A disgrace for SA to send 14 players to Afcon U23 – Tovey

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The struggle to have a decent team when the South African U23 national football men’s team kicks-off  in the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) next weekend in Egypt is not over, and on Friday Safa Technical Director Neil Tovey appealed to some Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs to release players.

As things stand head coach David Notoane and his technical team will only leave with 14 players (12 infield players and two goalkeepers) on Monday ahead of the opening game against Zambia on Saturday evening.

The top three finishers at this tournament will qualify to the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan next year.

Tovey says it’s a disgrace for Notoane and his team to be struggling to have players for this AFCON tournament.

The first game against Zambia is crucial to get the first three points of the tournament, the next game is against Ivory Coast on the 12th followed by the final match against Nigeria three days later. They will play all their games at the Al Salam Stadium and Tovey.

In 2015 when SA qualified to the Rio Olympics in Brazil during the AFCON tournament in Dakar, Senegal, the PSL suspended its programme until the end of the tournament.  During the week, Notoane said better planning could’ve averted this problem. Tovey says the country could be a laughing stock if this is not attended to.

Notoane today announced his final 21-man squad going to the tournament but some of these players will only be joining them in Egypt during the FIFA week, he’s hoping by the time they play Zambia, they will be having the strongest possible line-up.

Almost all the teams are having struggles to get their overseas based players since this tournament is played outside the FIFA calendar which runs from the 11th until the 19th and the tournament running from eighth until the 22nd.

Notoane has had to move from eight overseas based players to three, with players like Gift Links missing out in this squad. But other countries don’t have struggles of having access to locally based players like he has.

This is the third edition of the AFCON U23 tournament and SA has featured in the previous two tournaments, given the challenges in assembling this final squad, Notoane says it has also affected their preparations. – Report by Velile Mnyandu