SAFA explain why Lehlogonolo Masalesa was withdrawn from Bafana Bafana squad
Posted: 13 July 2017 Time: 14:19
SAFA have expanded on why Bafana Bafana midfielder Lehlogonolo Masalesa has been withdrawn from the squad to face Botswana in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers.
In a statement SAFA gave the following explanation: 'Masalesa was initially not available for the clash as he was contracted to an overseas club but he has since been released from the contract and become available to play in the CHAN qualifiers – but the rules of the tournament state that only players plying their trade in the domestic league are eligible to play. With Masalesa not on the books of any local club, he is unable to be part of the Bafana Bafana squad.'
South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter admits that he has had to drastically alter his plans for the upcoming matches as a result of the latest developments.
“It’s has been an unfortunate process but we needed to confirm that he is eligible. Masalesa does not have a local address in terms of club affiliation, so it’s a blow because we had him in the starting line up and we will have to change the shape and the way we play," he said.
"I was up all night last night talking to a few coaches and Pitso Mosimane has come to our rescue and he will give us midfielder Sibusiso Kumalo. So at the moment we are in the process of trying to get him on board.
“We are just hoping that we don’t lose other players either to injury or to being recalled by their clubs because it has been difficult getting players for COSAFA Cup and CHAN, and it makes it almost impossible to make proper preparations.”
The inclusion of Kumalo brings to 15 the new players called up to the CHAN squad, leaving just eight that were in the COSAFA Castle Cup team.
Defender Mario Booysen will wear the captain’s armband in the absence of Masalesa.
Together with Masalesa, Booysen played every minute of every game in the COSAFA Castle Cup.
“Apart from Masalesa, Mario has been the one to take responsibility on his shoulders and tried to talk, help out the other boys. He also has a bit more experience than most, and he is a centre-back, I like defenders to be captains, I don’t like wingers or forwards because they are usually concentrated on their own role, they don’t like to help much,” added Baxter.
Bafana depart for Botswana this afternoon (13 July 2017).
They face the Zebras on Saturday, 15 July 2017 at the Francistown Stadium in Botswana at 15h00.
The second leg will be played a week later, Saturday, 22 July at the Moruleng Stadium in the North West.
The CHAN tournament will be hosted by Kenya and will take place from 11 January to 2 February 2018.