Mark Gleeson

Friendlies a waste of time

2010-01-21 14:08
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

World Cup preparations in South Africa are now in full swing, although the full value of a training camp with some 40 players in the tropical heat of Durban is hard to fathom.

Brazilian coaches are big on these camps, believing it a perfect opportunity to work on the physical fitness of the players and instill the necessary vision of the coach.

There will be four such camps for Bafana Bafana before they kick off the World Cup against Mexico at Soccer City on June 11. It includes one in Brazil next month and another in Germany in April.

On paper, the more preparation for the players the better the team’s chances, but it is hard to see how effective this all is, given the core of the side is unavailable.

Having a large squad of potential World Cup squad candidates under Carlos Alberto Parreira’s tutelage in KwaZulu-Natal this week creates the necessary hype around the pre-World Cup toil, but what is the point if just a handful of these players are going to actually be in the final 23-man squad?

There was never any question that the overseas-based players were never going to be released by the clubs to go training with Parreira.

Even though the South African Football Association tried to fool us, and themselves, that they would be able to obtain the release of the likes of Steven Pienaar, Aaron Mokoena and others early, no one with even the remotest knowledge about how the club versus country pull works, had any doubt they would have to stay in Europe until their season’s end.

It means starting line-up players like Pienaar, Mokoena, Tsepo Masilela, Kagisho Dikgacoi, MacBeth Sibaya, Bernard Parker and Benni McCarthy will not be going to any of the training camps, no until they end their respective club seasons around May 15.

Fringe players like Rowen Fernandez, Nasief Morris, Bryce Moon and Elrio van Heerden also cannot come for the camps.

If truth were told, these are exactly the players who would benefit most from the intensive fitness training that Parreira plans to impose over the next months.

Many of the above mentioned foreign-based Bafana Bafana internationals do not get frequent playing time and therefore their match readiness is in question.

Those who saw Benni McCarthy in the new tight-fitting Bafana kit will verify this point.

So what is the investment in the training camps achieving because it would a gargantuan waste of money?

Well it does focus everyone on the World Cup, now some 150 days away; it gives the impression that the coaches are hard at toil and it will ensure the PSL based players are fit as fiddles.

But let us not kid ourselves; this is more a public relations illusion than a vital part of getting ready for the biggest show in world football.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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