Thursday Aug 15, 2019. 16:30
South Africa have named overseas-based youngsters Siph Mdlalose and Katlego Mashigo in their squad for the All Africa Games in Morocco, but coach Helman Mkhalele admits it has been tough to get a pool of players together.
South Africa play the hosts in their Group A opener on Friday, but only arrive in the country just 24 hours before as their participation was in doubt after the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) initially refused to sanction their trip.
It took the intervention of government to finally get the go-ahead for the players to leave, as SASCOC said any teams or athletes not in line for qualification at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would not compete in Morocco.
As the Olympics is an Under-23 football competition, and the All Africa Games Under-20, this create an impasse that was only resolved at the 11thhour.
The team has now left though, with caretaker Under-20 coach Mkhalele having to scrabble around for players that are either free agents, at academies or not involved in the current plans of their clubs.
This has opened the door for Mdlalose, who was released by English Premier League Southampton at the end of last season and has yet to find a new club.
Mkhalele has put a brave face on the selection he was able to make.
“I am very happy with the final squad that we have assembled here for this tournament,” he said. “We would have loved to have had our experienced players who competed in both the 2019 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations and 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup tournaments, however, they were not available for selection due to club and school commitments.
“However, having said that, this will also serve as an opportunity for us to assess some of the new players that we have brought in to see as to what they can offer the national U-20s moving forward.
“We have also roped in players who have worked with coach Molefi Ntseki in the Under-17 level to help fast track their growth in the sport and as national team players. In the end, it is truly up to this group of players to make full use of this opportunity and prove what they can offer at this level.”
After Morocco, South Africa will take on Nigeria on Tuesday and Burkina Faso next Friday.
South Africa squad:
Goalkeepers: Glen Baadjies (Mamelodi Sundowns), Buhle Damane (Vitoria Setubal)
Defenders: Thabo Moloisane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Fezile Gcaba (Pela Pele), Siyanda Msani (Mamelodi Sundowns), SphiweNkabinde (Stars of Africa Academy), Thabo Molea (Jomo Cosmos), Mohammed Shahabodies (Stars of Africa Academy)
Midfielders: Anele Maqala (Virginia Sports Academy), Randzilani Ndamuleo (SuperSport United), Ofentse Mashiane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Dante Brown (Ajax Cape Town), Katlego Mashigo (Bohemian), Onke Moletshe (Jomo Cosmos), Siphsehle Mdlalose (unattached)
Forwards: Katlego Cwinyana (Pele Pele), Sechaba Tsoaela (Virginia Sports Academy), Junior Nare (Bidvest Wits)