SAFA have confirmed Bafana Bafana’s upcoming back-to-back 2022 AFCON qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe will both be played in South Africa.
Bafana are set to face Sao Tome in their third, and fourth round fixtures in Group C this month, as they look to take a step closer to the continental showpiece in Cameroon.
The South Africans have agreed to bear the costs of the travel of the National Team of Sao Tome and their officials.
They will also take care of the costs of the accommodation of the National Team of Sao Tome, and their officials, during the period deemed necessary. This arrangement, though, will be questioned by some people, who believe in Fair Play, who can claim that this has the potential of compromising the integrity of the competition.
A national team, whose entire costs are being funded by their opponents, cannot then be expected to play as well as one which hasn’t received any such favours.
The arrangement comes days after ZIFA rejected an offer from Algeria to have the Warriors’ home 2021 AFCON qualifier against the Desert Foxes played in Algiers.
The Warriors take on the African champions away on November 12 before the two sides meet at the National Sports Stadium four days later.
But, with logistical challenges, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe, Algeria proposed to host both legs.
The North Africans said they would foot Zimbabwe’s accommodation and other related costs.
“We officially requested to use the same plane with the Algerians, after our first leg tie with them next week but, unfortunately, their Government plane cannot be used by non-Algerians,’’ said ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo.
“We will, instead, charter a flight for the mission.
“Then, the Algerians proposed to us to have both legs of the back-to-back fixtures played on their soil, with them paying for our accommodation.
“But, we have refused to take that offer. We cannot sell our soul. Look, the country is currently in a celebratory mood after the lifting of that ban of the National Sports Stadium.
“We are happy now that CAF has accepted to let us use the National Sports Stadium for the big game against Algeria, pending its full refurbishment.
“So, we cannot then accept to go and play our home game in Algeria. We want our players to feel at home when we host Algeria.
“Although there will be no fans to rally behind them, inside the stadium, psychologically, playing at the National Sports Stadium makes them feel very much at home.
“So, after we turned down the offer by the Algerians to have both matches played in Algeria, we then offered them the same (arrangement).
“We proposed to them that both games be played at the National Sports Stadium and we would meet their accommodation expenses but they also refused.
“So the matches will go ahead with them hosting us first before we play them at home between November 12 and 16.”
But, the South Africans, who will play the Warriors in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, have come up with an arrangement for both their AFCON matches against Sao Tome played across the Limpopo. Currently in second position, behind Ghana, with one defeat and one victory, coach Molefi Ntseki’s Bafana Bafana charges will be looking to claim six points from the upcoming two encounters against the 182nd FIFA-ranked islanders. Their chances of doing so have now been boosted with an agreement signed between the two football associations that both fixtures will be played in South Africa.
Bafana were scheduled to host the first fixture in Durban on November 13, before travelling off the coast of Guinea for the return leg in Sao Tome. However, the Sao Tome Football Federation have agreed to play their “home” fixture in Port Elizabeth on November 16, due to the ongoing travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic that may cause logistical issues.
“The two countries mutually agreed that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it was in the best interest of the two that they do everything in their power to safeguard the interest of players and officials,’’ read a statement from SAFA. “Therefore, both parties agreed that the first and return leg matches will all be played in South Africa.
“In this respect, SAFA undertakes to bear the costs of the travel (round-trip flight) of the National Team of Sao Tome and its officials. — KickOff.com/Sports Reporter.