Blow to Under-23's Tokyo Olympic preparations

Players pull out due to injuries, Covid-19

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
David Notoane (Coach) during the South African Olympic Soccer Team media briefing at SAFA House on June 03, 2021 in Johannesburg.
David Notoane (Coach) during the South African Olympic Soccer Team media briefing at SAFA House on June 03, 2021 in Johannesburg.
Image: Lee Warren

SA Under-23’s preparations for the Olympics appear to have hit a snag at the eleventh hour as injuries and positive Covid-19 cases have compelled five players to withdraw. 

Nine days ago, coach David Notoane confirmed his final 20-man squad for the Olympics, to be hosted by Japan’s Tokyo from July 23- August 8. Lyle Foster, Fagrie Lakay, Abbubaker Mobara (overage), Sipho Mbule and Keletso Makgalwa (who was on standby) are the five players who have since left the camp due to various medical reasons.

Speaking to Sowetan from their camp in Mpumalanga yesterday, Notoane conceded that the late withdrawals had thrown their programme into disarray. Apart from highlighting that Lakay pulled out due to a certain niggling injury, Notoane was not keen to give details on every player.

“It’s a big blow; it’s a big loss in terms of where we are with our preparations. Fagrie’s injuries are documented and it is what it is; there’s nothing we can do. Now we will look at how we will balance the team,’’ Notoane said yesterday.

“It’s difficult to comment on medical issues. I really can’t give out information on each and every player but our medical department will in due course engage you guys on these matters.”

Notoane suggested they could be tempted to source replacements from the Bafana Bafana team that is currently doing duty at the Cosafa Cup in Gqeberha. At the Olympics, SA are pitted against hosts Japan, Mexico and France in Group A. SA are expected to leave for Tokyo tomorrow.

“We’re busy adjusting our plans and strategies. It’s difficult now to get replacements because teams have already started pre-season…we’re looking around. Perhaps we might look at the players who’re at the Cosafa because you don’t want to take a player who is not ready for competition,’’ said Notoane.

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