Bafana coach in a fix as overseas clubs refuse to release players
SA seen as a Covid-19 hotspot, says Molefi Ntseki
Covid-19 continues to play havoc with Bafana Bafana’s preparations for the final 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers after coach Molefi Ntseki revealed on Monday that there is uncertainty about the availability of several players.
Bafana face Ghana at FNB Stadium on March 25 and Sudan in Khartoum three days later, but a disappointed Ntseki admitted he was scrambling to select a settled squad as the pandemic affects national teams around the world.
France’s Ligue 1 and 2 have declared that no players will be released‚ ruling out Montpellier’s Keagan Dolly for Bafana. The other players who will not join Ntseki’s squad are Bongani Zungu (Rangers‚ Scotland)‚ Dean Furman (Carlisle‚ England) and Abu Dhabi-based Thulani Serero.
“We have called up 30 players but we have a situation with the European clubs refusing to release players, and because of that, we will not be replacing anybody until this matter has been finalised,” Ntseki said.
“Bongani Zungu is not coming, Dean Furman is not coming, Thulani Serero is not coming and also Keagan Dolly is not coming. We are still negotiating with the clubs to see if they can release those players, and if they can’t come to Johannesburg and play against Ghana, then they will be able to join us in Sudan.
“This is something we are negotiating with the clubs so they do release the players, because of the issue of Covid-19 in Africa, then we won’t have any players coming to this camp.”
The Bafana coach also has to deal with injuries to locally based players and has called up five as cover, in case there are more issues. Ntseki has decided to call up Thabo Nodada, Mothobi Mvala, Lebohang Maboe, Thabiso Kutumela and Vincent Pule.
The Bafana coach could at least smile after English Premiership-based star striker Percy Tau of Brighton & Hove Albion arrived on Monday. The Portugal-based players — Thibang Phete‚ Luther Singh and Lyle Foster — are also expected to make the camp in Johannesburg.
“It is very unfair for us to be punished and [for the European clubs to be] saying, ‘We cannot release players to come to SA because SA is a hotspot’.
“I think everywhere is a hotspot, because Covid-19 is all about the world. So for them to not release our players is a very big disappointment. Even in South America they have also been made aware that their players will not be released for the World Cup qualifiers.
“They suspended the World Cup qualifiers, they suspended their games. But in Africa we are told that with or without your overseas-based players, you have to continue with the fixtures because everything is so congested and there are qualifiers in June/July, in September and in October.”
Ntseki said despite being hamstrung at every turn, they will not complain. “The issue of players not coming and with all these Covid-19 regulations, it is part of the situation we find ourselves in and we will not complain,” he said.
Bafana play Ghana on Thursday at FNB Stadium before they travel to Khartoum to take on Sudan on Sunday.
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