Big PSL contingent in AFCON
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana may be absent from the African Nations Cup but a large contingent of foreign-based Premier Soccer League (PSL) players will play in the tournament.
Already, 16 current PSL players have been nominated by Zambia, Botswana, Niger and Mali to feature in Africa's most prestigious competition, which starts in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 12 days time.
Zambia have named no fewer than eight South African-based players in their squad.
The number could increase when the squads of all 16 teams in the Nations Cup are finalised.
Bafana Bafana will not be competing in the tournament for a second successive year.
Zambia's PSL contingent consists of goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene and Noah Chivuta (Free State Stars), Kampamba Chintu (Bidvest Wits), Joseph Masonda and Collins Musonda (Golden Arrows), Isaac Chansa (Orlando Pirates), Davies Nkansa (SuperSport United) and Clifford Mulenga (Bloemfontein Celtic).
In addition, the Zambian squad includes a number of other players who have made an impact in the PSL in the past, among them former prolific Jomo Cosmos goalscorer Chris Katongo, Mamelodi Sundowns' Felix Katongo and Kalililo Kakonje.
Botswana, who shamed neighbours South Africa by becoming the first team to qualify for the Nations Cup despite the country's relatively small population, include five PSL-based players in their squad.
They are: Mogogi Gabonamong and Dipsy Selolwane (SuperSport United), Phenyo Mongala (Bloemfontein Celtic), Boitumela Mafoko (Santos) and long-serving goalkeeper Modri Marumo (Bay United).
Also heading for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are Niger's Boubacar Talatou (Orlando Pirates) and Mohamed Chicato (Platinum Stars), as well as Jomo Cosmos defender Ousmane Berthe.
The largest contingent of foreigners in the PSL not surprisingly comes from Zimbabwe, who like Bafana have failed to make it to the Nations Cup.
Meanwhile, the departure of locally based players for the Nations Cup is given as one of the reasons for the exaggerated break of almost two months of PSL fixtures even after Bafana failed to qualify for the tournament.
Several of the European Leagues have a greater number of players participating in the Nations Cup without any suggestion that their fixtures should be postponed.
The squads of favourites Ivory Coast and Ghana, for example, are made up almost entirely of players based in Europe, while Senegal and Angola with 10 players in Europe are not far behind.
Also, only SuperSport United with Gabonamong, Selolwane and Nkansa among the PSL clubs, have more than two players on their way to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Most surprising, perhaps, is the decision of the PSL to halt First Division fixtures in addition to those of the Premier League.
Only one PSL First Division player, namely Bay United's Marumo, has at this point been named to participate in the Nations Cup.
While the PSL claims the discontinuing of local fixtures is designed as a sign of respect for CAF's premier event, a widespread view is that the lengthy disruption will not do the Premier League any good and that the break should have been shortened following Bafana's failure to qualify for the Nations Cup event.