South African football followers experienced a few rude surprises before the crafty combination of Percy Tau and Themba Zwane restored order and secured an ultimately-resounding 4-2 victory for Bafana Bafana over Sao Tome and Principe in their fourth match of the Afcon 2021 qualifying competition in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
Aside from weather considerations, it started looking like a “Blue Monday” when the SA Football Association announced just before 10 am that the game was no longer going to be televised because the SABC and Sao Tome, as the official home team due to Covid-19-related fixture adjustments, could not reach a broadcast agreement.
A solution for those with an Internet connection was the CAF TV channel on YouTube. But there was another shock when the minnows from West Africa took the lead after just 13 minutes at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium through a headed goal by their skipper, Joazhifel Soares.
Bafana Bafana’s slow reaction time at the back also allowed another Sao Tome midfielder, Harrimiz Soares, to score with his head in the 75th minute and level the game at 2-2.
That goal came after Zwane had scored South Africa’s first in the 38th and Tau their second in the 70th.
In between, crunching tackles by the visitors were nearly as incredibly high as the number of times South African players got caught offside.
But from the hour-mark there was really only one team in the game despite Sao Tome’s second goal.
It was just a case of coach Molefi Ntseki’s men needing to finish off their increased scoring opportunities, and both Tau and Zwane completed their braces in the last five minutes.
This lifted Bafana to nine points, while Sudan (on three points) host Ghana (nine points) today in the other match in the group and need to win to boost their chances of qualifying for the finals ahead of South Africa.
The last two rounds of fixtures take place next March, with Bafana entertaining Ghana and visiting Sudan.
Meanwhile in another shocking development, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his Gabon team-mates were forced to spend the night sleeping on the airport floor ahead of their vital qualifier against Gambia, according to Reuters.
Aubameyang used social media to highlight their plight after arriving at Banjul airport on Sunday, ahead of last night’s Group D clash in the Gambian capital.
The Gabon delegation were told they were not allowed to leave the airport because of an administrative problem and were forced to sleep on the floor before being allowed to leave in the morning after government intervention.
No reason was given for not allowing the team to exit the airport and head to their hotel after arrival, and even by previous standards of gamesmanship in African football, this was unusual.
Gabon’s federation posted pictures of the incident of its Facebook page but without any comment.
“Nice job CAF, it’s as if we were back in the 1990s,” Aubameyang posted on Twitter in a reference to previous foibles blamed on the Confederation of African Football.
“This will not demotivate us but people need to know and CAF need to take responsibility. [It is] 2020 and we want Africa to grow but this is not how we will get there,” the Arsenal striker added later.