Benni back to boost Bafana in Challenge

2008-11-17 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — There was good and bad news for Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana as the squad assembled yesterday and travelled to Rustenburg where they will meet Cameroon in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge at Olympia Park tomorrow night.

The good news is that Blackburn Rovers striker and leading goal scorer Benni McCarthy has agreed to play despite burying his father in Cape Town on Saturday. There was much speculation about whether he will be in the right frame of mind after his loss.

The bad news is that Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar is out.

Pienaar, who was on the bench when Everton drew 1-1 against Middlesbrough on Sunday, has apparently suffered a recurrence of an old injury and failed a fitness test, according to his club.

McCarthy, who in the past was criticised by the media and public for lack of commitment, has shown that his heart is firmly with his country.

Bafana team manager Sipho Nkumane said: “We allowed Benni to make his decision without any pressure. We understand what a loss he has suffered and would have fully understood if he decided not to play. But he has shown his commitment to Bafana and we are delighted.

“It is the coach’s final game of the year before he selects his squad for next year’s Confederation Cup. Benni’s decision is a huge boost for the squad and our chances of beating Cameroon.”

But Nkumane is not too pleased with Everton. He explained: “I got a message from Everton on Sunday telling me that they want Pienaar to stay in England so they can assess his injury. They left it late so that we could not force him to travel to Johannesburg.

“Frankly, our hands are tied. I just hope that Everton are not pulling the wool over our eyes.

“We will have something to say if he plays for his club at the weekend.

“But we have to accept what the Everton medical team tells us at face value.” — Sapa.

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