Bafana selections questioned
Johannesburg - The objectives were admirable as ring-wise Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira on Wednesday announced a 29-man squad of local players to take part in a two-week training camp in Durban this month and play games against Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
But, at the same time, in spite of the experienced Parreira's rhetoric and encouragement ahead of the hosting of this year's World Cup, questions abounded over the non-selection of in-form former Bafana captain "OJ" Mabizela and a myriad of other hazy issues.
Mabizela is currently making a major impact in the PSL with Platinum Stars following a stormy, controversial career that included a spell with England's Tottenham Hotspur and was mooted by many as ideally-suited to solve a glaring shortcoming in the central defence positions for Bafana.
But clearly he has not been forgiven for past behavioural indiscretions and off-the-field indiscipline - which is surprising in view of the fact that Benni McCarthy, notably, and others are recipients of a "forgive and forget" philosophy.
While Parreira, who looked like a suave stock exchange executive in spite of rushing to the media announcement only hours after arriving from Brazil on what was largely a six-week holiday sojourn, diplomatically exhorted Bafana to face the greatest challenge in the country's soccer history with optimism and resolve, his well-meaning plans also contained unexplained loopholes and gray areas.
On the surface, Parreira's plan to hold extended Bafana camps in Brazil and Germany during March and April might appear a brainwave, but dampening the enthusiasm over this issue in spite of high hopes to the contrary is the fact that key overseas-based players are unlikely to be allowed by their clubs to attend the camps.
Parreira admitted that there was "no chance" of pivotal Everton-based midfielder Steven Pienaar attending the camps - and he will undoubtedly not be the only one.
While Parreira said it was essential that Bafana face an extensive programme of warm-up games against top opposition before facing Mexico in the opening World Cup game at Soccer City on June 11, SAFA at this juncture were loathe to name a single major international team who would fill this role.
And the practice games in Brazil and Germany against leading club teams will not totally serve the purpose - particularly with the cream of overseas-based Bafana players not present either.
Mabizela apart, Wednesday's squad announcement raised few eyebrows, although there was an interesting sprinkling of young and not-so-young newcomers like Sundowns' Matthew Pattison and Siyanda Xulu, Orlando Pirates' Andile Jali and Happy Jele, Ajax Cape Town's Thulani Serero, Bloemfontein Celtic's Tlou Segolela and the recalled Innocent Mdledle, Emille Baron, Gert Schalkwyk and Lucas Thwala.
Parreira confirmed there were a couple of absentees because of injuries and other reasons, but avoided saying who they were.
And predictable inclusions in the 29-man squad included Teko Modise, Matthew Booth, Siboniso Gaxa, Moeneeb Josephs, Daine Klate, Itumeleng Khune and Siphiwe Tshabalala.