The ivory lining to dark clouds
THE SOUTH African Football Association (Safa) could be on their way to a collision course with the PSL.
Safa’s decision to have Bafana Bafana host the Ivory Coast next Sunday in a Nelson Mandela Challenge match, smack bang in the middle of the season and out of the international calender date, seems to me a recipe for another one of those battles between local football’s governing body and their professional wing.
Granted, there’ll be just one PSL match that weekend, the Telkom Knockout final between Platinum Stars and SuperSport United on the Saturday but that doesn’t mean Shakes Mashaba will be able to call on players from the rest of the other clubs in the league. Not with a full fixture of Absa Premiership matches scheduled for the midweek building up to that weekend, as well as two and three days thereafter.
But word from Safa is that there are ongoing, cordial talks between themselves and the PSL clubs that will see the Bafana coach being able to field a strong side in living with the status of the man the match is being played in honour of.
Safa have also said that they expect the Ivory Coast to bring a strong squad. That, though, is highly unlikely given that most of the Elephants’ stars earn their living in European Leagues.
But Mashaba has said he will probably call on some of the national Under-17 and Under-20 players for the clash. He’d have no doubt used the Under-23 side were they in existence.
With African Cup of Nations qualification secured, the match would have been an ideal platform for Mashaba to start preparing for the finals. But, methinks, that he needs to do that with the core of the team he will be taking to Equatorial Guinea in January.
And he won’t have that next weekend, making his plan to go with the younger players all the more smarter – especially given that it will help avoid the unsavoury club versus country scenario that looms large, Safa’s assertions to the contrary, notwithstanding.
So if anything, and with due respect to the country’s former president, the match against the Ivory Coast will be best used for the youth sides as part of their preparations for their respective continental assignments next year.
Amajita are scheduled to compete at the Africa Youth Championships in Senegal and the Under-17s in their own version of the competition in Niger.
With the country on such a high following Bafana’s resurrection, the last thing we need is a battle between the two football bodies – especially not because of a match in honour of man seen the world over as a unifying force.