Ghana-South African Friendly Downgraded
On the eve of Bafana Bafana's departure for a friendly international against African Nations Cup hosts Equatorial Guinea, the encounters against Zambia and Ghana have been downgraded from fully fledged internationals to practice matches.
The disturbing news, instigated at the suggestion of Safa, was revealed by acting president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, and stems from the fact that the national association had experienced a mountain of problems in acquiring players for international duty.
Ironically, Safa had already informed Fifa that the Zambia and Ghana clashes, which are intended to help prepare the two nations for the forthcoming African Nations Cup tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon - for which Bafana failed to qualify - would take place as official international fixtures.
The about-face, which compounds a stream of Safa embarrassments in 2011, follows the failure to secure anything like a fully representative Bafana combination for the games scheduled against Zambia at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on January 11 and that against Ghana at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on January 15.
As these dates do not fall under a period designated by Fifa for international matches, Safa had been resigned to not acquiring the release of a number of overseas-based players to face Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Gabon.
The final nail in the coffin, was the shock announcement by local PSL clubs Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and Golden Arrows not to release their players either.
Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana kingpin Siphiwe Tshabalala is also having trials in England and is unavailable.
Chief Nonkonyane, who is filling in for the on-leave Kirsten Nematandani, said it was not totally clear why Pirates, Sundowns and Arrows had taken this decision - but efforts were being made to get to the bottom of the matter.
"It has been suggested the clubs feel their players need a break from soccer," said the acting Safa president.
"But we are not altogether sure of their reasoning."
"However, the time has come to implement a situation whereby all South Africans concerned act in the interest of the national team. In the meantime, Fifa has already been informed regarding the changed status of Bafana's meetings with Zambia and Gabon."
Sombre Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said there had not yet been confirmation from all the 22 players, in a revised squad who were earmarked to travel to Equatorial Guinea, for the game which is designed to open the new stadium built for the African Nations Cup.
None of the six overseas-based players will be available.
Another pin-prick to Safa's aspirations was the confirmation that plans to stage a four-nation tournament in South Africa at the same time as the African Nations Cup had been abandoned - "so as not to offend Caf and Africa who might see it as an attempt to detract from the continent's official tournament."