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05 Sep 2007 11:47
With the stealth of a covert James Bond operation, the South African Football Association (Safa) on Tuesday successfully “smuggled” Benni McCarthy into the country for his first game for Bafana Bafana in 19 months. He will play in the African Nations Cup qualifier against Zambia at Newlands Stadium on Sunday.
Safa had previously released an apparent “red herring” statement on Monday claiming the high-profile, controversial Blackburn Rovers striker would join up with the other players in the Bafana squad on Wednesday—but it seems this was simply a ploy to keep him out of reach of the media bloodhounds for an additional 24 hours.
“Benni will be made available to the press on Wednesday at 1.30pm,” said Safa media spokesperson Sifiso Cele, while disclosing a veritable record in Bafana punctuality—all the players named for the Zambia game arrived in time and fit for action.
Asked to explain McCarthy’s “early” arrival, Cele blandly offered the obtuse explanation: “You know how the flights are—they sometimes arrive early.
“More importantly,” he added, “is the fact that all the players are here, raring to go and highly motivated for Sunday’s game.”
Meanwhile, Zambia have given notice they mean business by selecting a formidable squad that includes players of the calibre of Christopher Katongo, Collins Mbesuma, Isaac Chansa, Jacob Mulenga and the South African-based trio of Free State Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, Golden Arrows defender Joseph Musondo and Moroka Swallows striker Songwe Chalwe.
South Africa been have virtually assured of a place in next year’s African Nations Cup tournament in Ghana and need to only avoid a defeat by three goals or more to make the proposition a fait accompli.—Sapa
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