Cape Town - The news that VAR will be available for CAF's future World Cup qualifier playoffs has come two weeks too late for Bafana Bafana.
FIFA's President Gianni Infantino, speaking at the extraordinary general assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Cairo, Egypt, said that VAR (Video assistant referee) will be in use for the final stage of the continent’s qualifiers.
Bafana Bafana have been hard done by dubious refereeing decisions in two qualifiers, over the past three months. On one occasion, TV replays showed Percy Tau scored what looked like a legitimate goal, and it was disallowed. On another occasion, South Africa lost a match after a dubious penalty was awarded against them.
It is very likely that if VAR was available for these two matches, South Africa would be one step away from qualifying for the global showpiece in Qatar at the end of 2022.
The bad news for the 10 countries who are through to the final stage is that host countries, in line with a decision by CAF, must have VAR available for matches. Countries who are unable to comply will forfeit home advantage and the match will be played at an alternative venue.
As it turns out it is unlikely that any of the 10 countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, DR Congo, Mali, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal and Morocco) will have VAR available. CAF will likely move all the two-legged matches to a VAR-equipped country like Qatar.
“The final stage of the African World Cup qualifiers will see an improvement in refereeing performance due to the use of VAR,” said Infantino.
The latest development has no doubt come about because of complaints by the South African Football Federation and Benin Football Federation, who tabled reports about farcical refereeing in the final group stage matches. The two referees at the heart of the storm were Gabon’s Eric Otogo-Castane and Senegal’s Maquette N'diaye.
Both cases are in the hands of FIFA’s disciplinary committee, and their decision is eagerly awaited.
CAF president Patrice Motsepe would not be drawn into the controversy but said efforts will be made to help referees grow and become competent officials.
“We are going to invest in the competitions because our competitions are everything,” said Motsepe.
“That’s why the announcement that we are making today regarding referees is critically important. Africa have got good referees, and we have got world-class referees. We’ve also got referees who are not so good.
“Then we’ve also got referees who are even further from not so good, but they all try. We want to train them, and also pay them good money and look after them. So that they can make a career out of being referees.”
The final round of CAF's World Cup playoffs for the 10 teams to book a ticket to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, will be played in March next year.
The draw for the five two-legged playoff matches (home and away) will be decided by a draw, at the end of January next year. Seeds will be determined by the FIFA rankings in January.
Some of the teams will cross paths during the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon starting on 9 January and ending on 6 February.