Johannesburg – Bloemfontein Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb blamed having to change socks three times for a shock defeat on Sunday that dashed hopes of topping the Absa Premiership table.
Celtic needed one point at home to replace Orlando Pirates in first place, but conceded a 61-second goal against lowly Maritzburg United and finished 1-0 losers.
Cameroonian Tignyemb was caught up in a pre-match muddle with officials over what colour socks he should wear and changed from grey to white to black.
But the referee rejected the black pair and the kick-off was delayed eight minutes while Tignyemb sat on the pitch, removed them and put on green ones.
A bad start to the afternoon quickly worsened for the 33-year-old shot-stopper when he reacted slowly to a long through ball and Bandile Shandu gave Maritzburg the lead.
"The socks incident really upset me," admitted Douala-born Tignyemb. "It impacted on my concentration and was so unnecessary."
Celtic coach and former South Africa captain Steve Komphela concurred: "The eight-minute hold-up in starting the match affected us badly."
Bloemfontein began the match boasting an unbeaten five-match league record this season while Maritzburg went into the game as the bottom club having drawn twice and lost twice.
But the home side never recovered from conceding the early goal and slipped one place to fourth behind Pirates, Wits and Kaizer Chiefs.
A troubled build-up was probably a factor, too, although no Celtic player nor the coach wanted to discuss it.
The squad skipped a training session to protest unpaid signing-on fees and there were even reports that they would boycott the Maritzburg fixture.
Celtic are for sale as owner Max Tshabalala says he can no longer afford to run the club and a proposed deal reportedly fell through this week.
Victory lifted Maritzburg three places to 13th with promoted Black Leopards dropping to the bottom after a 4-0 thrashing from SuperSport United near Pretoria.
Among the United scorers was Zimbabwean Evans Rusike, whose fourth goal this season took him to the top of the Premiership chart.
England-born James Keene opened and closed the scoring and Aubrey Modiba also netted for the club that won three consecutive titles from the 2007/2008 season.
It was a perfect warm-up for SuperSport ahead of the MTN8 final against Cape Town City this Saturday with a winners-take-all R8 million prize at stake.