Overseas-based players set to miss Afcon qualifiers

Covid travel restrictions hurt Bafana

Molefi Ntseki (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national mens soccer team arrival media briefing at Hilton Hotel on March 22, 2021 in Johannesburg.
Molefi Ntseki (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national mens soccer team arrival media briefing at Hilton Hotel on March 22, 2021 in Johannesburg.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi

Bafana Bafana have been hit hard by Covid-19 travel restrictions imposed by countries abroad ahead of their crucial 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) back-to-back qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan.

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing havoc to Bafana's Afcon preparations as some of the biggest stars are set to miss the Group C encounter against Ghana. Bafana will host the Black Stars of Ghana at the FNB Stadium on Thursday at 6pm without several of its stars. Keagan Dolly, (Montpellier FC, France), Dean Furman (Carlisle United, England), Luther Singh (Paços de Ferreira, Portugal), Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal), Thibang Phete (OS Belenenses SAD, Portugal), Siyanda Xulu (Haopel Tel Aviv, Israel), Thulani Serero (Al Jazira FC, Abu Dhabi) and Bongani Zungu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland) will miss the Ghana encounter. Bafana will travel to Sudan in the last group match on Sunday (6pm).

Ntseki and his technical team are crossing fingers that the negotiations to have some of these players will be successful. “Dolly was in tears when I spoke to him on Wednesday. Nobody is willing to help him. We are leaving everything in the hands of the government. Going back, Percy Tau will also have to quarantine in England as he is here to play for his country,” said Ntseki

Ntseki said Zungu would miss three matches in Scotland if he opted to come and play for his country. “It is difficult and personal and it is about the players’ jobs. Zungu must miss three games, including the Scottish Cup, if he comes here. As the coach, I had to make them understand that the players here will qualify on their behalf. We have to man up and win for them,” said Ntseki.

Ntseki and team doctor Thulani Ngwenya were left frustrated with the travel restrictions.

“We are negotiating with some of the countries to release the players,” Ngwenya said.

“Dolly’s situation is the problem in France. The regulation from France requires him to quarantine for 14 days when he gets back and that makes the situation unfavourable for the player. Zungu’s situation is promising in terms of negotiations. We are waiting for them to confirm if he will join us in Sudan. Those who have not joined us now will miss the Ghana game and would only join us in Sudan.”

 Despite the travel challenges, Ntseki promised a win against Ghana.

“Nobody from South Africa and nobody in Africa brought the Covid-19 pandemic and it is unfair for us to be punished, saying we cannot release players coming from South Africa because South Africa is a Covid-19 hotspot. All over the world is a hotspot and for them not to release our players is a big disappointment for us. In Africa we are told that with or without overseas-based players, we have to continue with the fixtures. We will deliver with what we have,” Ntseki said at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday.

He said whoever was in camp had to deliver and help Bafana qualify for Afcon. Bafana are tied on nine points with Ghana with two games remaining, while Sudan are third with six points, with Sao Tome and Principe bottom with zero points.

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