Bafana ‘rebels’ off the hook

2014-05-25 15:00

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No action will be taken against players who snubbed Bafana Bafana at the 11th hour last week.

As many as 14 players pulled out of the Bafana team that will take on Australia in Sydney tomorrow and New Zealand in Auckland on Friday.

SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan has stopped short of blaming coach Gordon Igesund for shooting himself in the foot by announcing the team almost two months before the matches.

Igesund announced the team on April 8. But he was left red-faced after 14 players withdrew from the team, citing injuries, prior commitments and fatigue.

Although Jordaan sympathised with the coach, he conceded injuries were part and parcel of the game.

He said it would have been ideal to have instead named the team two weeks before the beginning of the camp.

“We all saw what happened in the latter stages of the Premier Soccer League season as players gave their all and this could have resulted in them getting knocks,” said Jordaan.

He said it would be difficult to sanction those who did not honour the call-up as, in a desperate attempt to get the players, Igesund personally called them instead of sending letters to their clubs, as required.

Jordaan said it was an opportunity for new players to make a mark in the team.

He dismissed comments that the matches were a waste of time, saying they were part of the preparations for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, which start in September.

“Between now and September, there are no international dates while other teams are taking part in the World Cup. It would have meant five months without any action for our national team and that would not have been an ideal situation.”

Meanwhile, a strong crowd of more than 50?000 spectators is expected at the ANZ Stadium when Bafana take on the Socceroos tomorrow.

Football Federation Australia had announced it had already sold 50?000 tickets and, according to some locals, a crowd of South Africans – probably blowing vuvuzelas – are also expected as there are large numbers of people from Mzansi who have made Australia their home.

The stadium – situated at the 2000 Olympic Games complex – has a capacity of 80?000 and the match kicks off at 7pm local time (11am SA time).

The match will be the final one before the Socceroos travel to Brazil for the 2014 Fifa World Cup, where they will face Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in Group B.

At number 59, Australia goes to the World Cup as the lowest ranked among the 32 participating nations.

But just like Bafana, who were dealt a huge blow by the withdrawal of 14 players from their initial squad, the hosts might also not field their strongest squad. They have also suffered a spate of injuries.

Assistant coach Ante Milicic has already hinted in a briefing with local media that his “boss” Ange Postecoglou might not take chances with the injured players.

“It’s not a game where he has to risk any players, and there’s probably players that he wants to see more than others and he’ll make that call,” Milicic was quoted as saying.

Australia were still to have two more matches – against a local Brazilian side on June 2 and Croatia on June 6 before their official opening match against Chile on June 13.

The injured players are playmaker Tom Rogic, Mile Jedinak (both groin) and Curtis Good (hip flexor).

Goalkeeper Mitch Langerak was also reported not to have trained with the team on Friday, while Josh Kennedy and Dario Vidošic were said to have stopped training midway through the Friday session.

The Aussies have selected a squad of 30 comprising 10 players from the domestic A League with the rest scattered in Europe and Asia.

On the South African side, Thabo Nthethe – whom many expect to wear the captain’s armband if it doesn’t go to

Thulani Serero – sat out most of yesterday’s training session.

But Igesund said this was just a precautionary measure after the defender suffered “a light knock”.

“The doctor told me he could train but I preferred to be more careful and rest him rather than risk aggravating his injury but it’s nothing major,” said Igesund. The coach added he was confident his charges would do the country proud.

“Every international match is important and these players are taking this match seriously as it will have bearing going forward to the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers,” he said.

Serero said: “On a personal note, it means a lot to play for my country. The younger players would also want to win more as they still have to make names for themselves. Monday will present them with that opportunity.”

He refused to comment on the speculation that he might leave Ajax, saying only he wants to do better this coming season, which is the final year on his contract.

He will come up against three players – that is if they play – who are in the same league as him in Tommy Oar, Adam Sarota (both FC Utrecht) and Jason Davidson (Heracles).

Other players who are bound to meet a familiar face are Anele Ngcongca and Ayanda Patosi, who ply their trade in the Belgian Pro League with goalkeeper Mathew Ryan of Club Brugge. “He is quite a good player and I have played against him four times already this season,” said Ngcongca.

The match will provide a huge unexpected opportunity and a perfect platform for the young players.

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