Afcon qualifiers unlikely this year, believes Bafana coach Ntseki
Bafana Bafana were last in action in November 2019 and because of the coronavirus pandemic, he foresees the earliest return for the national team could be in March or April next year. “There is a mountain of challenges, many of which we’ve never had to deal with before when arranging matches to fellow African countries,” said the Bloemfontein-based Ntseki.
“For instance, when Bafana Bafana has to travel to Ghana there will be fresh considerations. Countries have their own rules and regulations in place such as flight protocols, foreign land airport protocols and the hotel protocols for away teams.
“Presently many countries have quarantine measures in place which will be observed even before we make our way to the hotel. Then there will be training ground and match protocols, and all of this could be too much to bear, and probably hugely expensive too.”
Ntseki said there is also the possibility that the challenges can be exacerbated if countries have to deal with an unexpected spike in infections. “Both CAF and Fifa are unable to set dates yet, and it is understandable because football is not back in action like it should be.
“It is a big worry that we can’t come up with a solution for all confederations. Perhaps Fifa will come out and say that each confederation must do what works for them, within the statutes of health and safety protocols,” said Ntseki. “The coronavirus affects each country differently and that makes dealing with it all the more difficult in terms of returning to the field.”
Before the lockdown Ntseki was greatly encouraged by the form of the national squad.
After fixtures against Ghana and Sudan, the team was preparing for an away match on March 31 against São Tomé and Príncipe, an island country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa.
The squad for this match showed nine changes and it marked the return of star players like Itumeleng Khune, George Maluleka, Andile Jali and Thabo Matlaba.
“I was excited because the build-up to the camp was very good,” said Ntseki.
“There were a lot of positives and hype because there were some new faces in the team. I believe we had selected a strong squad that was going to bring good results.
“Now we can’t say what the squad will look like in future because there are a lot of things hanging around the selection. We have to once again have a look at the players and see how they are performing after the resumption of the league, then take it from there,” said Ntseki.
When CAF competitions resume, Bafana Bafana will have four Group C Afcon qualifiers to play. The two away games are against Sudan and São Tomé.
The home ties are against Ghana and São Tomé.
Bafana Bafana are lying second on the Group C log with three points, behind leaders Ghana who after two games have a full house of six points.