Booth will fight for his place in Bafana

2008-10-08 00:00

PRETORIA — Central defender Matthew Booth is determined to make up for the three wasted years in the Bafana Bafana wilderness, by pushing hard for a starting place in Saturday’s African Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea in Malabo.

Booth (31) issued a challenge to national captain Aaron Mokoena of English club Blackburn Rovers, Spanish-based Nasief Morris, and the two up-and-coming central defenders, Bevan Fransman and SuperSport United’s Morgan Gould.

Booth, who led the South African Under-23s to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, declared that the South African Football Association had failed to capitalise on the crop of youngsters that memorably humbled a star-studded Brazil 3-1.

“There has been no continuity. Safa should have kept the core of that SA U23 side that succeeded in not just qualifying for the Olympics in Australia, but did well at the Games and looked to have laid the foundations for a solid future Bafana squad.

“What Safa should have done was to keep that side intact and kept adding more players, thereby building a strong, experienced squad.”

Booth, the defensive strongman of that U23 side, found himself in the cold in more ways than one when he moved to Russia, where he has played successfully for the past five years, captaining his club Krylya Sovetov.

“But I am determined to make the most of this new opportunity. I got my recall and played my heart out against Guinea in a friendly last month. Despite the fact we lost 1-0, the coach [Joel Santana] must have seen something he liked in me and brought me back for this game.”

“Competition for places is stiff and that is the way I like it. I have overcome challenges in Russia and now I feel that at 31 I am in my prime as a defender.

“I bring a lot of experience to the squad and I aim to fight hard over the coming months to clinch a place in the squad for next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup squads.”

Booth rates the current crop of Bafana players as talented and with plenty of potential.

“I realise this game against Equatorial Guinea is a meaningless one as neither team can qualify for the 2010 Afcon in Angola. But we need to start winning and rebuilding confidence and this is the ideal way to do it, by going to Equatorial Guinea and coming back with a solid win under our belts.”

Morris, meanwhile, who has been the established partner to captain Mokoena at the back, is expecting tough competition for his place.

A player with the struggling Spanish side, Recreativo Huelva, Morris said the performance of the defence in his absence in the 3-0 friendly victory against Malawi will make it difficult for him to break back into the team.

Bafana return from West Africa to play Ghana in a friendly at the Free State Stadium on Wednesday night.

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