September 5, 2019 / 6:44 PM / 12 days ago

Madagascar latest to cancel South Africa fixture over riots

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Madagascar have become the second team in the last three days to pull out of an international friendly against South Africa over concerns around the deadly riots and xenophobic attacks that have shaken the country.

FILE PHOTO: Police patrol the streets after overnight unrest and looting in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Marius Bosch

Zambia were originally due to host South Africa in Lusaka on Saturday, but pulled out of the match in protest on Tuesday, citing security concerns following the violent attacks on foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Madagascar were lined up as replacement opponents, with the fixture to be staged in Johannesburg, but the country’s soccer federation said it will not send the team.

The Malagasy Football Federation said in a statement that it originally agreed to the fixture as it saw the match as an interesting opportunity to prepare the team for different competitions.

“However, after having agreed with Malagasy national institutions, in particular regarding the security of the delegation of Madagascar and Malagasy nationals in South Africa, it was found necessary and judicious to decline the invitation,” the statement added.

The latest wave of unrest in South Africa has raised fears of a recurrence of the violence aimed at foreigners in 2015 in which at least seven people were killed. Some 60 people were killed in a wave of unrest around the country in 2008.

South Africa Football Association president Danny Jordaan called on Thursday for an end to the violence. He said South Africa risked becoming a pariah on the continent, reminiscent of the sports boycotts under apartheid.

“The reality is both the Zambia and Madagascar games were called off against South Africa as a result of the violence,” he said.

“As a football association, country and people, we need to confront this. What we can never do is extract ourselves from the African continent. Our destiny and our future are bound to the continent.”

The weekend fixture was due to be South Africa’s first under new coach Molefi Ntseki, but it now looks likely his debut will have to wait until the October international window.

“The coach will have to deal with the fact that the players flew in from local and overseas-based clubs, they have been training and there must be a sense of disappointment that we could not see this team under the new coach,” Jordaan said.

Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis

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