Pienaar to lead Bafana against Poland?
QUICKSILVER Steven Pienaar is in the Bafana Bafana squad to play Poland in the international fixture in Poland on Friday next week - and, what is more, he is designated to retain his role of captain.
This was the context of an emphatic statement yesterday from Bafana coach Gordon Igesund following a Sunday Times report that the diminutive Everton midfield kingpin was contemplating cutting ties with the national squad.
"I know nothing about this," said Igesund. "And until I hear something official I'm viewing Pienaar in the same light as I might any other candidate for the squad that will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday) to face Poland."
The Bafana coach said it was not his policy to make premature announcements regarding the selection of individual players, but he confirmed 31-year-old Pienaar's selection and status as captain "in order to clear the air".
Despite Igesund's forthright attitude regarding his approach towards players, there would seem reason to harbour a suspicion that the old maxim "there is no smoke without fire" might have an element of truth about it in this instance.
The Pienaar saga regarding his future with Bafana first came to light when he recently withdrew from the key, high-profile fixture against Brazil because of a proclaimed injury. Bafana's creditable 1-0 defeat against the five-times world champions was Igesund's first game in charge of Bafana, and it was clear he was disappointed at not having the services of a player of Pienaar's calibre in Sao Paulo.
And to add fuel to the fire, Pienaar's "injury" has not prevented him from missing any games for Everton in the Premier League and he was in harness again on Saturday when the Merseyside club climbed to second position in the log behind Chelsea after beating Southampton 3-1 in an impressive comeback success at Goodison Park. What is more, reports on the Everton website during the controversial period in question confirmed that "the club has no injury problems".
It has been suggested that the Pienaar-Bafana issue, in fact, revolves around the player's management, who are seeking special dispensation as to when he should and should not be called up for Bafana matches.
But in typical fashion, Igesund has confirmed he will not allow any player to have special privileges in this respect, proclaiming "what will the other players think if I deviate from this policy?"