Safa and PSL resolve U-23 player standoff

2011-11-19 18:14

The South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) on Thursday resolved their ongoing standoff over the Under-23 national team.

The team is scheduled to play in the eight-nation CAF Under-23 Championship to determine African representatives at next year’s Olympic Games.

The tournament will be played in Morocco from November 26 to December 10.

In terms of an agreement reached at the Safa-PSL joint liaison committee gathering, the National First Division clubs are obliged to release all the selected players in exchange for the suspension of matches involving the affected teams.

PSL clubs will set free one player per club, but others have agreed to release two.

However, coach Shakes Mashaba might have to do without the services of two key players – Bongani Ndulula and Thandani Ntshumayelo – who returned from Algeria with injuries.

Director of national teams Ace Kika yesterday said the two were not in the selected team as they were not sure about the extent of their injuries.

He said team doctor Desmond Lamola was in contact with Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United.

The pair’s absence will be a big blow to the team as they played a key role in the qualifiers.

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said the meeting was held in good spirit and he applauded the two organisations.

“The problem of club versus country is a big thing in world football and we are not unique, but at least here we could sit and talk. The problem is that anything that is outside the Fifa calendar is problematic and you cannot push clubs,” he said.

He said Safa had since sought clarity from CAF about the status of the tournament but had not received any response.

Safa wanted to invoke a clause that allows the association to punish any team that refuses to release players for national duty, but since the tournament falls outside the Fifa calendar, it is impossible to do so.

“CAF says it’s not a unique South African problem as Egypt and Morocco also experienced the same challenges.”

PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza said the league was supportive of the national team’s endeavours to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“The league will never sabotage the national team, hence we agreed to release the players.”

Kika said he was still awaiting response from Bloemfontein Celtic, Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits about the availability of their players.

Celtic had initially refused to release defender Eric Mathoho for friendlies in Algeria, basing their argument on the fact that they had allowed Buhlebuyeza Mkhwanazi to travel, as per the agreement with the league of one player per team. Mashaba has since dropped Mkhwanazi and opted for Mathoho.

Kika said Sundowns had not responded on the availability of Jabulani Shongwe and Themba Zwane.

Wits’ Sibusiso Vilakazi and Bongolethu Jayiya have been selected.

AmaZulu and Black Leopards have agreed to release two players each, while Ajax Cape Town have also undertaken to free defender Thulani Hlatshwayo.

Kika said the team assembles tomorrow morning and leaves in the evening.

“The challenge we have is that teams are playing this weekend and anything can happen with injuries. We will only be able to assess the players (tomorrow). CAF wants all the players to be medically screened so that there are no reasons to withdraw them during the tournament.”

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