Jordaan worried about 'disruptions' affecting SA under-23 football team's Olympic hopes
SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan hopes that disruptions to the South Africa Under-23 team's preparations ahead of the upcoming U-23 Africa Cup of Nations do not derail their qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Jordaan acknowledged that reaching Tokyo 2020 for a team who have progressed together and displayed their potential by reaching the 2015 Fifa Under-15 World Cup and 2017 and 2019 U-20 World Cups was crucial in the concluding phase of Safa’s "Vision 2022".
That masterplan envisages Bafana Bafana qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and being competitive there.
But a crucial cog in the plan has been disrupted by U-23 coach David Notoane departing for the U-23 Nations Cup in Egypt on Monday with just 15 players for SA’s tournament opener against Zambia at Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium.
With the beginning and end of the U-23 Afcon falling outside Fifa’s international date, Premier Soccer League and overseas-based clubs' reluctance to release players until obligated mean that Notoane will only have a full squad in the middle of the tournament.
“The Under-23 team that we have now is probably one of the best, if not the best, in our history,” said Jordaan.
“Because those players were in the U-15 World Cup, they went to the U-20 World Cup, and then the next batch went to the next U-20 World Cup. The argument always is that you must not start players in international U-23 and senior level without them going through the junior ranks – and they have gone through them.
“And you saw it in the qualifiers, where they wiped out everybody – Angola, Zimbabwe – by huge margins. And the coach is confident that it’s not just about qualification for Tokyo, they are there to win the U-23 Afcon.
“Of course, this [player withdrawals] has disrupted his plan … In Egypt, SA are the only team there without their best XI. All the other teams – Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia – have their best XIs."
Jordaan said this U-23 side are “the Bafana team of Vision 2022”.
“They went to the whole hog – the U-15 Nations Cup, U-15 World Cup, U-17 Nations Cup, U-20 Nations Cup and World Cup, U-23 Nations Cup, [and potentially] the U-23 Olympics.
“That is the kind of team that will give us Bafana in 2022 - and it’s been disrupted.”
The top three teams at the U-23 Nations Cup reach the Tokyo Olympics. SA are seeking a second qualification in succession, having reached the 2014 Games in Rio.