PSL bends over backwards for SA U-23s
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) will suspend its fixtures later this year to accommodate the SA Under-23s, who have qualified for the CAF Under-23 Championship taking place in Senegal.
Coach Owen Da Gama’s charges reached the eight-nation competition following their 4-1 aggregate win over Zimbabwe last weekend.
The Senegal tournament – which runs from November 28 to December 12 – serves as the men’s qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The continental championship would have clashed with Absa Premiership fixtures and the Telkom Knockout.
“This issue has been addressed already,” said PSL general manager for football Derek Blanckensee.
“If you look at our official fixtures, the league won’t play at that stage.”
Da Gama said he had started engagements with Safa technical director Neil Tovey to draft the team’s preparation programme.
“We have received invitations for international friendly matches,” said Da Gama, without elaborating.
“Ideally, we would like to play in the three Fifa international dates that are coming up because it will be compulsory for the clubs to release players in that period. Preferably, we wish to face opposition from north and west Africa in our build-up for Senegal.”
The fixed Fifa dates fall on August 31, September 8, October 513 and November 9-17.
Da Gama said now that the PSL had lived up to its promise, collective support was important.
“I don’t engage the clubs, but the technical director and Safa CEO [Dennis Mumble] will address any problems, if there are any, in terms of the release of players from clubs.”
South Africa crashed out of the 2011 Championship in Morocco, the first time CAF hosted the tournament. The Shakes Mashabaled side finished last in their group, following two draws and a defeat.
Mashaba had gone to the tournament with a hastily assembled squad after local clubs refused to release players on the grounds that the continental championship did not fall under the fixed Fifa dates.
South Africa qualified for this year’s tournament alongside hosts Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Zambia, Mali and Tunisia.
CAF is yet to confirm the date for the draw to determine the two groups of four teams that will battle for three coveted Olympic spots at the Senegal tournament.
The top three teams will represent Africa at the Rio Olympics while the fourth-placed nation will face an Asian side in a play-off.
STARRING ROLE Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Keagan Dolly
PLAYMAKER Black Leopards star player Siphelele Ntshangase
HIGH HOPES SA Under-23 coach Owen Da Gama is happy with the support