Group A leaders Ethiopia have handed the 2014 World Cup life line to opponents South Africa and Botswana after their Football Association (FA) president Sehelew Gebremariam admitted they mistakenly fielded a player who was on suspension.
According to FIFA match records of the competition, midfielder Manyahile Beyene played for Ethiopia in Botswana instead of serving a one-match ban having been cautioned in games away to South Africa and at home against Botswana.
“We accept the allegation, it is a mistake by our side, shocking news to us,” Gebremariam said in Addis Ababa.
The Walia Antelopes had qualified for the Africa Zone play offs after their 2-1 win over Bafana Bafana over the weekend put them on 13 un assailable points but with FIFA likely to dock them three points, second placed South Africa with 8 points and third placed Botswana likely to gain three points and goals from that game return to contention for a place at the World’s biggest soccer tournament.
The standard punishment for a team guilty of using an ineligible player is that their opponents are awarded a 3-0 victory, with Sudan, Burkina Faso and Gabon already punished during the 2014 qualifying competition.
Sudan played suspended Eldin Adris, Burkina Faso used Cameroon-born Herve Zengue, and Gabon picked Charly Moussono, who represented Cameroon at the 2006 Beach Soccer World Cup.
But even if Ethiopia are docked three points by FIFA, they will still lead South Africa by two points and Botswana by three with an away fixture against the Central African Republic to come.
Meanwhile, it’s not only Ethiopia facing such a problem at the moment but also Togo and Equatorial Guinea.
Should the trio be found guilty, it would have a major impact on three groups with eliminated countries South Africa and Botswana (Group A) and Cape Verde Islands (Group B) coming back into contention.
Cameroon, who trail Libya by two points with a home fixture against them to come during September, would take a one-point advantage, leaving them needing a draw to reach the play-offs.
The matches being investigated are Togo 2 Cameroon 0 on June 8 in Lome, Botswana 1 Ethiopia 2 on June 7 in Lobatse, and Equatorial Guinea 4 Cape Verde Islands 3 on March 24 in Malabo.
As usual, we shall keep you posted on the development.