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Notoane ‘not worried’ as Safa yet to confirm March matches for Olympic team

Sazi Hadebe Sports reporter
South Africa Under-23 coach David Notoane.
South Africa Under-23 coach David Notoane.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa Under-23 coach David Notoane is not too worried about his team perhaps not having as many preparation matches as possible ahead of the 2020 Olympics‚ which gets under way in less than six months in Tokyo.

Notoane was speaking to TimesLIVE a few days before another Fifa international break at the end of March where he is yet to be assured by the SA Football Association (Safa) on whether his charges will have a game or two to warm up for the tournament.

“I will know probably next week if we have a match. It’s been very difficult to arrange things‚ whether we want teams to come here or visit them‚ because of Covid-19‚” said Notoane‚ whose team qualified alongside Egypt and Ivory Coast late in 2019 as African representatives for the 25th Olympic football tournament in Tokyo.

“We have had withdrawals already of the teams that we wanted to play against in the coming international break‚ but I think the association is working on getting something.

“Whether we play on not we’ll have to organise a camp that will also involve players playing abroad.”

The former Santos striker admitted that not having games arranged is an impediment for his team in terms of ensuring that everyone understands how he wants them to play at the tournament.

But seeing many Under-23 players getting a run in their clubs this season‚ Notoane sees a bit of a silver lining as he says many players will be fit when the 16-team tournament event starts on July 21 in Japan.

Notoane said seeing a player like Nkosingiphile Ngcobo‚ who was going to miss the tournament because of injury if it was not postponed last year because of Covid-19‚ playing for Kaizer Chiefs regularly this season gives him a lot of encouragement.

“To be honest with you‚ in terms of where the team is and where the individual players are‚ I’m taking comfort from the fact that a lot of the players that have qualified the team have responded well to challenges we have.

“Guys like Grant Margeman‚ though‚ not playing regularly at Sundowns‚ Kamohelo Matlatsi at Swallows‚ Fagrie Lakay is back buzzing [Stellenbosch FC]‚ Tebogo Mokoena and Sipho Mbule at SuperSport [United].

“So when I sit every day and watch games and follow on these boys performances … I mean‚ you see Mshini [Ngcobo] buzzing at Chiefs. Njabulo Blom is there and about at Chiefs.

“Bongani Sam is getting a run at [Orlando] Pirates – so to be honest with you‚ I’m taking a lot of positivity and confidence in that.

“Even if we’re not getting an ideal situation but if the players are playing at the highest competitive league‚ at least they won’t come into camp rusty.

“We’ll have six to eight weeks to train before the tournament after the season and at least then I won’t have to worry about physical fitness.

“As you know our teams are using different tactics in the PSL‚ some are building up and some are kicking it long. And when you come into camp‚ eish it’s chaos trying to align them to your game.

“But all in all‚ I’m not very much worried [about not getting friendlies].”

Brazil‚ Argentina‚ Australia‚ Japan‚ Saudi Arabia‚ South Korea‚ New Zealand‚ Spain‚ France‚ Germany‚ Romania have also qualified for the Games while two teams from Concacaf are yet to be determined. The draw for the tournaments is expected to be done in Tokyo next month.