Safa downgrades Bafana's internationals to practices
On the eve of Bafana Bafana’s departure for a friendly international against Africa Nations Cup hosts Equatorial Guinea, the encounters against Zambia and Ghana have been downgraded from fully fledged internationals to practice matches.
The disturbing news, instigated at the suggestion of the South African Football Association (Safa), was revealed by acting president Mwelo Nonkonyana after the association experienced a mountain of problems in acquiring players for international duty.
Ironically, Safa had already informed Fifa that the Zambia and Ghana clashes, which are intended to help prepare the two nations for the forthcoming Africa Nations Cup tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon—for which Bafana failed to qualify—would take place as official international fixtures.
The change in plans, which compounds a stream of embarrassments for Safa in 2011, follows the failure to secure anything like a fully representative Bafana combination for the games scheduled against Zambia at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on January 11 and that against Ghana at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on January 15.
As these dates do not fall under a period designated by Fifa for international matches, Safa had been resigned to not acquiring the release of a number of overseas-based players to face Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Gabon.
The final nail in the coffin was the shock announcement by local PSL clubs Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and Golden Arrows not to release their players either.
Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana kingpin Siphiwe Tshabalala is also having trials in England and is unavailable.
‘In the interest of the national team’
Nonkonyane, who is filling in for the on-leave Kirsten Nematandani, said it was not totally clear why Pirates, Sundowns and Arrows had taken this decision but efforts were being made to get to the bottom of the matter.
“It has been suggested the clubs feel their players need a break from soccer,” he said. “But we are not altogether sure of their reasoning ... However, the time has come to implement a situation whereby all South Africans concerned act in the interest of the national team. In the meantime, Fifa has already been informed regarding the changed status of Bafana’s meetings with Zambia and Gabon.”
Sombre Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said there had not yet been confirmation from all the 22 players in the revised squad earmarked to travel to Equatorial Guinea for the game set to open the new stadium built for the Africa Nations Cup.
None of the six overseas-based players will be available.
Another pin-prick to Safa’s aspirations was the confirmation that plans to stage a four-nation tournament in South Africa at the same time as the Africa Nations Cup had been abandoned, “so as not to offend [the Confederation of African Football] and Africa who might see it as an attempt to detract from the continent’s official tournament”.—Sapa
Bafana squad to face Equatorial Guinea:
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (KV Kortrijk, Belgium), Brilliant Khuzwayo (Thanda Royal Zulu)
Defenders: Siboniso Gaxa (Lierse, Belgium), Morgan Gould (SuperSport United), Ayanda Gcaba (Free State Stars), Eric Mathoho (Bloemfontein FC), Nazeer Alie (Ajax Cape Town), Anele Nconga (Racing Genk, Belgium), Rudiger Gilbert (Free State Stars), Patrick Phungwayo (Wits University)
Midfielders: Daylon Claasen (Lierse, Belgium), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), George Maluleka (Ajax Cape Town), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Wits University), May Mahlangu (Helsinborg, Sweden), Granwald Scott (Ajax Cape Town), Mzikayise Mashaba (Free State Stars), George Lebese (Kaizer Chiefs).
Strikers: Lehlohonolo Majoro (Kaizer Chiefs), Bradley Grobler (Goztepe Izmir, Turkey), Siyabonga Nontshinga (Jomo Cosmos), Ryan Chapman (Wits University)