SOMERSET WEST, South Africa -- FIFA's decision to order a World Cup qualifier to be replayed because of match-fixing by a crooked referee is unprecedented and unfair, according to the country stripped of a vital victory despite playing no role in the wrongdoing.
The South African Football Association said on Thursday it was considering appealing FIFA's order that the 2-1 win over Senegal last November would be annulled and the game replayed because Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found guilty of manipulating the match.
Lamptey was banned for life. And although there are no complaints over his punishment, FIFA has effectively also penalised South Africa -- and it could end their hopes of making it to the World Cup next year -- despite confirming that neither team had any role in or knowledge of the fixing.
The case, not seen before in top-level football, centered on Lamptey's decision to give South Africa a penalty for a non-existent handball against Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly. The ball clearly struck Koulibaly on the knee and dropped to the ground. South Africa, who didn't even appeal for a penalty, scored from the spot kick and went on to win.
It's thought that Lamptey was acting on the orders of match-fixers organising illegal betting scams. FIFA has not provided full details of the case against the referee but said in a statement to The Associated Press that its findings against Lamptey took into account "reports of irregular betting activities from various international betting monitoring companies."
The upshot is South Africa has been stripped of their only win so far in the final round of qualifying in Africa. The game must be played again, FIFA said, possibly at the very end of the qualifiers in November.
FIFA's move is unfair for a number of reasons, the SAFA senior legal counsel told AP.
"For one, if you review the game, we did outplay Senegal on the day," Norman Arendse said. "By anyone's account we did deserve to win the game."
SAFA has also never been invited to make any representation or present its side in the case, Arendse said, a "miscarriage of justice" because the decision has adversely affected South Africa.
And Arendse, chairman of SAFA's legal committee, doesn't see why South Africa should pay the price for FIFA's decision to appoint Lamptey for the game when he had a history of suspicious performances.
"This is the part that hurts us," Arendse said. "The referee is chosen by the FIFA referees committee. So why don't they take responsibility? ... Why did they appoint him?"
South Africa aren't even sure if it can appeal against FIFA's latest ruling. In initial correspondence with FIFA over an appeal, SAFA was told the decision was final and binding and could not be appealed, Arendse said.
That contrasts with FIFA's own statement announcing the replay, when the world body said the decision still had to be ratified by the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions in Zurich next week.