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17 Nov 2004 00:00
The general feeling among South Africans is that Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has his hands tied behind his back.
They are referring to the withdrawal of star midfielder Steven Pienaar and defender Mbulelo Mabizela prior to the “clash of the icons” against Nigeria for the Mandela Challenge Cup at Ellis Park Stadium on Wednesday night.
Kick-off time is 8pm.
Genuine soccer enthusiasts are concerned and have sympathised with Baxter because he won’t have the kind of players he would have wanted when Bafana Bafana host the Super Eagles.
In fact, Baxter has promised to turn Bafana Bafana’s fortunes around against the Nigerians, who boast three wins and a draw against the South Africans, who are yet to register a victory over Nigeria.
Pienaar, who plies his trade in The Netherlands where he plays for Ajax Amsterdam, was reported on Monday to have injured his knee after their game against Feyenoord.
He was replaced by Tyron Arendse.
The clubless Mabizela, who was offloaded by Tottenham Hotspur a few weeks ago, was reported as saying he is not in the right mental and physical shape.
He has been replaced by Peter Pietersen of Moroka Swallows.
An angry soccer enthusiast and Kaizer Chiefs fan, Maswazi Mathebula, on Tuesday said: “The saddest thing is that once Bafana Bafana qualify for both the World Cup and African Nations Cup in Germany and Egypt in 2006, all the overseas-based players will be available, especially for the Germany assignment because that is where most scouts will be to.”
The withdrawal of both Mabizela and Pienaar raises doubts about Bafana’s chances of registering their first victory against the Super Eagles.
But South Africans could find solace in Jabu Pule, Gift Leremi, Arendse and Benedict Vilakazi, while Chiefs strong man Cyril Nzama could shine at the back.
Arendse scored in his debut when Bafana beat Tunisia 2-0 in a friendly some time ago. He also played when Bafana beat Uganda in the qualifier for both the World Cup and African Nations Cup in Uganda last month.—Sapa
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