SA to lodge protest with FIFA
Carlos Alberto Parreira (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - World Cup hosts South Africa say they will protest to global football governing body FIFA after China withdrew from a April 28 friendly fixture in Germany.
Chinese officials blamed travel difficulties caused by the volcanic ash that severely disrupted European air traffic for pulling out of a game considered vital to the preparations of struggling Bafana Bafana.
But acting South African Football Association chief executive Leslie Sedibe reacted angrily after the latest blow for a host nation battling to find suitable warm-up opposition ahead of the June 11-July 11 tournament.
"This is something that we will take up with FIFA because there is an agreement with the Chinese Football Association," he said in a statement released here.
"While we understand the challenges occasioned by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, this is not the type of news we were expecting. I had a chat with the coach and we are working on plan B."
Plan B involves playing a German club and this will not amuse coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who cancelled planned fixtures against a Bundesliga club reserve team and a lower division side, labelling them inadequate opponents.
A South African squad composed of home-based footballers has been camping near the southern German city of Nuremberg since early April after spending most of the previous month in Brazil.
Parreira, who coached his native Brazil to the World Cup title in 1994 but failed to win a game at the tournament with minnows Kuwait, United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, was furious when told China had pulled out.
"This is a big blow for us as we need to be playing matches. I am really disappointed because the squad has been training hard, but preparations are not just about training," he said in a statement.
"We need international fixtures against good quality opposition where we can judge the progress of the team and work on certain aspects of their performance," added the 67-year-old coach.
Parreira has been plagued by fixture problems since he returned last November for a second spell in charge of the second lowest ranked of the 32 World Cup teams, ahead only of North Korea.
Bafana Bafana beat depleted Zimbabwe 3-0, drew 1-1 with Namibia and Paraguay and 0-0 with North Korea this year and are scheduled to host Colombia late May and Denmark six days before the first World Cup staged in Africa kicks off.
But Parreira craves big-name opposition only to see his belated hopes of a May 27 showdown with twice world champions Argentina at the 90 000-seat Soccer City stadium on the outskirts of Soweto dashed.