Coach Gordon Igesund admits that Bafana Bafana will have to play catch-up this week following the team’s chaotic preparations leading up to the African Nations Championship (CHAN).
But Igesund still doesn’t have all his players in camp.
While Kaizer Chiefs’s players were only due to report for duty last night, after a mudslinging episode between Chiefs and the South African Football Association (Safa) ended peacefully following “constructive discussions”, goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs still hasn’t reported for camp.
Josephs, who is apparently on holiday in Cape Town, was supposed to report to camp on Saturday with the rest of his Wits teammates. But Bafana’s management has been unable to reach the former Capetonian, leaving Igesund with Platinum Stars’ Siyabonga Mpontshane as the only shot-stopper in the squad for the first few training sessions over the weekend.
Igesund will also have to call up a new left-back after the experienced Tsepo Masilela was ruled out because of injury.
In contrast, Mozambique, Bafana’s opponents for Saturday night’s tournament opener at Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 6pm), have been hard at work and will have played two friendly matches by the time the teams meet. The Mambas faced DR Congo at the weekend in Johannesburg, and will play their final warm-up match against Libya tomorrow.
Bafana are still trying to arrange a friendly of their own for tomorrow night, which will be their sole warm-up match heading into the tournament.
“I don’t want to talk a lot about the preparation, because it hasn’t been the best of preparations and I don’t want to make excuses,” Igesund said.
“It’s been difficult because we only got the players at a very late stage, and I hope in the future that we can get these things done a bit a earlier. But the positive is that we should have all the players in camp by the end of the weekend.
“The other teams in our groups are playing friendly matches, while I just got this squad together. So it hasn’t been great, especially for the players because of the uncertainty. But we are going to work hard this week before the start of the tournament.”
Igesund mentioned that a return to a calendar season with the rest of Africa could be the answer to sort some out some of the issues as far as getting clubs to release their players timeously for tournaments is concerned.
“I think a calendar season would be the route to go,” he said. “Unfortunately it always looks like there is a fight between Safa and the PSL. But I can tell you now that the relationship between and the PSL and Safa is really good.
“Some of the negotiations took some time, and maybe if we go with the rest of Africa some of these issues could be avoided.”
Bafana won’t have a lot of information about their Group A opponents, who also include Mali and Nigeria. Igesund said at the weekend that they will probably be relying on club footage to study some of the opposition players, while the four-times league winner probably sent a few of his spies to have a look at Mozambique in their warm-up match.
“It’s not easy because all of the players are locally-based. But there are certain teams that would have eight or nine players from the same club,” said Igesund. “A team like Asante Kotoko have lots of players in the (Ghana) national team, so it’s sometimes easier to get footage of the club players than the national team.”
Bafana Bafana’s group fixtures:
(all matches Cape Town Stadium)
Saturday: v Mozambique (6pm); January 15: v Mali (5pm); January 19: v Nigeria (7pm) - The Star