‘We’re not respected’

2020-01-21 15:00
South Africa’s Futsal coach, Greg Nair. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

South Africa’s Futsal coach, Greg Nair. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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The coach of the South African Futsal team has blasted the SA Football Association (Safa) for having a lack of respect for the team after it was pulled out of the prestigious Futsal African Cup of Nations at the eleventh hour because of civil conflict in the host nation Morocco.

Pietermaritzburg man Gregory Nair has bemoaned Safa management for failing to recognise the team’s efforts in getting to the finals, saying the team have been left deflated.

The sport, which began in Pietermaritzburg, may now completely crumble because of a lengthy eight-year ban from all African tournaments because the team pulled out of the tournament.

Sources now say Safa is having to do damage control, having been fined $75 000 (about R1,08 million) as well as the ban, and has also been left to attend to the seriously disappointed 16-man team — 14 of which are from Pietermaritzburg.

The team, who were due to set off to Morocco this week, only found out last week that they won’t be taking part because Safa is in solidarity with the Sahrawi Arab people, who are fighting for their independence. The tournament is due to take place in a contested part of the country. South Africa were one of eight teams, where the top three in the tournament make it to the world cup.

Nair told The Witness that this decision was taken by people “at the top who sign things without knowing what goes on on the ground”.

A despondent Nair said Safa’s decision was emblematic of how the body views Futsal in the country, saying: “Bafana Bafana would never be treated like this. We use our own money to go the extra mile and qualify for tournaments like this, without much support from Safa. I feel as if our team isn’t recognised by them. I can guarantee that no one on the [Safa executive] even knows one player’s name.”

Nair said he and others in the local Futsal scene had worked for about two decades to get the team to be good enough to compete among the best.

“How can the players motivate themselves without the chance to participate in international competitions for the next eight years? It is embarrassing from Safa.”

He said the team were in good form heading into the competition. “Our team members were on a strict exercise and diet programme and every one of them stuck to it. They even came back leaner after the festive season. This situation is so difficult to comprehend.”

SA Indoor Football Association president Poobie Govindasamy sympathised with the team, but said the decision was “based on human rights”.

“We must stand firm on social, political and humanitarian grounds to lend support to Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic for freedom from Morocco. The decision is not an easy one … I trust that our players will understand this decision, which is a bitter pill to swallow. Safa has promised to create other opportunities for the Futsal national team.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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