Bafana Bafana could be playing for nothing on Saturday when they take on Sudan as the prospects of the 2015 African Nations Cup finals going ahead dimmed markedly at the weekend.
An ultimatum to host Morocco to confirm it would host the tournament as planned in January was rejected by the North African nation. The Moroccans are scared that supporters from West Africa could bring in the deadly Ebola virus and badly damage their tourism industry, which is a staple of the economy.
It means Morocco will probably be stripped as hosts of the African Nations Cup on Monday when the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf’s) executive committee meets in Cairo to decide what to do.
The only solution to save the tournament is for another country to step in as last-minute hosts. A bevy of potential candidates has been suggested by various media around the continent but Caf insiders said on Sunday “there is no plan B”.
If that is the case, Caf has miscalculated badly in its negotiations with Morocco and faces great financial loss as the Nations Cup brings in up to 80% of its revenue.
But African players and fans will be hoping Caf has something up its sleeve that might yet save the tournament. Should it be called off, it would render the coming final two rounds of qualifiers meaningless, though there is no likelihood the games, on November 15 and 19, will be cancelled because of television and other financial commitments.
Bafana play Sudan in Durban on Saturday afternoon and need a win to ensure qualification. They then travel to Nigeria on Wednesday next week for their last group A fixture, where the honour of finishing top of the group will hopefully motivate the South African players.
Annulment of the Africa Nations Cup finals could come as a bitter blow to South African football, just as the national side has shown a marked improvement in results in recent months and would have had high hopes of making a strong impression in Morocco.
It might also leave the full national side inactive for an entire year as SA’s next target will be to qualify for the African Nations Championship finals in Rwanda in early 2016.
But as this is for home-based players only, the likes of Andile Jali, Dean Furman and Thulani Serero will not be needed in 2015, jeopardising the prospect of building a team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.