Pitso 'erred' in selection

Mark Gleeson

The inclusion of Nhlanhla Brilliant Khuzwayo as the back-up goalkeeper in the Bafana Bafana squad for the weekend trip to Tanzania was a very poor signal from coach Pitso Mosimane and flies in the face of meritocracy and what the national team represents.

The 21-year-old, for the thousands of you who have never heard of him, is the AmaZulu reserve keeper with a career record of three starts since his debut against Platinum Stars in September.

Yet he somehow managed to be the recipient of the late call-up that came after Itumeleng Khune and two other Kaizer Chiefs players were forced out of the trip by their club.

So what you might ask. Khuzwayo was never going to play anyway. Once Khune had to withdraw, Wayne Sandilands was always guaranteed a place in the starting line-up, Khuzwayo would only have ever played if the Mamelodi Sundowns keeper had slipped in the bath the night before.

Khuzwayo is the under-23 team goalkeeper and if I attempt to read into the mind of Mosimane, he probably thought that to replace Khune at the last minute, he might as well call up the youngster to give him some exposure to the big time.

It would give him a lift with the Olympic Games qualifier against Benin coming up soon.

But that was wrong by Mosimane and one that belittles the concept of a national team.

It might seem a trivial matter but it is an issue of principle that the best available, and only the best available, be selected to the national team.

In my opinion, however noble Mosimane’s motives towards young Khuzwayo were, there is no place for sentiment or experimentation in the national side. The team that represents the country must be the best possible in the circumstance and selection to the squad must be on merit only.

Let’s look at the pecking order among the South African goalkeepers. There are less than 10 of any quality. It is Khune as the undisputed number one, Moeneeb Josephs his deputy and Sandilands in recent months taking over from Darren Keet and Shu-Aib Walters.

My top keepers in line for the Bafana Bafana number one jersey, in order are would be Khune, Josephs, Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa, Rowen Fernandez, Keet, Walters and then Tsepo Motsoeneng of Santos.

When Mosimane found out that Khune was unavailable he should have gone down his list of goalkeeper rather than call up a kid with just three games under his belt. That’s demeaning.  Josephs was obviously injured, Meyiwa playing for Pirates in the Nedbank Cup semi-final and Keet on trial in Belgium.

To be fair he should have picked one of Fernandez, Motsoeneng or Walters (who was the number three at the World Cup last year) to make it clear that there is a pecking order and that by showing the requisite form, the keepers have a chance to go up the order and into the squad.

After all, it was Mosimane who made the point before the Tanzania trip that games like Saturday’s win in Dar-es-Salaam give an opportunity for him to show the up and coming players in the Premier Soccer League that their efforts are being noticed.

He said he had a chance to give them a taste of what it was like to play international football an incentive to keep working on improving their game.

For that reason it was a good game to take on. But the goalkeepers did not get the same message.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

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