|South Africa's Dean Furman (R) runs with the ball past Ethiopia's Minyahil Teshome during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match Ethiopia vs South Africa on June 16, 2013 in Addis Ababa|
THE likelihood of South Africa being awarded the points from the World Cup qualifier loss to Ethiopia last Sunday appear to have diminished — for now.A number of respected football experts, including SAFA vice- president Danny Jordaan and ex-referee Colin Knott stepped forward to suggest that Bafana Bafana should be awarded a win in the match points from their 2-1 loss in Addis Ababa.
This is because Ethiopian player Minyahile Beyene, who was suspended for the previous weekend’s clash with Botswana — but played — also turned out against South Africa.
SAFA reportedly sent a letter to FIFA this week alerting them that Beyene had turned out against Bafana Bafana, believing that he should be ruled ineligible for the fixture.
The theory was put forward was that as Beyene had technically not served his suspension yet by featuring against The Zebras, he should not have been allowed to play the following weekend either while still under investigation by FIFA.
But after a week of trying to seek clarity from the world’s governing body over the player’s availability for the Bafana Bafana clash, FIFA has suggested to Times Media, though without explicitly saying so, that he was good to go.
“A match suspension is regarded as no longer pending if a match is retroactively forfeited because a player took part in a match despite being ineligible,” FIFA said.
That means by giving up the points against Botswana, a fact that has yet to be officially announced by FIFA, but appears a forgone conclusion after Ethiopia themselves admitted their guilt this week, the suspension is considered served.
That should have made Beyene available to meet South Africa.
However, there is another aspect to the punishment that muddies the waters once more.
A team found guilty of fielding an ineligible player can have a fine imposed on them and the suspension “may” remain in place until that fine is paid.
“If a suspension is combined with a fine, the suspension may be prolonged until the fine has been paid in full,” FIFA say.
It would be fair to say that Ethiopia could not have paid any fine as they have not heard the outcome of the investigation into Beyene yet, so there is the suggestion that he remains suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Wherever the story goes next, the finger-pointing within Ethiopian football has thrown the national team in chaos.
After a backlash against Ethiopian Football Federation president Sahilu Gebremariam following the country’s admission of guilt over the Botswana incident, he tried to lay the blame at the door of Beyene, suggesting the midfielder should have informed team management of his two yellow cards.
This has enraged fans more, who have sided with the player and called for the immediate resignation of Gebremariam.
Beyene himself has lashed back at his country’s federation president.
“As far as I know, my role is to give my best performance... I never wrote [down] how many yellow cards I got,” he said.
It all makes for an ugly air around the team camp as they prepare for their crucial clash against Central African Republic in September, likely needing a win to ensure they stay ahead of South Africa in the race to advance to the next stage of qualifying.
Just where that game will be played is another major question. FIFA took South Africa’s fixture scheduled for Bangui to Cameroon, but the special extenuating circumstances in that case was the loss of South African soldiers in fighting in the country just months before.
Ethiopia cannot claim the same and a less volatile environment in the country could see Bangui host the game, a venue where Central African Republic rarely lose.