Soccer seat-warmers

Does Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana really expect to have a strong squad for the Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup when he is reluctant to give local inexperienced players a run against weaker opponents?

This is the question many of us ask ourselves. Santana selected 24 locally based players to face Zambia on Wednesday but made only three changes and only towards the end of the match.

While Zambia made more than five changes in the match, Santana introduced Katlego Mashego, Abia Nale and Lebogang Mothibantwa with less than 20 minutes of play left.

Most of the players, including Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Simphiwe Tshabalala, Bongani Khumalo, Lefa Tsutsulupa, Teko Modise, Surprise Moriri and Kagisho Dikgacoi, who featured in the starting line-up, are tried-and-tested local players.

Ted Dumitru, Mamelodi Sundowns technical director and former Bafana Bafana coach, said: ‘When you are playing weaker sides such as Zambia you have to use most of the players that you selected. Players need a chance so they can prove themselves.

‘Again, one game is not enough; the local players should have more friendlies against European oppositions so they can get used to the style of playing. Players need exposure and not a seat on the bench,” Dumitru said.

In a friendly match against Zambia one would have expected Santana to give players such as Franklin Cale, Brett Evans, Nazeer Allie, Shuib-Aib Walters and Nale a run ahead of the regulars. These players have performed their best in their respective clubs in a bid to secure a place in the Bafana set-up, but when they are called up, they warm the bench.

Santana should look ahead in planning for 2010 as most of these players will feature in the Bafana Bafana set-up.

Maybe he already has his Confederations Cup team, as most of these players may not feature in the tournament. Santana will lead his charges against Chile in Polokwane on February 11, followed by a training camp for locally based players ahead of friendly matches against Norway, Portugal and Switzerland.

Nevertheless, Bafana Bafana have shown some signs of improvement — they can knock the ball around and they don’t lose position as easily as they did before. On Wednesday they picked up where they left off last year, making it five wins in a row — a rare achievement.

They beat Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Cameroon in the Nelson Mandela challenge last year.

Next time Santana selects a team of locally based players for a friendly match his technical team should remind him that he can use more than five substitutes.

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Lucky Sindane
Guest Author

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