Tim Spirit: Cordial PSL/Safa relations will boost SA’s Olympic dream

WHEN DUTY CALL SA Under-23 coach David Notoane has yanked most of the junior players out of the wilderness in his bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Picture: Muzi Ntombela / Backpagepix
WHEN DUTY CALL SA Under-23 coach David Notoane has yanked most of the junior players out of the wilderness in his bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Picture: Muzi Ntombela / Backpagepix

Ican’t believe we are still here, stuck were we were two decades ago.

I remember back in 2000, before the Sydney Olympic Games, we had the same debacle of club versus country.

Almost 20 years later and we are still talking about the same issue.

What have we been doing all these years that we are still discussing the issue of national team call-ups?

By now, we should have a formula on how to forge ahead, but clearly we have not learnt anything from the past.

National Under-23 coach David Notoane finds himself between a rock and hard place.

This week, Notoane was supposed to announce his team for the CAF Under-23 Afcon, a qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, but it was not to be.

The Egypt tournament starts on November 8, three days before the next Fifa international window break, and the coach is still not sure about who he should select.

Safa acting chief executive officer Russel Paul said this week that the federation was still waiting to hear from the PSL regarding its proposal to release the selected players.

This is a matter that should have been resolved a long time ago by the two parties, but we all know that the relationship between the two is not a rosy one.

Leaving things to the last minute always comes with different challenges.

A provision should have been made long ago to accommodate the Under-23s – after all, the Olympics happen once every four years.

But it boils down to the egos of both the league and Safa, which don’t seem ready to bury the hatchet and work together for the benefit of South African football.

It is every player’s dream to represent their country, let alone on a stage such as the Olympics. The spectacle is also an ideal opportunity for players to market themselves to overseas clubs.

An overseas contract is a life-changing experience that many can only dream of.

But first they need to go to Egypt next month for a chance to book a ticket to Tokyo.

Even then, there will be international scouts ready to pounce on fresh talent. A move to an overseas club would not only benefit our players, but our clubs as well.

So why make it difficult for the players and the coach?

The problem is that this tournament does not fall within the Fifa calendar and, as a result, clubs are not obliged to release players.

But this should not be used against Notoane, who has come a long way and worked hard to be where he is with the team.

While CAF is to blame as well for not aligning the continental competition with Fifa dates, that should not be used as an excuse either.

The onus is on the PSL and Safa to find the middle ground for the benefit of South African football. This is not just about the respective organisations, but about the future of the country’s football.

Clubs find themselves in the middle of the spat as they don’t know whether to release players or not.

If club coaches feel they want their best players for their matches, what makes them think that Notoane does not deserve to have the best players as well?

There is only one solution to this debacle and that is to postpone or reschedule the matches to be played by the affected clubs so that they can release players.

With South Africa having been drawn against powerhouses – Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia – a makeshift team will not stand a chance of qualifying for Tokyo, hence it is imperative that all the parties concerned meet Notoane halfway.

If there ever was an opportune time for the PSL and Safa to show a united front, this is it.

  • Follow me on Twitter @TimSpiritMolobi


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