The club versus country is problem is back to haunt South African football again. With only a week before the U23 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament kicks-off in Egypt, SA coach David Notoane is struggling to put out a decent team.
The team should have been announced by now, but the technical team is struggling to get some players released by their clubs for this tournament. SA is scheduled to play against neighbours Zambia in the opening game on the 9th of next month, and that games falls outside the FIFA international week.
Notoane says there have been negotiations by all the stakeholders in recent weeks and so far at least some Glad Africa Championship fixtures will be postponed.
SA plays in Group B with defending champions Nigeria, Zambia and Ivory Coast.
Notoane had planned to leave for Egypt this week and start preparations in Cairo where the tournament will take place and the top three countries from the eight team tournament will qualify to the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan next year.
But now, he has no choice but leave next week – hopefully three days before the tournament kicks-off.
SAFA knew as early as June about the programme of the U23 and the possibility of the clash with PSL fixtures if the team manages to qualify for the tournament, but it would appear as if this wasn’t taken care off like they did with the PSL back in 2015 in Dakar.
Notoane says lack of planning is to blame for this situation.
The SA U23 had a very good qualification road map coming to this tournament; they remain one of the few unbeaten teams and have been producing a good brand of football.
Notoane with his original squad was confident that they were going win the tournament, but the latest developments place doubt on the situation.
Earlier this month during the international break, SA U23’s toured Egypt where they played two international friendly matches against the hosts, playing a one-all draw in the first game and lost the second game 1-0.
The main challenge going to this tournament is that it starts from the eighth until the 22nd but the international week only runs from the 11th until the 19th and Notoane says this could still give them problems if the team qualifies for the final which is schedule for the 22nd.
As things stand, Notoane only has about 14 players – but that includes two goalkeepers – and he could be heading to the first game against Zambia with a starting line-up with no substitutes. He’s promising that they will announce their full squad by Friday.
Notoane says clubs like Mamelodi Sundowns, Ajax Cape Town, Swallows FC and AmaTuks have been very supportive during this period. He still however requires players from Bloemfontein Celtic, Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Chippa United. – Report by Velile Mnyandu