/ 9 September 2008

Shakes furious at meddling

There were fireworks at this week’s announcement of the Bafana Bafana squad to play England next week.

Before the squad could be announced a statement was read out indicating that the team selected by national coach Ephraim ”Shakes” Mashaba could be changed at the last minute, as the game against England was part of the launch of South Africa’s bid for the 2010 World Cup bid and not just a friendly.

The coach could not hide his emotions when he was asked if it was right to announce a team that could be changed next week. ”Where is my credibility in the whole thing if there is a possibility that the team I have chosen could be changed?” asked Mashaba.

He said Premier Soccer League chairman Trevor Phillips should feel insulted that players from his league awere considered not good enough to take on the English premiership players. Mashaba said that the players he had chosen for this game featured in his preparations for the African Cup of Nations qualifying games against Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi.

The players at the heart of the controversy are Benni McCarthy — who cannot be called up by Mashaba because of a feud between the player and the South African Football Association for refusing to sign a Safa contract — Shaun Bartlett, Hans Vonk, Mark Fish and Quinton Fortune, who in the past have refused to honour national call-ups.

Coincidentally all these players have said they are available for the England match.

Then there is the question of Lucas Radebe, who was talked out of retiring by a high-powered government delegation when he wanted to quit last year and may be given a 70th cap against England.

The English are bringing their best players from the premiership to face Bafana Bafana.

The world’s most talked-about player, David Beckham, will lead the team, with the recent youngest player to don the English jersey, Wayne Rooney, also present, despite his club manager’s misgivings. 

As for Bafana, because of their lack of planning for such an important fixture, they find themselves having to beg for their best players. The significance of the May 22 game is that it will be launching the World Cup 2010 bid internationally and will mark exactly 366 days before the announcement of the winners.

For Bafana Bafana winning this game would avenge their 2-1 defeat in Manchester in 1997.