South African football fans spoke out on Sunday against a decision taken by the South African Football Association (Safa) to lodge an appeal after the country was knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations.
A goalless draw against Sierra Leone saw both teams and Niger – who lost 3-0 to Egypt – end their qualifying campaigns on nine points, and South Africa thought they had qualified with the best goal difference.
The players, officials and fans celebrated after the draw, thinking they had gone through to the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The rules of the competition, however, state that the ranking of teams equal on points will be determined by the number of points obtained in the matches involving the teams.
Using this criterion, Niger qualified as they had six points, while South Africa and Sierra Leone each had five. The same criteria are used for the World Cup and Euro competitions, and Angola qualified for the 2006 World Cup ahead of Nigeria based on that.
Safa said earlier on Sunday that they had written a letter to Africa’s governing body Caf informing them of their intention to lodge an appeal.
However, the vast majority of football fans writing on a local footballing website have said they do not approve of Safa’s decision.
A user called Mmusi urged Safa to drop the case: “Stop embarrassing our country. The rules were not implemented mid-competition.”
Sabelo wrote: “Challenging the rules is more stupid than Saturday’s celebrations.”
Safa president Kirsten Nematandani came in for criticism after saying that the association would fight the case all the way.
“Mr Nematandani, don’t embarrass our nation further. These rules were the first to be put in place. I now understand why our standard of education is deemed to be very low. When I read these rules, they are plain, clear and not ambiguous. You are supposed to take the blame here together with your entire team and management,” thabani1980 wrote.
“I think you must apologise to the nation for misinterpretation of the stated rule.”
The fans also slammed goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who blatantly was involved in time-wasting during the game and then joked with fans during the game, pointing to an imaginary watch on his wrist.
“Failing to beat a team ranked 150-something at home is disgraceful, add to that Khune’s disgraceful behaviour on the field of play,” Mandla wrote.