When it rains, it pours

For the South African national soccer coaches, it does not rain but pours.

This rings true when it comes to club versus country selections. What Bafana Bafana’s Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba has endured in trying to get a team to play in next year’s Nations Cup in Tunisia is what his under-23 coach, Kenneth “Conti” Khubeka, is expected to go through next week.

The under-23 coach is facing a looming crisis of player unavailability for the crucial encounter between South Africa and Algeria. If the under-23 team fail to beat Algeria, they will lose one of the four spots offered for Africa to play in next year’s Olympics in Athens, Greece. The predicament the under-23 team find themselves stems from their losing the first game against Ghana.

The reason why Khubeka is climbing such a difficult mountain to try to secure players for this Olympic qualifier is due to Premier Soccer League CEO Trevor Phillips saying that Orlando Pirates will not get a postponement of their match against Jomo Cosmos on Wednesday December 17 because they have four players requested by Conti to attend camp on December 14 to prepare for the game against Algeria.

Phillips contends that cancelling this match will result in a fixture backlog as it has done in the past, with the league finishing way into winter, giving the players only three weeks’ rest before the second half of the season begins.

Other reasons for Phillips refusing to postpone the match is that the Olympic qualifiers are not recognised by world football authority Fifa and that Pirates will be competing in the African Champions League.

While Pirates have said that they are pushing that their match be postponed for the sake of South Africa’s pride, and the future stars for the 2010 World Cup will come from the current Olympic squad, Phillips is insisting that all league teams be on par with their other competitors in games played.

Already the league will lose three weeks of matches next year due to the Nations Cup. Any further league game postponements will result in the league losing its momentum and rhythm.

In this short space of time Conti will have to try to find other players who can fill the gap of the four Pirates players he wants for the game against Algeria — or hope that either Pirates or the league come to an agreement, but the latter seems to be impossible.

The show must go on: Conti must try to get a full complement of players who can beat Algeria in order to keep alive the hopes of all South African soccer supporters come the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The South African team will be there to show off their skills and make a challenge to lift the 2010 World Cup.

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