Bafana coach Stuart Baxter Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Bafana Bafana will be without former Greece-based player Lehlogonolo Masalesa when they face Botswana in an African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier on Saturday at Francistown Stadium (kick-off 3.30pm).

That’s because Masalesa, who captained Stuart Baxter’s side in the Cosafa Cup tournament recently, is not registered with a domestic side following his return from Greek club Larissa.

According to the Chan competition rules, only players playing in their countries' domestic leagues are eligible.

Baxter added he could have organised a temporary loan for Masalesa with a domestic side had he known earlier.

Bafana travelled to Botswana on Thursday. They visit the Zebras for a first leg meeting of the second qualifying round of the tournament.

“It’s quite unfortunate because Fifa clearly states in one of their rules that an unregistered player can play in an official tournament,” Baxter said.

“But we thought that Caf might have some sort of rule within themselves (that might prohibit Masalesa from participating in this competition). And they did. Chan is all about locally based players and therefore Vieira had to have a local registration in order for him to participate in this tournament. 

If we had known earlier, we would have organised some sort of temporary loan from some other club for him. But, unfortunately, we do not have time for that now.

“It’s quite a blow for us because we had him in the starting line-up. We’ll now have to change the shape of how we are going to play,” he added.

Baxter stated he had difficulty finding a quick replacement for the 25-year-old central defensive midfielder, which led to him calling PSL coaches in the late hours of Wednesday evening. The Scotsman said he received assistance from coach Pitso Mosimane.

“I’ve been talking to other coaches regarding the matter (on Wednesday night) and coach Pitso has been really helpful,” Baxter said. “He’s going to allow us to take Sibusiso Khumalo with. 

We are now in the process of getting him on board in time. And that’s how we sorted the problem out. We are just hoping that we don’t lose any more players either from injury or from being recalled.”

Baxter said defender Mario Booysen will take over the captaincy.

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The Star