Fight over SA Under-23 splits soccer fraternity

2011-11-12 20:40

Forget this week’s spat between PSL chairman Irvin Khoza and SA Under-23 coach Shakes Mashaba – the real war is looming regarding the release of players for the Olympic qualifiers in Morocco.

The big showdown will play itself out between Safa and PSL next week, when clubs will either show their support for the Under-23 team or prove right Mashaba’s claims that the league is sabotaging him by showing Safa the middle finger.

Mashaba can only take 16 players to Algeria where the team will play two friendlies against the hosts.

These games are in preparation for the crucial CAF Under-23 Championship in Morocco from November 26-December 10 to determine the three countries that will represent Africa at the 2012 Olympics.

While it should have been easy for Mashaba to have any player he wanted for the Algeria sojourn, as the games fall within a Fifa weekend, the Eight Nation tournament in Morocco does not fall under the Fifa dates so clubs are not obliged to release their players.

On Friday, Sascoc president Gideon Sam entered the fray, calling on the two bodies to bury the hatchet and give Mashaba the best players for the qualifiers.

Sascoc is the country’s Olympic movement and all sports federations, including Safa, are affiliates.
The PSL is a special member of Safa.

“We’ve made it clear to Safa that they must provide the best team, like all other federations. Shakes must be given support to prepare the boys for the qualifiers,” said Sam.

Khoza hinted that the Under-23 issue will be on the agenda at the league’s meeting with clubs on Tuesday.

Safa has called for a joint liaison committee made up of members from both organisations at a meeting on Friday to map the way forward.

An embarrassing situation developed this week when Mashaba called a press conference on Wednesday where he tore into the PSL, particularly Khoza, accusing them of sabotaging him.

“For the chairman to come out and blatantly say that I did not submit a plan when I did, something is wrong,” said a furious Mashaba.

Khoza retaliated by calling his own conference the following day at which he hit back at Mashaba, stopping just short of calling Safa incompetent.

“I am really surprised by his utterances. We all know that Mr Mashaba was unemployed and I took him in at Pirates”.

He claimed that it was through the league’s insistence and initiative that the meeting to discuss the Under-23’s programme was held.

“Our integrity is being challenged in a manner in which we are portrayed as if we are sabotaging the Under-23s and that is not the case here. We are not raising these issues to embarrass anybody. We wanted to be transparent,” said Khoza.

On Friday, Safa president Kirsten Nematandani took a more reconciliatory approach, saying: “We must humble ourselves and focus at the centre of the problem. We must do the right thing by making sure that players are not deprived of the chance to represent the country. This is about national pride.”

The feud between Safa, the clubs and Mashaba is nothing new:
» In 1997 and 2000 when Mashaba was in charge of the Under-20 team and the Under-23s respectively and was deprived players, he fumed: “I hate each and every member of Safa responsible for this decision. I hate them!”

» He was relieved of his coaching duties on the eve of Bafana’s match against England in Durban in 2003 after the World Cup Organising Committee rejected the team he had selected and insisted he incorporate overseas-based players. Jomo Sono was put in charge of the team.

» In 2004 Mashaba was fired two weeks before Bafana travelled to the 2004 Afcon finals in Tunisia after leaving out foreign-based players, including the then Manchester United’s Quinton Fortune, and refused to allow other players, like striker Benni McCarthy, permission to skip most of the two-week pre-tournament training camp.

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