When Shakes Mashaba assembles his South African national team selection for the
opening African Nations Cup qualifier against Gambia on June 13, he will
likely need a broom to brush away the cobwebs.
The game will come after more than a month of inactivity for most of the
players and prove a much more exacting challenge than it should be.
Gambia, one of the continent’s smallest countries, are just coming back from a
ban for cheating and by rights should prove an easy start for Bafana.
But weeks of inactivity for the South African players is going to make that a much
more difficult task than it ought to be.
A FIFA date for international qualifiers (there are a chunk of Euro 2016
qualifiers also being played on the same day) slap bang in the middle of the
off-season is the first folly.
It is largely because there is the Champions League final in Berlin the week
before, proving still how much sway European clubs have over the international
But what the major leagues in Europe did to counter the effect was to move the
end of their leagues out a week or two and start of their next campaigns will
be delayed. The Premier Soccer League have not thought the same way and so the
holidays of many keys players are now curtailed and the long term knock on
effect could pose problems.
More immediately, however, the Cosafa Cup presented the chance to get most of
the squad together, even if allowing for the fact some clubs were reluctant to
release their players and others went off for surgery, like a toe operation for
Mashaba is a hamstrung by a general reluctance of clubs to give him the best
players outside of the FIFA dates but instead of cajouling, schmoozing and
getting bosses at the South African Football Association to broker some deal,
he picks a motley crew of players he feels might be stars of the future to play
in the Cosafa event, missing out on a chance for continuity and preparation
ahead of the Gambia game.
It is not the role of the national team coach, nor is Bafana Bafana the forum,
to be looking at teenage starlets and seeing whether they can adapt to the big
time. That will be found out in due course at club level.
Surely if a player is not yet good enough for the PSL, he is not ready for the
national team? Why waste an opportunity for proper practice on a meaningless
Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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