AFCON 2023 Qualifiers: South Africa Cries Foul

The Lone Star dropped from 145th to 149th on the global rankings and from 43rd to 46th on the continent.  

.... Over Liberia Home Ground Arrangement

The South Africa Football Association (SAFA) has written to the Confederation of African Football (Caf), objecting to Liberia's arrangement to move their 2023 AFCON qualifiers home fixtures to Morocco.

Liberia, South Africa, Morocco, and Zimbabwe were pitted in Group K of the upcoming qualifiers.

Authorities of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) were initially making arrangements with Ghana, Senegal and Mauritania to move their home fixtures, but the Executive Committee of the LFA on April 22 reached a decision to move the Lone Star’s home games to Morocco due to ongoing renovation works at the SKD Sports Stadium.

CAF, in October of 2021, upheld its decision to ban the SKD Sports Stadium, as the facility still does not fully meet the set CAF stadium minimum requirements.

The continental football governing body initially placed a ban on the facility in August, following the visitation of CAF Club Licensing Senior Manager, Muhammad F. Sidat, on August 18. It later conducted a re-inspection visit from October 15 to 17, 2021.

The situation forced Liberia to play their home games in Ghana and later Morocco after the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (RMFF) granted them the use of one of its stadiums, Grand Stade de Tanger, for the Lone Star’s remaining two matches in the 2022 Qatar World Cup Qualifiers. 

SAFA, in a communication to CAF, said the arrangement by Liberia with Morocco is against the principles of fair play.

“We have been informed that Liberia intends to play their group qualifiers matches in Morocco while they are with Morocco in the same group.

“Safa hereby raises and officially objects to the arrangement as it goes against the principle of fair play because the Morocco Football Association will travel less and enjoy the benefit of home ground advantage more than anyone in the group.

“We understand the challenges of stadiums in the continent, but we plead that it not be used to disadvantage other countries or give unfair advantage to others,” the communication reads.

Bafana Bafana coach, Hugo Broos has already considered Morocco as the favourites to win the four-team group.

“It is clear that Morocco is the best team in our group. They were in the AFCON in January, they were eliminated by Egypt and they are a very good team,” SAFA quotes Broos. 

“Maybe Morocco is the best of our group. I know this team very well. So I think if we want to be first in our group, we have to beat Morocco.”

Morocco and Liberia have been good partners. In 2020, the Moroccan Football Federation and the LFA signed a new Technical Agreement that covers club development, refereeing, coaching, training camp opportunities and equipment assistance.

The RMFF earlier this year agreed to build an artificial turf football pitch for Liberia. 

Insincerity from SAFA?

Just as South Africa is now complaining, Ghana Football Association during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers opposed the decision of Ethiopia to have played their home game in South Africa whilst they were all in the same group.

Ethiopia played their home game against Ghana in South Africa despite complaints from Ghana, but the match still went on in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg.

During the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, Sao Tome and Principe also played their home game against Bafana Bafana in South Africa, giving South Africa the benefit of playing four of their six games at home.