Ex-ref: Bafana should protest Ghana penalty

SA National Teams

Former referee Dr Errol Sweeney has weighed in on the controversial penalty decision that ended South Africa hopes of progressing to the next round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

South Africa's prospects of taking part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were dashed on Sunday after the national team succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Ghana in Accra in their final CAF Group G qualifying encounter.

Hugo Broos' side entered the tie with a three-point lead at the top of the log standings but needed to avoid defeat in order to progress to the final round of qualifiers as one of the first-placed countries from the 10 groups in the CAF branch of qualifiers.

READ | Broos blasts referee after dubious penalty call

That ultimately proved too tall a task on the night for Bafana Bafana as the Black Stars emerged victorious after André Ayew – winning his 100th cap – netted the all-important goal for his nation, albeit in a highly contentious fashion.

The 31-year-old's effort, which came in the form of a 33rd-minute penalty kick, stemmed from a controversial decision by Senegalese referee Maguette N'Diaye, who adjudged Rushine De Reuck to have fouled Daniel Amartey in the box.

Replays suggested that the contact between De Reuck and the Leicester City star was minimal, if at all present, and N'Diaye's decision sparked the ire of the South African Football Association (SAFA), who on Monday confirmed that an official complaint had been lodged following the match.

READ | SAFA lodge official complaint against referee

Former referee Dr Errol Sweeney, who enjoyed a near-25-year career with the whistle, was similarly surprised by the match official's performance and believes that questions should be raised of his decision to award the penalty in Ghana's favour.

"The problem as I see it here is that the Ghanaian player doesn't appear to have been touched by the South African player and just falls down," Dr Sweeney tells Kickoff.com. "You can almost see by the over-exaggerated falling down that he hadn't been touched.

"I have seen my dear grandmother who was a small old woman, God bless her, if she was pushed or shoved by anybody in the street like that, there's no way she would have gone down, and the referee was right on the edge of the penalty area and looking straight at it.

"The only thing I could think of and I'm trying to be fair and objective here is that maybe he saw that the South African player had pushed the Ghanaian player in the back, or maybe that the South African player was pulling the Ghanaian player's shirt.

"That would be the only reason to give a penalty in that instance, but there was no foul or tackle and there was no pushing from what I could see, so I really don't know."

READ | André Ayew: Ghana should've had two penalties

SAFA CEO Tebogo Motlanthe confirmed that he had written to CAF and FIFA "to investigate how the game was handled, and secondly to also challenge some of these decisions" and Dr Sweeney agrees that the matter should not be allowed to rest.

"I think it's highly unlikely [that another referee would have given that penalty]," he says. "You could take 10 referees and ask them all to comment, and I don't think one of them would say that that was a penalty."

He references South Africa's match against Senegal in 2016, which was ordered to be replayed by FIFA after disgraced Ghanaian referee, Joseph Lamptey, was banned for life following a match-fixing scandal, as a precedent to draw on for SAFA.

"There is history for South Africa leading up to the 2018 World Cup, where the game against Senegal was replayed because FIFA had done an investigation and found that the referee to have been, well, corrupt. There's a precedent to lodge an appeal and have this incident investigated.

"I would love to interview the referee and ask him why he gave the penalty kick but we won't get that. That's all private and will go straight to CAF [in the match commissioner's report] and I doubt that they would divulge that. But it is definitely worth SAFA's time to send in a protest."

READ | Dearnaley: Either the ref is a cheat or he was conned

However, Dr Sweeney cautions SAFA not to get lost in the heat of the moment with an overreaching complaint into Ndiaye's performance, but to rather focus on the defining decision to award the penalty as the basis for their argument.

"Don't get involved in corner kicks, and throw-ins, and handbells and pointing out everywhere where the referee slipped up. Forget about that, don't get bogged down. Only concentrate on that one single, solitary incident.

"SAFA saying that they are going to chronicle all of these things, that will be thrown out. That will not be accepted. The only chance they have is if the powers that be suspect something untoward and decide to have a look at that.

"There is no way that CAF or FIFA are going to look at every single controversial decision to prove if you like, that the referee was not being fair and honest. There is no chance.

READ | Pienaar, Pitso hit out at 'embarrassing' penalty call

"Focus on the one incident where you have an allegation and it's got to be an allegation, not an accusation where there was an error or deliberate [wrong decision] by the referee. 

"They wouldn't order a replay for an error but he's only 10 metres from the situation and looking straight at it. He has to explain why he gave that penalty. Was there a push? There certainly wasn't a trip, the player wasn't tripped, he wasn't punched, he wasn't elbowed.

"It seems like the incident occurred from a 'push' in the back and the referee was looking at it from a sideways point of view.

"In other words, the players were looking at the corner flag and he was looking towards the goal, meaning he had a perfect view of it, so he has to explain why he gave that a penalty kick."

Following his retirement, Dr Sweeney returned to his native Ireland and now hosts the Monday Review Show in which he and esteemed guests discuss topical issues surrounding the world of football and football refereeing. 

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