JOHANNESBURG – Coach Molefi Ntseki has insisted that “some of the clubs do not respect international football" after four overseas-based players were prevented from assembling for Bafana Bafana's camp due to imposed Covid-19 protocols.
Bongani Zungu (Rangers FC, Scotland), Dean Furman (Carlisle United, England), Thulani Serero (Al Jazira, Abu Dhabi) and Keagan Dolly (Montpellier, France) will miss Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Ghana at home on Thursday.
The quartet were denied the permission to report for national duty by their domestic clubs who cited the regulations of Covid-19, which include quarantining as a result of travelling with masses and between countries.
“We should all agree that nobody from South Africa or Africa brought Covid-19. It is very unfair for us to be punished by saying: ‘You cannot be released to go to South Africa because it is a hot spot'. I think all over the world, it’s a hot spot,” Ntseki said.
“For them not to release our players it’s a very big disappointment for us. I think even in South America, they were made aware that there were players that weren’t going to be released for the World Cup qualifiers and they suspended their games.”
Bafana team doctor and South African Football Association compliance officer Thulani Ngwenya confirmed, though, that they are still negotiating with the four clubs to at least release the players for the last qualifier against Sudan which will be away on Sunday.
Ntseki, meanwhile, has added five players to the original squad. Mamelodi Sundowns and Maritzburg United strikers Lebohang Maboe and Thabiso Kutumela have been called up as the replacements for injured duo Kermit Erasmus and Bradley Grobler.
The trio of Thabo Nodada, Mothobi Mvala and Vincent Pule have been called up to widen the pool. But despite the hurdles, Ntseki remains confident that they’ll qualify for the finals in Cameroon next year and everyone will be considered for the final squad.
“Yes, it is difficult but we have to man up and weather the storm,” Ntseki said. “It is difficult but what’s difficult was for me to make them understand that the guys will do it for you guys. We’ll qualify and you'll be made available for selection for the World Cup qualifiers and Afcon.”
South Africa are second in Group C with nine points, level with leaders Ghana. But despite the two teams holding qualifying positions respectively, they are not out of the woods just yet. Sudan, who are third with six points, can still qualify.
Ntseki’s men have had a decent qualifying campaign thus far. They won three games, twice against islanders Sao Tome and Principe at home and away and against Sudan at home, while they lost against Ghana away in the opening qualifier.
Despite being the host, Bafana will wear the cap of the underdogs against the Black Stars of Ghana but it’s a game that they need to win.
“We obviously know how important these two games are, especially playing at home against Ghana. We lost in the first round. It’s very important for us to get a result because we don’t want a situation like the last time we qualified for Afcon,” captain Thulani Hlatshwayo said.
Bafana Bafana Squad
GOALKEEPERS: Veli Mothwa (Amazulu FC), Ronwen Williams (Supersport Utd), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
DEFENDERS: Thibang Phete (OS Belenenses SAD, Portugal), Siyanda Xulu (Haopel Tel Aviv, Israel), Thulani Hlatshwayo (Orlando Pirates), Musa Lebusa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), Sfiso Hlanti (Swallows), Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Craig Martin (Cape Town City)
MIDFIELDERS: Rivaldo Coetzee (Mamelodi Sundowns), Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Ben Motshwari (Orlando Pirates), Percy Tau (Brighton and Hove Albion, England), Sipho Mbule (Supersport United), Andile Jali (Mamelodi Sundowns), Luther Singh (Braga FC, Portugal), Vincent Pule (Orlando Pirates), Thabo Nodada (Cape Town City), Mothobi Mvala (Mamelodi Sundowns)
STRIKERS: Lebo Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thabiso Kutumela (Maritzburg United), Ruzaigh Gamildien (Swallows), Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal)
COACH: Molefi Ntseki