The SA national U23 squad has arrived safely in Saudi Arabia ahead of their two international friendlies with the hosts.
Coach David Notoane is using the camp as part of his preparations for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in July next year.
Speaking to SAFA’s official website the coach gave an update on their trip and explained why he had to make some changes to the initial squad he announced last week.
Both Mamelodi Sundowns midfielders Siphesihle Mkhize and Promise Mkhuma were roped in for the injured Athenkosi Dlala and Keletso Makgalwa, respectively.
Dlala sustained a quad and ligament injury, while Makgalwa was deemed unfit to travel with the squad due to a groin injury. A third change was Maritzburg United defender Malebogo Modise who came in to replace AmaZulu’s Sibusiso Mabiliso who was ruled out of the team.
Notoane feels the trip was okay and as much as the injuries are a setback the team must soldier on. “We had initially roped in Athenkosi Dlala, Keletso Makgalwa, Sibusiso Mabiliso to be part of the squad,” he explained.
“We decided not to travel with Sibusiso Mabiliso because he had a family bereavement he had to attend to and due to the Coronavirus health protocols, our medical staff advised us that it would not be wise to bring a player into camp who might have been exposed to large gatherings. Mabiliso is a brilliant player, one that has graduated through our SAFA junior national teams and also doing well in his club.
“We will definitely have him over in one of our camps as we continue with our preparations for next year’s Olympics. Another player who could not join the team due to injury is Vitoria Guimaraes striker Lyle Foster,” he continued.
The coach is pleased with the growing number of players who qualify to play for the U23 team and feels it can only widen the pool and result in a strong team in Tokyo. “One always has to have ambitions and show growth in whatever they do. Ours is to perform well in the upcoming Olympic Games. We are quite aware that our National Under-23s are yet to progress into the knockout stages in this major world sporting event. We want to break that hoodoo. My personal ambition is to go out there with a squad strong enough to fight for a medal for our country.” Notoane concluded
The two friendlies will be played on the 14th and 17th of November.
Unfortunately for South African fans the games will not be televised, but they can catch live updates on SAFA’s official social media pages.
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By Prince Sobayeni