Johannesburg: Gordon Igesund revealed yesterday he had changed his Bafana Bafana squad for the African Nations Championship (Chan) about five or six times already, but he should know today whether he’ll get all the players he wants for the tournament.
Igesund, who names his 23-man squad Monday, said a compromise had been struck between the South African Football Association and the Premier Soccer League over which players to release for the January 11 to February 1 tournament, which is exclusive for players plying their trade in domestic leagues.
As the competition does not fall under the Fifa calendar, teams can release players only on a voluntary basis, and with the PSL having scheduled matches in the middle of the tournament, it is almost certain Igesund won’t have his desired squad unless those league games are set aside.
“I submitted a list of 23 players to the (Safa) president (Danny Jordaan). He went into a meeting with the PSL and I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that. I need clarity, but from what I can tell, there has been a compromise. It’s been a big challenge because I’ve already changed my team five or six times,” Igesund said.
The Bafana coach gave the strongest hint yet that he didn’t get his desired squad when he added: “It’s not an ideal squad, but the situation is acceptable. I appreciate the support I got from everyone.”
While Igesund and Jordaan seem to believe the matter has been settled, PSL football manager Derek Blanckensee said there were still several issues to resolve, with a final meeting set for today ahead of Monday’s squad announcement.
“We did meet (on Wednesday), but there are still some outstanding matters.” Asked if the matches the PSL set for January, which would make it impossible for certain teams to release players, would be postponed, Blanckensee said: “I can’t comment on that until after (today’s) meeting.”
Igesund watched Shakes Mashaba’s national under-20s win the Cosafa Cup in Lesotho last week, and it was thought the Bafana coach would rope in some of the players from that team for the Chan, but he ruled that completely out.
“We are going to try and win the tournament,” Igesund said. “This is not a learning curve. The under-20s still have a long way to go.”
But sports minister Fikile Mbalula implored South Africa to lift the trophy, even as they don’t know which players they will get three weeks before the tournament. Mbalula was speaking at a press conference called yesterday by Safa to confirm Bafana’s friendly against Brazil, which takes place on March 5 at FNB Stadium.
As part of his preparations for Chan, Igesund has planned a camp next week in Botswana. “We will meet a day after Christmas and travel to Botswana to play them in a friendly on December 28. The players will then have a break from December 30 and return on January 2, when we travel to Cape Town.” – Cape Argus