SA brace for new-look Bafana
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By Rodney Reiners
The aftermath of the latest South African soccer coaching controversy is likely to result in a new-look Bafana Bafana on Thursday when the squad is announced for two World Cup warm-up matches by Jomo Sono.
The Bafana places of first-choice selections striker and captain Shaun Bartlett, Andre Arendse, Eric Tinkler, Pierre Issa and Quinton Fortune are now under threat.
That clears the way for teenager Steven Pienaar of Ajax Amsterdam, and others.
South Africa are in Group B with Spain, Paraguay and Slovenia in the first round of the World Cup finals which start on May 31.
Bafana are scheduled to play friendlies against Saudi Arabia in Italy next Wednesday and Georgia in Georgia on March 27.
On Tuesday the SA Football Association (SAFA) announced that Sono was at the helm of the national soccer team.
This came after a day of confusion surrounding the "resignation" of Bafana head coach Carlos Queiroz.
Safa president Molefi Oliphant said Queiroz had resigned because of differences with Sono, but Queiroz denied he had resigned. He said his main problem was that he would not have full responsibility to select the team and make substitutions.
In an interview in last weekend's Sunday Argus, Sono was asked: "Who will have the final say in selections"? His answer was: "I will."
It was from this interview that the trouble started. Queiroz was clearly angered by what in truth had been a demotion. In name he would be the head coach, but he would not be in charge.
Queiroz still has five months left on his contract with Safa. The situation still remains unresolved. Which statement is true, Safa's or Queiroz's? The difference in the points of view amounts to a great deal of money.
If Queiroz has resigned, Safa owes him nothing. If he has been fired, he is due a compensation package of more than R2-million.
While Safa attempts to sort out the mess, focus shifts to the squad, which is due to be announced on Thursday.
Sono is known for his faith in young footballers.
When he took over the Bafana squad in December 1997 after Clive Barker was forced out in much the same way as Queiroz, Sono took a number of young, untried players to the 1998 African Nations Cup in Burkina Faso.
Benni McCarthy was one of them - and he went on to star in the competition, ending joint top scorer with Egypt's Hossam Hassan.
A feature of the '98 Nations Cup squad was that Sono found no place for Bartlett, Arendse, Tinkler and Issa, all players favoured by Barker and subsequent coaches Phillippe Troussier, Trott Moloto and Queiroz.
After Bafana's disappointing Nations Cup in Mali in January, Bartlett said he would not be available for the national team if Queiroz was fired.
Also in '98, Sono gave places to Thabo Mooki, Thabang Lebese, Andrew Rabutla, Themba Mnguni and Simon Gopane.
So when Sono announces his squad on Thursday, expect another glut of young footballers.
High on that list is Pienaar as well as his teammate at Ajax, defender Gabriel Mofokeng. Then there's former Santos defender Nashief Morris, now playing in Greece for FC Aris, Orlando Pirates' midfielders Benedict Vilakazi and Steve Lekoelea and Kaizer Chiefs' Jabu Pule. Another likely to earn a call-up is former Jomo Cosmos midfielder Tebogo Mokoena, now playing in Switzerland.
And pencil in the name of Charlton Athletic defender Mark Fish. Sono has already spoken to the defender, who has revealed he will be more than happy to lift his self-imposed isolation from Bafana.