PSL bends over back­wards for SA U-23s

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­

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

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