Senegal's Sadio Mane backs FIFA decision to replay South Africa clash
LIVERPOOL, England -- Sadio Mane has told ESPN FC that he backs FIFA's decision to restage Senegal's World Cup qualifier against South Africa after the referee in charge of the game was found guilty of match-fixing during last November's fixture in Polokwane.
FIFA has ordered the game, which ended in a 2-1 win for South Africa, to be played again in November after Ghanaian referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey was banned for life after being found guilty of influencing the result of the match.
Lamptey incorrectly awarded South Africa a penalty for a handball, despite the ball clearly hitting the leg of a Senegal player, and the home side scored to secure what seemed a crucial victory in Group D of African qualifying.
The annulment of the result has now revived Senegal's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals in 2002 and Mane says it is the right decision to replay the game after admitting the first fixture was "not normal."
"Honestly, I am happy [about the replay] because it was not an easy game for us and it was not an easy situation," Mane told ESPN FC.
"Everybody who watched the game knows that it was not a normal thing to deal with. It was a very strange decision, but we are football players so we accepted it because we couldn't change anything.
"The two goals were very...well you couldn't understand them, so it is good for us that FIFA has made the decision and we will take this game seriously and try to win.
"This gives us a second chance, but it doesn't mean that we have won the game already. South Africa is a very good team and we respect them a lot."
Burkina Faso, who currently lead Group D with six points from four games, have lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against FIFA's decision to replay the South Africa-Senegal game.
But Mane is unconcerned about that latest development.
"I didn't know that, but I think FIFA has done it already, so that's it," Mane said.
Senegal are one point behind Burkina Faso and Cape Verde in third in the four-team pool, though now with three games left to play rather than two, with only the group winners advancing to the World Cup.
With hopes revived of qualifying for next year's tournament in Russia, Mane says that the time has come for a new group of Senegal players to emulate the likes of El Hadji Diouf, who inspired the team to the quarterfinals -- where they beat France along the way -- 15 years ago.
"It has been a very long wait, but we are hoping to go back," Mane said. "We are going to do our best. We are on a good way, so we are trying to change it [the failure to qualify since 2002].
"Diouf was one of the best players in the whole history of Senegal. He did a lot for the national team and everybody knows and respects him for that.
"But we have a new generation and we try to copy them and why not do more? I think everything is possible. It will not be easy to do as they have done, but we are going to try and do everything to be successful."
Mane, meanwhile, has also told ESPN FC that he wants to call Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson to discuss the incident which led to the Liverpool forward being sent off during his side's 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_