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South Africa backs Morocco for 2026 World Cup

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) South African soccer leader Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco “unqualified support” to host the 2026 World Cup in a contest against a combined North American bid.

The South African federation said Monday that Jordaan assured a visiting Morocco bid delegation “he will personally lobby” African officials ahead of the scheduled vote in Moscow on June 13.

Morocco is up against a United States-Canada-Mexico bid to stage the continent’s second World Cup. South Africa hosted in 2010, after beating Morocco and Egypt in a vote.

That South African bid is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for a suspicious $10 million payment to FIFA voters in the North American region. In indictments published by the justice department in 2015, two of the listed “co-conspirators” are South African soccer officials who are not identified.

Now, Morocco is competing against the Americans to co-host the 48-team tournament. Up to 207 FIFA member federations will vote at their congress on the eve of the World Cup in Russia.

North American bid leaders targeted the 14-member southern African soccer body COSAFA at a February meeting in Johannesburg.

Longtime Everton midfielder Pienaar retires

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After a nearly 20-year professional career, Stevan Pienaar has decided to hang up the boots.

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“Today I am announcing my retirement from football,” Pienaar said. “I just want to say thanks to my mom and my family and all the clubs that I have played for and the supporters off course, how can I forget you”, he said. “Thanks for the love throughout my career. Follow my social media, there’s an announcement coming up soon and you guys will be the first to know.”

After beginning his career with Ajax Cape Town and making the move to the original Ajax in Amsterdam, Pienaar began a nine-year stay at Everton after a year at Borussia Dortmund and sandwiched with a move to Tottenham. The 35-year-old made 210 appearances for the club and also made more than 60 appearances for the Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s National Team, including representing them at the 2002 World Cup and on home soil at the 2010 World Cup.

Pienaar also played last season for Sunderland, though he was unable to keep them from avoiding relegation.

Former clubs of Pienaar reached out with warm wishes on social media on his retirement from playing.

‘Unfair’ for FIFA to annul World Cup qualifier over crooked ref

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SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) The South African Football Association says FIFA’s decision to order a World Cup qualifier against Senegal to be replayed because of match-fixing by a crooked referee is unprecedented and unfair.

SAFA is considering appealing FIFA’s order that the 2-1 win over Senegal in November last year is annulled and the game is replayed because Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found guilty of manipulating the match.

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Lamptey was banned for life. Although there are no complaints over his punishment, FIFA has effectively also penalized South Africa – and it could end its 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 soccer, centers 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, which 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 organizing illegal betting scams. FIFA has not provided full details of the case against the referee but says 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 its only win so far in the final round of qualifying in Africa.

SAFA senior legal counsel Norman Arendse says FIFA’s move is unfair for a number of reasons and constitutes a “miscarriage of justice.”

World Cup qualifier to be replayed after ruling on match fixing

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Africa’s Group D table could be flipped upside down, almost literally, after FIFA ordered a replay of a November 2016 match.

Referee Joseph Lamptey was banned for life for match manipulation in South Africa’s 2-1 win over Senegal last year, a match which included an absolutely awful penalty call.

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This makes for a high stakes match in November’s international break. From FIFA:

“This decision follows the confirmation of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to upholdthe lifetime ban of match referee, Jospeh Lamptey, for match manipulation, the ruling imposed by the FIFA Disciplinary and Appeal Committees.”

The win is the lone victory for South Africa in the group and strips Bafana Bafana of three points which could propel Senegal atop Group D. Only the first place team in each CAF group makes it to Russia.

Senegal is otherwise unbeaten, having drawn twice and beaten Cape Verde. Here’s how the table looked before the ruling:

Burkina Faso — 6 pts, +2 GD
Cape Verde — 6 pts, -2 GD
Senegal — 5 pts, +1 GD
South Africa — 4 pts, -1 GD

Now the table opens up incredibly well for Senegal, though the Lions of Teranga will have to play South Africa twice in the November window.

The table now sits this way:

Burkina Faso — 6 pts, +2 GD, 2 to play
Cape Verde — 6 pts, -2 GD, 2 to play
Senegal — 5 pts, Even GD, 3 to play
South Africa — 1 pt, -2 GD, 3 to play

Senegal goes to Cape Verde on Oct. 7, while South Africa hosts Burkina Faso.

On Nov. 6, Burkina Faso hosts Cape Verde and South Africa visits Senegal, while the replayed fixture will be held in South Africa a few days later.

It’s a huge ruling for Senegal and crushing for South Africa.

Ref banned for life after awarding PK in World Cup qualifier (video)

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A brutal penalty call has cost a referee his job, and status in football, for life.

Joseph Odartei Lamptey called a handball against Senegal in a World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Those things happen.

The problem? It wasn’t a handball, and it wasn’t even close. A diving header flew into Kalidou Koulibaly’s leg, and not a single player on either side expected a penalty.

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One was given, and South Africa went on to win the qualifier 2-1. Both sides are a point behind Burkina Faso in Group D.

From FIFA.com:

The official was found guilty of breaching art. 69 par. 1 (unlawfully influencing match results) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal on 12 November 2016.

On the other hand, all charges against the Ghanaian match official David Lionheart Nii Lartey Laryea, whose behaviour had also been the subject of investigations, were dismissed by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

Here’s the offense in question: