Johannesburg – Young midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo was set to make his Bafana Bafana debut against Morocco on Friday, and was “nearly in tears” after an ankle injury ruled him out of the game in Agadir.
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said on Monday that the 22-year-old Mokotjo was going to start in central midfield alongside Dean Furman against the Atlas Lions, as he attempts to blood several younger players.
But a knock picked up playing for Dutch side PEC Zwolle on Saturday in an Eredivisie goalless draw at Roda JC means that the much vaunted midfielder is unable to make the trip to Morocco.
“He went over on his ankle and it is quite badly swollen,” said Igesund.
“It is such a cruel game. Mokotjo wanted badly to be involved against Botswana (he was called up for September’s Afcon qualifier, but did not play).
“And he did not get a chance. Then when (Kagiso ) Dikgacoi was injured I thought I was going to play Mokotjo with Furman.
“I spoke to him on the phone and he was nearly in tears. It is a blow. I have seen him in training and he has nice touches.”
Bafana’s local-based players left for Agadir last night, expecting to arrive in the Moroccan seaside town this evening.
They have been invited to play this friendly as part of the celebrations of the Agadir New Stadium, which will host the 2013 Fifa World Club Cup and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
The game, however, also represents the failure of two of the bigger sides on the continent to make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with the African play-offs also taking place this weekend.
Now Igesund must look ahead to the 2015 Nations Cup in Morocco, and he said on Monday that he would field other younger overseas-based players against the Atlas Lions, with the future a priority over victory in Friday’s game.
“When Morocco asked us to be part of their celebrations we grabbed the opportunity.
“Between now and the African Nations Cup there is only one date to prepare the team for the Afcon qualifiers.
“It is a great opportunity for the players to get familiar with the surroundings (in Morocco),” said Igesund.
“And we get the opportunity to see the young players from Europe, to bring them in … you can’t just throw them all in, with no-one to guide them, they need players around them.
“But we are starting a whole new era. We need players for 2015 and 2018. If we don’t give players an opportunity now, we will fall into the same trap as in the last ten years. We can’t be too scared to lose.”
With this in mind, Igesund suggested he would field the likes of Ayanda Patosi and Daylon Claasen against Morocco. “Players like Claasen, Patosi and (Bongani) Zungu will definitely get an opportunity,” he said.
“We brought those players to play. We can’t play five or six at once, we still have Furman there, (Bernard) Parker behind the striker, Yeye (Letsholonyane) and (Lerato) Chabangu who is playing out of his skin. So we have a nice balance.
“But players like Claasen and Patosi are in the picture. At the back Siyanda Xulu is also in the picture, we have to be brave and put them in there.”
As well as Friday’s game (kick-off 9pm SA time), Bafana are also set to play a training match against a Moroccan club side next Monday night.