasm to qualify for a first every World Cup, were just not threatening. Until one of the most bizarre moments you are every likely to see in football. The cross comes in. Parker rises to clear. But the ball pinged off his head at pace from fully 18 yards to nestle in the corner of his Kaizer Chiefs club-mate Itumeleng Khune’s net.

There are own goal and there are own goals. I, personally, have scored several in my low level career. Seen plenty at all levels. But never quite one as devastatingly accurate as Parker’s mis-cued header.

Few sides would recover from such a blow. The ghost of unpaid sangomas immediately appeared over Igesund’s brave effort to overcome that chaotic start  to Group A, with Pitso Mosimane failing to beat Ethiopia at home before caretaker Steve Komphela’s draw against Botswana in Gaborone.

For all the huff and puff at the end, looking for an equaliser which would have only made elimination more painful, there was never going to be a miracle in the chaotic final 15, with Ethiopians queueing up for the time-wasting stretcher and ball-boys throwing the ball the wrong way.

And so it was done. Gordon was there at the end, saying things like “We did all we could, I can’t fault the players for their effort” with Khune, the man who has raised time-wasting to an art form, complaining about… erm time-wasting.

Afterwards we had Dean Furman, who has single-handedly revived the art of the slide tackle, telling the nation how sorry he was on twitter. And also pointing out that the one of the Ethiopians had spat in his face.

It was not a great end to Father’s Day, Soweto Day, Youth Day… whatever you want to call it. And there were the predictable calls for heads to roll. Personally I think Gordon Igesund deserves more time to finish what he started.

The improvement in Bafana’s form is hard to ignore. Sunday’s bizarre defeat came at the end of an eight-match unbeaten run in competition for Igesund. There were real positives, a good spirit in the camp.

But nothing can persuade a broken-hearted nation that our footballers fell short only because they lacked the luck on show when the Proteas sneaked a tie with the West Indies to progress in the ICC Champions Trophy or the Springboks benefited from a yellow card and a penalty try against Scotland the brave on the lowveld on Saturday.

Now we must look at what Ethiopia have to do to actually make it to Brazil and the World Cup next year. Côte d'Ivoire – with their Toure brothers and vast array of European stars - and seven-time AFCON winners Egypt are already through.

The Ivorians came back from behind to beat Tanzania 4-2 with Manchester City’s African Player of the Year scoring twice to leave Morocco short despite a 2-0 win over Gambia.

Ghana, another of the African heavyweights, will probably join them in the last ten after their 2-0 win over Lesotho in Maseru thanks to goals from Christian Atsu and captain Asamoah Gyan. They need a draw with 2012 AFCON champions Zambia to get through.

North African giants Tunisia and Algeria are also in the shake-up, with Gabon, the Congo and Burkina Faso making Group E impossible to call. Where does this leave Ethiopia, the world’s 105th ranked side, in the shake-up?

Well, struggling to be honest. Depending how the draw works out, we’re looking at CAF succeeding as planned. The people Danny Jordaan describes as “the Arab powerhouses” look nailed on for Brazil. Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia…along with the Ivory Coast and Libya, who look like they’re going to oust Cameroon in Group I. And then we have the Ivory Coast and reigning AFCON champions Nigeria, who should see off Malawi in Group F.

It’s not a good time for Southern African teams… or English-speaking African nations. Issa Hayatou will shed no tears for us.

But there may still be hope: this just dropped on FIFA.COM:

FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against three member associations for each having allegedly fielded an ineligible player in the preliminary competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

The Ethiopian Football Association allegedly fielded an ineligible player in the match between Botswana and Ethiopia on 8 June 2013.

Link to full story here:

Player concerned is Minyahile Teshome Beyene, booked in first game against South Africa and against Botswana at home. He should have been suspended for win in Botswana. Gordon Igesund sent me a link to the story above last night after I'd posted this. He said: "If we'd known about this BEFORE the game I would have played for the draw! I went out trying to win, we played a veryopen style.

"Dean Furman was spat at, right in the face and their number five was BOOKED TWICE! Unbelievable own goal did for us. But hey, better to have a slight chance than none at all when we play Botswana in our last game."

Under under FIFA Disciplinary Code 55, sanction for fielding "ineligible" or banned player is 3pts deduction & €6000 fine.

If Ethiopia are deducted three points, it means Bafana must beat Botswana in their final game and hope Ethiopia draw in the Central African Republic. Then there are the play-offs. But a glimmer of hope, as Gordon said, is better than none.

If Ethiopia ARE deducted three points, it means Bafana must beat Botswana in their final game at home and hope Ethiopia draw in the Central African Republic (or at a neutral venue given the troubles in Bangui), both games due to be played on September 6.

Then there are the play-offs, five of them, pitting groups winners against group winners, a peculiar torture unique to Africa. But a glimmer of hope, as Gordon said, is better than none.

Kirsten Nematandani, the SAFA president, yesterday confirmed he would “wait patiently” for the results of the FIFA investigation. And he insisted: “We had nothing to do with the naming of this player.”

We wait. And hope.


  1. FYI - This accusation doesn't make sense, as ETH played CAR between the first game against RSA and Botswana at home.

  2. Bafana for Brasilia!

  3. we love you SAfricans but no coming in through the back door SAFA, deal with your corruption first and solidify your game to beat teams ranked 100 something such as Ethiopia.

  4. Too bad that there are still lots of fights among the players of the FIFA World Cup 2014, I guess real sportsmanship is really needed.