SA coach presses clubs to release players for Egypt tournament
While Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki was able to name a strong squad for the start of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in November‚ the same cannot be said about the U23 SA team to take part in the Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Coach David Notoane is expected to announce the squad later this week. There is anticipation not only about who has been selected, but about which players will be stopped from going to the tournament by their clubs.
Previously‚ squads for Bafana and U23s were announced together, but it was not the case on Tuesday as Notoane is reportedly negotiating with clubs to release players, as part of the tournament in Egypt falls outside the Fifa window.
As the start and finish of the eight-team tournament is outside the window, clubs are not obliged to release players.
The SA Football Association (Safa) is grappling with some of the country’s top-flight clubs over the release of players for the event that runs from November 7-22 with the top three finishers to represent Africa at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
As the Fifa window runs from November 11-19, players will miss league matches for their clubs on the weekend of November 7-9 and November 22-24.
This includes the Soweto derby and the match between Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United‚ in which a number of key players in the U23 squad are set to play.
Safa acting CEO Russell Paul has said they have been in negotiations to get as many as possible of their first-choice players released, but he could not confirm who is going to Egypt.
He received support recently from Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy‚ who said: “You cannot stand in a player’s way. It’s a platform for them.”
Clubs affected by possible U23 call-ups are Bloemfontein Celtic‚ Chippa United‚ Kaizer Chiefs‚ Orlando Pirates‚ SuperSport United and champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the top tier. Ajax Cape Town‚ Richards Bay‚ Swallows FC and University of Pretoria are teams in the GladAfrica Championship that are likely to be affected.
SA open their campaign in Egypt on November 7 against regional rivals Zambia. They also have Ivory Coast and Nigeria in their group.