Ghana has issued a stinging rebuke of South Africa, accusing its neighbor of selective justice for sending the assistant referee who sent off Kevin Prince Boateng to Ivory Coast instead of allowing him to appear before the Nations Cup disciplinary committee in KwaZulu-Natal.
Boateng was sent off for headbutting a referee in their Nations Cup qualifier on September 2. The referee, Ravindra Wijegunaratne, has also been banned for a similar offence at the Russian Cup earlier this year. Both incidents will be reviewed by a committee of international referees on Friday.
Boateng will miss next year’s finals in Senegal because of his ban, a blow for Ghana whose top players are missing internationals for their domestic league games.
Ghana’s Sports Minister Kwesi Nyantakyi called for South Africa to lift the ban, however, Wijegunaratne will remain with the Nations Cup after the country stated that the committee is reluctant to review the incident.
“The principle is just not right,” said South Africa’s Ministry of Sport and Recreation in a statement, quoted by the Daily Mercury newspaper. “In a situation where FIFA accepted the conduct of the Green Army in so way, who would possibly dispute the charge of improper conduct against Ravindra Wijegunaratne?”
Wijegunaratne, who is the only current official from South Africa to play at this year’s World Cup, is set to join up with the squad that has spent five weeks in KwaZulu-Natal, having lost their final two home games against Cameroon and Angola in October.
He is one of only six members of the head of match officials selection to play in the World Cup. The others are German Horst Brandt, who plays for Poland’s Slask Wroclaw, and from Germany Joachim Eckert, who plays for Aksevedi, Claudio Cannizzaro from Italy’s Benevento and Australia’s Adam Hayward.
Team officials and coaches from all 10 African nations in the Nations Cup were present in Cape Town this week to train for games in October and November. Ghana play Mali, though not in the final Group E group, on October 26.
The country’s federation and government have been heavily criticised for sending a FIFA delegate to the elections, despite the presence of FIFA’s election overseer South Africa’s International Relations in a bid to clean up the country’s image.
Africa’s contribution to FIFA is down, to just under $43 million in revenue and $42 million in grants. However, the general secretary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) recently defended the body, arguing that more than 60 percent of his organisation’s funds are given to the continent’s national associations.
Africa has been awarded three Games: the 2020 African Games, a unified Youth Olympic Games between Africa and Asia, and also the 2026 FIFA World Cup.