Chiefs, Safa at loggerheads over Chan

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Theres still no clarity whether Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund will be able to count on the availability of the Kaizer Chiefs players he selected in his 23-man squad for the African Nations Championship. Picture: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

There’s still no clarity whether Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund will be able to count on the availability of the Kaizer Chiefs players he selected in his 23-man squad for the African Nations Championship (Chan).

The tournament, restricted only to locally-based players, will be hosted in South Africa from January 11 to February 1 next year, in the cities of Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Polokwane.

South Africa play their opening match on January 11 against Mozambique, while Mali and Nigeria make up the other teams in the group.

When Igesund named his squad on Monday, and included Chiefs players Itumeleng Khune, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Tefu Mashamaite and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, the Soweto club’s team manager Bobby Motaung was furious and released the following statement: “We expressed ourselves to the SA Football Association (Safa) well in advance. Chiefs are scheduled to play in a PSL league fixture against Mamelodi Sundowns on January 23 2014. We have to prepare for the CAF Championship as well.

“Chiefs will not be releasing their players as the tournament is not sanctioned by Fifa.”

On Tuesday, though, Safa was adamant an agreement had been reached with Chiefs. The association said: “Safa would like to reiterate the agreement reached at a meeting which resolved the issue of player release for Chan. The meeting which took place on December 23, where it was agreed the match between Sundowns and Chiefs scheduled for 28 January 2014 be brought forward to 23 January 2014, which is a rest period between the last round and quarter-finals of the Chan tournament.

“This decision was reported to all members, who endorsed it as the final decision of the Committee.”

While Igesund awaits a final decision, it has been revealed that Letsholonyane is, in any case, injured and his place will be taken by Asavela Mbekile of Moroka Swallows.

Meanwhile, Igesund also cancelled a three-day Bafana camp which was scheduled to start in Cape Town today.

“It has been a hectic season for everyone, so it is only fair we call off the mini-training camp and give the players some rest,” Igesund said.

“I would like them to spend some time with their families and come back refreshed in the new year.”

Winning the ChN event is important, added Igesund.

“Sometimes it’s misunderstood by a lot of supporters that it’s important for us to do well in these types of tournaments because we want to improve our rankings,” Igesund said.

“If Fifa decide that this tournament will be ranked, we need to be in the top eight come February, so that we are seeded when it comes to the draw for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (qualification). We need to do well in Chan, to get to the final, to maybe win the tournament.”

Igesund remains proud of what Bafana have managed to achieve over the last 12 months, and he is looking forward to leading the national side in 2014.

“I keep hearing the same thing, ‘not qualifying, not qualifying’,” Igesund said of the year that was.

“A lot of that was out of my hands. From a personal point-of-view, we’ve had a magnificent year. A lot of things have changed in the last year, the team is playing a great brand of football that people are enjoying.

“To keep talking about not qualifying for the World Cup – I came in under very difficult circumstances, we were behind.”

It was a year of ups and downs for the senior national team, having gone from a mediocre Africa Cup of Nations campaign, to failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and then beating Spain, the world’s best team, two months later – that was the highlight of the year for the men’s senior national football team. - Cape Argus

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