South Africa's head coach Pitso Mosimane (Photo: Reuters)
South Africa coach, Pitso Mosimane, has apologised to supporters for mistaking the rules of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers that cost his side a place at the biennial tournament.
South Africa was left embarrassed by a misunderstanding during its final qualifying match, thinking it only needed a draw to reach the finals on goal difference. But CAF rules said head-to-head results counted when teams were tied on points, meaning Niger qualified instead.
Mosimane said he took "full responsibility" for the failure.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have been intentionally quiet up to now observing Safa protocol. I am now in a position to speak to you on the [Afcon] issue,” Pitso Mosimane said in a statement on Thursday morning.
"So much has been said and written about Article 14.1 and its interpretation. Many people – including myself, members of the media in Sierra Leone, Niger and South Africa, and even the football associations of these countries – were under the impression that goal difference was the first qualifying criteria.”
"You will remember the Sierra Leone match as a game of two halves. The first half was full of attack – as usual – by Bafana Bafana. Late in the second half, after hearing the results in our group, and with our understanding at the time of the qualifying criteria, we decided to adopt a more cautious approach – an approach that I believed was in the best interests of the country.
"I did what I sincerely believed was right at the time. As head coach I take full responsibility for the outcome and apologise for Bafana Bafana not qualifying for the Afcon finals.
"When I accepted the honour of coaching Bafana Bafana on the 15 July last year, I said at the time there might be a mistake or two on the journey to Brazil in 2014. And I also said at the time that I believe I have the grace and the wisdom to accept any error, correct it, and learn from it.
"So what can we learn from this very disappointing outcome?
"How can we come back stronger, better prepared and better equipped for the challenging road to Brazil?
"Together with the CEO [Robin Peterson] and the head of the national teams, we are putting in place additional checks and balances including legal support for all competitions, and furthermore boost the team administration support. This will ensure that all coaches of Safa national teams are fully equipped to deal with all issues, on and off the field.
"It will free us coaches to focus on our core role – preparing our teams to perform to their full potential on the field …
"Another big lesson learnt for the team is that sitting at the top of Group G [in the qualifiers] table for most of the year is not enough; having the second best defensive record across all the groups is not enough; improving our position in FIFA and CAF rankings is not enough; conceding only three goals in 11 games is also not enough – Bafana Bafana simply have to score more goals!
"There is no quick fix solution here, but in future I will be looking to give new, promising strikers more opportunity to show South African football supporters what they can do if given the right platform. I will be doing all I can as Head Coach to help identify talented strikers playing in the PSL and overseas, and try to give more playing time to this broader pool of talent.
"In closing on this issue, I share the nation's deep disappointment that we did not qualify for Afcon. Hard lessons were learned, but to quote what the Safa CEO Robin Peterson said a few days ago: 'We will rise again, and make the nation proud' and I'm committed to ensuring this happens."