Ethiopia’s progress to the final round of African World Cup qualifying is in doubt after Fifa opened disciplinary proceedings against them on Sunday.
June 16, 2013
Earlier in the day, the East Africans beat South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa to seemingly reach the African play-offs.
However, they now face accusations they fielded an ineligible player in the 2-1 win over Botswana on 8 June.
Fifa rules state any team found guilty of that offence “will be sanctioned by forfeiting the match”.
Ethiopian Football Federation president Sehilu Gebremariam is still confident his side can progress.
“This is shocking news – but the point is that we are still leading the group, we believe that we shall still qualify for the next stage,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.
“We are scrutinizing the situation and we will give information to Fifa and to the public.”
He said they would be consulting the coaching staff to get their views on the situation before reacting further.
Football’s world governing body is also investigating Togo and Equatorial Guinea for the same reason.
A guilty verdict against all the sides would have serious ramifications in three of the qualifying groups for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Fifa rules on player ineligibility
Article 55 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code states:
- If a player takes part in an ofﬁcial match despite being ineligible, his team will be sanctioned by forfeiting the match and paying a minimum ﬁne of CHF 6,000
The case against the Ethiopians is pressing, as a guilty verdict would hand a lifeline back to 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa.
Currently five points off the top of Group A, South Africa would only be two points behind if the Ethiopians have to forfeit their victory against Botswana – and receive a technical defeat instead.
The announcement of Fifa’s probes will not only encourage South African football fans, but also those of Cameroon and Cape Verde.
Cameroon were beaten 2-0 by Togo on 9 June but the six-time World Cup qualifiers now stand to gain the three points should the Togolese be found guilty.
Such a scenario would move Cameroon, who currently trail Group I leaders Libya by two points, a point clear in the table.
The West Africans host Libya in what is both sides’ final encounter in September.
Equatorial Guinea allegedly fielded an ineligible player in their 4-3 defeat of island nation Cape Verde in March.
Fifa says they recently ruled on that matter and that the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts have appealed the decision.
Should island nation Cape Verde receive the points from a match they originally lost, the passage of Tunisia to the African play-offs would also be in question.
The Carthage Eagles drew 1-1 in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday to seemingly book their place, but a technical victory for Cape Verde would lift the islanders up to nine points – just two behind the North Africans.
Tunisia host Cape Verde on the final day of the current qualifying stage.