São Tomé and Príncipe have reached an agreement with Safa to forego their home advantage and remain in South Africa for the return leg of their upcoming back-to-back Afcon qualifiers that start in Durban next Friday.
The central African island country has cited complex international travel restrictions created by the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason they would rather play both matches in South Africa.
Bafana will host São Tomé at the Moses Mabhida Stadium next Friday, while Safa has confirmed that the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth will stage the second leg.
On Thursday, Safa confirmed via its official website that it had officially signed a memorandum of understanding with the São Toméan Football Federation over this arrangement, which City Press reported on last Sunday after this newspaper caught wind of São Tomé’s proposal.
“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. Therefore, both parties agreed that the first and return leg matches will all be played in South Africa,” said Safa, adding that the arrangement has been relayed to the Confederation of African Football.
“The São Toméan Football Federation undertakes to play its home game in the territory of second party and Safa undertakes to host both home and away matches in its territory,’’ read part of the memorandum of understanding.
Safa has also confirmed that the association had undertaken to pay for travel and accommodation for the São Tomé team and their officials during their extended stay.
If there is anything to this arrangement, it gives Bafana a huge advantage. A double victory would provide coach Molefi Ntseki’s team with a chance to qualify for the continental championship in Cameroon next year.
South Africa are second in Group C – three points adrift of leaders Ghana. Bafana beat Sudan in their last qualifier, a 1-0 win at Orlando Stadium in November. They had lost their opening game 2-0 away to Ghana a few days earlier.
São Tomé remain without a win after two group matches.