Madagascar won't play South Africa - SAFA

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki will face a tough test against Ghana at the Cape Coast Stadium on Thursday. Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa's friendly international fixture against Madagascar on Saturday has been cancelled.

Madagascar pulled out of playing the game, amid xenophobic violence in Johannesburg and elsewhere in South Africa.

Madagascar had been a late replacement opponent after Zambia's soccer officials canceled plans to host South Africa for a game in Lusaka on Saturday, citing the same violence for their decision.

Madagascar said in a statement that they declined the match for security reasons.

"... 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," their statement read.

SAFA had said earlier on Twitter that Madagascar "decided to withdraw from the encounter'' without specifying the reason.

"SAFA regrets to inform the public that the match between Bafana Bafana and Madagascar scheduled for this coming Saturday [Sept. 7] has been called off after the visitors [Madagascar] decided to withdraw from the encounter‚" Safa tweeted.

Free tickets had been offered for the hastily arranged game at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

SAFA earlier published a message from coach Molefi Ntseki calling on fans to attend and "use this opportunity to spread word of love and show solidarity with 'our African brothers and sisters.'''

South Africa has faced criticism from African countries during several days of violent mobs attacking foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The violent clashes have resulted in the reported deaths of five people, with 189 people arrested.

SAFA 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.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.