Cape Town - While proclaiming "everything possible will be done” in the build-up to Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya, coach Stuart Baxter also admitted there were some frustrating organisational problems standing in the way.
"It is almost four months before we square up to Libya in the game we cannot lose in order to qualify for the 2019 AFCON finals in Cameroon alongside Group E leaders Nigeria," explained Baxter, "and obviously I would like to play a number of relevant warm-up games and also hold camps for the squad before the vital showdown for Bafana and Libya in mid-March.
"But," added the Bafana coach, "the problem is there is not a single date delegated by FIFA for international games during this entire preparation period - and this raises difficulties in not only securing the release of players, particularly those doing duty with overseas clubs, but also in securing the kind of opposition we deem as best-suited to sort out our combination."
Baxter revealed that SAFA will engage with all the overseas clubs who have Bafana players in their squads, stressing the importance of the game against Libya and asking them to be sympathetic wherever possible, pointing out the selection of Thulani Serero (Vitesse), Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg), Percy Tau (Royal Union) and Dino Ndlovu for the recent 1-1 Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria, while indicating there were also other overseas-based players under consideration for the Libya game.
Baxter said he was also hoping for full support from Absa Premiership clubs regarding the release of players, particularly as the Libyan national team are already operating as a closely-knit squad, demonstrating their mettle in the recent 8-1 thrashing of the Seychelles.
Libya are also delegated as the home team for the do-or-die confrontation against Bafana, but while CAF has ruled that due to the unrest brewing in the north African nation, they need to play home games outside the country, Baxter points out the Libyans are likely to choose one of neighbouring Tunisia or Morocco where they have already played a number of home games and can expect considerable support.
In addition, the Bafana coach said reports had circulated that the Libyan FA may make representation to CAF to waive the present home ban on the basis that the volatile conditions in the country had improved.
"But we know nothing about this," said Baxter. "All that we know at this juncture is that we don't know the exact venue where Bafana's AFCON destiny will be decided."