Walters gets Bafana call

2010-03-23 00:00

MARITZBURG United goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters has been handed an outside chance at being part of Bafana Bafana’s 23-man final squad for the World Cup with his call-up yesterday to the month-long training camp in Brazil.

Walters has been rewarded for his supreme form in the second half of the season as a loan player for United from Bloemfontein Celtic with a late call to replace Emille Baron, who has picked up a shoulder injury in Brazil that will keep the SuperSport United goalkeeper out of action for four to six weeks.

This could open the door for Walters to be part of next month’s Bafana camp in Germany, and with Rowen Fernandez injured until just before the World Cup kick-off in June, he stands a chance of being the No. 3 goalkeeper for Bafana at 2010.

“It was quite a shock actually,” Walters said yesterday about the sudden call-up. “I was surprised, but I did also expect it because last week the Bafana team doctor SMSed me after Emille was injured and asked if I was free of injury. I asked why, but he didn’t get back to me.”

Walters must undergo a physical examination in Durban today to be cleared from an ankle injury, and if he passes he will be on a plane to Brazil tomorrow.

In the keeper’s favour to get a chance to impress Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is that the coach has added two more training games against Brazilian first-division teams — Desportivo Brazil on Thursday and Palmeiras on Saturday — before South Africa meet Paraguay in a friendly in Asuncion next Wednesday.

“Of course it’s a good opportunity — I would have even liked to have been there from the beginning though and get some game time,” Walters said.

“The good thing about most of the games Bafana are playing in Brazil is that they are behind closed doors and there’s less pressure to make your introduction to the team than in a friendly international.

“The coach has added two more training games, so I’m hoping to get an outing and prove to him that I’m good enough to be in the team.

“I’m a realist and I am aware that the coaching staff were probably looking for someone with more experience to go to the World Cup. As much as I feel for Emille, perhaps it can be a situation of one man’s misfortune being another’s opportunity.

“The final 23 will need three goalkeepers — Itumeleng Khune and Moeneeb Josephs appear to have confirmed their places, and as things stand I might have the inside lane for the third place.”

For Walters, the move to Maritzburg has been just the tonic he needed in a career that had stalled at Celtic. The keeper was called up to the Bafana squad under Joel Santana for the friendlies against Iceland and Germany in September and broke his thumb two weeks before being a certainty for a friendly against Madagascar.

On his return from injury, he was unable to displace in-form Cameroon­ian Patrick Tignyemb between the posts at Celtic.

“Perhaps it’s the atmosphere here or the weather, but I’m playing better at Maritzburg than I did at Celtic …” he said.

“There are less experienced players at United, so you are branded as one of the experienced players and you have to set an example.

“I think [coach] Ernst [Middendorp] has been instrumental in my form — in my opinion he is one of the best, if not the best coach in the country.

“Goalkeeper-coach Pernell [McKop] has also played a big role.

“When a keeper comes back from injury, it’s not just the physical side, but the mental strength you have to work on, and he’s helped a lot with that.

“I’m looking forward to next season if I can stay at Maritzburg because I think we can achieve a lot.”

Walters was not the only national call-up United have had this week. Midfielder Kurt Lentjies and right-back Peter Petersen have been included in the South African team for the African Nations Championship (Chan) second-leg qualifier against Botswana on Saturday.

The Chan is a competition for national teams comprising only players based on the African continent, with the finals being held in Sudan next year. “Amabinneplaas”, led by former SA Under-23 coach Serame Letsoaka, drew the first leg in Gaberone 0-0.


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