Headed for 55 dark days for soccer

2011-10-01 21:15

South African soccer fans could face a blackout of nearly two months without any Absa Premiership action next year.

This is a possibility as Bafana Bafana face an uphill battle to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup, which runs from January 12 to February 12.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has set aside seven weeks (55 days) between December 22 until February 14 for Bafana to prepare for the bi-annual continental event to be played in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The team’s chances of qualifying are slim as they play their last must-win match against Sierra Leone at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.

Bafana, second on the log, also need group leaders Niger to lose to Egypt during the same period. (see sidebar).

PSL chief executive Zola Majavu told City Press that the league had no contingency plans in place as “we remain hopeful that Bafana will qualify”.

Last year there was an outcry from soccer fanatics and clubs when the Premiership stood idle for almost six weeks after Bafana failed to qualify for the 2010 Afcon edition played in Angola.

But Majavu said: “That is a good observation, but we haven’t considered anything yet as to how we keep our clubs active should something like that happen. We remain hopeful that Bafana will qualify.”

Instead, Majavu said there was a PSL Indaba that has been planned for January, which he said would not discuss the reversal of the league’s programme should Bafana fail to qualify.

He would not give details of the gathering except to say “there will be workshops” around that period.

Premiership clubs are already seething at the current two-week break, which gives Bafana more days to prepare for the Sierra Leone match. League action will resume in two weeks’ time.

SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt said: “First, it’s boredom, then it’s difficult for players to just train and train without any competitive action.”

Hunt’s counterpart at Maritzburg United, Ian Palmer, said: “It is like a new pre-season. It is only a positive if you have long-term injuries.”

Moroka Swallows’ Gordon Igesund said two months was a long time. “You can’t just keep training without serious games. We wish Bafana qualify – we are behind them,” he said.

Meanwhile, 2010 Fifa World Cup Local Organising Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan is likely to assume a similar role during the Afcon finals South Africa is hosting in 2013.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) this week entrusted the country with the rights to host the event that was initially scheduled for Libya.

The current political turmoil in the north African country is what prompted Caf to switch the event to South Africa. South Africa was to stage the 2017 tournament.

Caf has changed the Afcon calendar so that it does not fall in the same year as the Fifa World Cup. Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said they will need four venues for the 16-nation tournament.

While he did not shed light on venues, he said FNB Stadium was likely to stage the final.
»?With five days to go before the Bafana/Sierra Leone game on Saturday it was still not clear if the game would be beamed live on SABC.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago on Friday said talks were still ongoing with Safa and SportFive, the controversial French-based firm that holds the Caf broadcast rights.

Said Kganyago: “We believe in a signed document and so far we are still talking with all the stakeholders and nothing has been signed.”

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