JOHANNESBURG – South Africa Under-23 coach David Notoane is disappointed with the cancellation of their trip to the United Arab Emirates as part of their preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, but says he’s elated with the availability of players to Egypt.
A fortnight ago, Notoane announced a squad which would travel to the United Arab Emirates this month to play in three friendlies against fellow Olympians Brazil, South Korea and Argentina. However, that tournament was cancelled due to Covid-19 implications.
As a result of that cancellation at the 11th hour, the South African Football Association has had to find an alternative, securing two friendlies with fellow African Olympians Egypt. The South Africans will face the Egyptians away from home on June 10 and 13.
However, Notoane was forced to make alterations to the squad which would have travelled to the UAE for a number of reasons, including the conclusion of the PSL top-flight tomorrow and availability of some of the overseas-based players, ahead of their trip to Egypt.
“We’re now happy that with the PSL season ending on the 5th and with us departing on Monday‚ all the players will be available because the season will have ended. Within the dark side of losing the UAE trip there is a positivity now,” explained Notoane.
“It will also be an integration of our overseas players of which most of them are already in the country. We welcome them back home after their sterling work abroad of representing the country. These players can shift their focus to national team duties.”
Despite being elated by the availability of most of the players he’s called up for the trip to Egypt, Notoane has to do without some of his key players, as some are called up to the senior national team camp for their friendly against Uganda on June 10.
These players include Teboho Mokoena, Sipho Mbule and Sibusiso Mabiliso. However, there are players such as Danish, English and Portugal based trio Gift Links, Kgaogelo Chauke and Sphephelo Sithole who’s future of featuring in the Olympics is bleak.
“We’ve had negotiations and we continue to have negotiations with the foreign based teams in terms of the availability of players. Maybe to indicate from the Fifa position, the Olympics are not part of the Fifa Calendar and clubs are not compelled to release players,” he said.
Notoane, though, is not crying foul over players who might not be available for the Olympics. Instead, he believes that those who are available will be able to carry the baton. The South Africans are in group A alongside Japan, France and Argentina in the group stage.
“It’s been a very difficult week (of planning). We’ve confirmed the trip to Egypt but now you have to ask yourself key questions like, 'if I know Sithole, for example, isn’t at this stage hundred percent available, do I take him now through this camp?'” the 45-year-old asked.
“So, in this camp, we went for a balancing act of saying let’s prepare for what could be at the end but also for those who’re available, we carry them with us and try to continue with our preparations. There are obvious omissions (of the players that were called up to Bafana).”