Fair play seems to have become a foreign concept in African football

We may be viewed in some quarters as the crybabies of African football, but we cannot let the injustices on the field go by without raising our voices, even if those voices fall on deaf ears.

Last November, Bafana Bafana were dealt a severe blow after being denied a place in the last leg of the Qatar 22 World Cup qualifying round when a Senegalese referee Maguette N’Diaye awarded a dubious penalty in favour of the Black Stars of Ghana, thus sending them to the playoffs ahead of South Africa.

Safa complained to the custodians of the World Cup tournament, Fifa, but lost on a technicality with the world football governing body arguing that Safa failed to lodge a “protest” immediately after the game.

Safa contends theirs was not a protest but a complaint.

In one of the dramatic scenes that went viral this week, Orlando Pirates coach Mandla Ncikazi describes as “inhumane” treatment his camp received during their CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg away contest against Tanzanian side Simba SC last weekend. The altercations, as evident from video material, started when the Pirates contingent alighted from their bus to a hostile reception from security personnel, and during the match, the antagonism from the Simba SC fans continued.

The last straw was when Tunisian referee Haythem Guirat awarded a penalty against the Buccaneers while denying the visitors what seemed to be a legitimate penalty, leading to the home side’s 1-0 victory.

Guirat had Ncikazi hot under the collar for going against using the VAR system to review Simba SC’s goal, as well as what appeared to be a penalty to Pirates after a blatant foul on Pirates midfielder, Siphesihle Ndlovu, inside the box.

The Bucs co-coach, just like Safa, grabbed the attention of the international media as he lashed out at the despicable treatment received throughout their stay in Dar es Salaam but vowed not to reciprocate as Pirates are due to host Simba SC in the second leg at Orlando Stadium today at 6 pm. Pirates will have to dig deep.

Simba SC officials responded with a long-winded statement, similar to Ghana’s, branding Ncikazi a liar who is hell-bent on saving his job at Pirates.

With that said, what irked me is the comment from some sections of the African media to the effect that South African teams must not expect red carpet treatment. True, we don’t want to be treated with kid gloves, but sportsmanship goes hand in glove with fairness, which, unfortunately, is an unfamiliar concept in sport on this continent.

I remember vividly when former Bafana defender Mark Fish left the field soaked in blood reminiscent of being in a boxing ring as a result of unpunished rough tackling and elbowing during the 1997 World Cup qualifier in Point-Noire in Congo.

Unfortunately, it is these incidents that have dented the image of African football, with some justifying this kind behaviour as being embedded in the African football culture.

There is no fair play while some (read referees) get away with match-fixing without any recourse. I’m done.

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