3 July 2020 – Bafana Bafana head coach Molefi Ntseki has weighed in on the cancelled Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which was scheduled for January, but will now be played a year later (2022).
The news comes at the back of FIFA also postponing the September 2020 International week for CAF, AFC, Concacaf and OFC.
The next available international window is October and November 2020, which has now been extended by a further day.
CAF has also been afforded an additional seven days for the June 2021 international window in order to facilitate the playing of four games instead of the current two.
All the changes have been necessitated by the unpredictable novel corona virus pandemic, which is still being felt the world over.
Ntseki says he is not surprised by all the changes but they offer hope for all football lovers as it shows that everyone is optimistic that international football will return someday.
He says we should appreciate the efforts made by the football governing authorities because health experts also guide them.
Ntseki spoke to SAFA Media, and here is what he had to say:
To be honest we have no control because we are not medical personnel, but we are technical people so we all act on the advice of health authorities.
This does not come as a surprise because if you think about it, what is happening in South Africa is a clear indication of the real situation – there is currently no football!
This goes to show just how difficult it is for everyone, especially on the continent. We know that some leagues around the world are on the go, but they had to go through stringent measures to be where they are today – the same will apply with us.
We are all aware that the Minister of Sport and Recreation in South Africa said clubs can start in small groups, but to date there hasn’t been any team on the field – except Cape Town City who had a taste of that yesterday.
CLUB FOOTBALL GUIDES NATIONAL TEAMS:
Remember for international football to be played, professional leagues have to be active, you can’t have it the other way round. National teams’ activities are guided by clubs – in short, no club football no international competition, it is that simple.
On the continent, there are a few leagues that are in action – and that tells you that international football is still far off.
So we should applaud the CAF Executive for the efforts they are making for the resumption of the game – and all what they are doing is giving positive vibes that there will be football soon, and in this case soon is relative.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE:
By postponing tournaments, they are trying to see into the future and hoping for a better tomorrow as they don’t want to put lives under threat.
So we basically have a year to can start playing – depending of course on how the pandemic is dealt with over the coming weeks and months on the continent.
At international level, we just have to stay positive.
Yes, we would have loved to have played all our matches by now, but that is beyond our control – what is in our control is hope, hope for the future.
Players will start off with playing for their clubs, so by the time they get to international football they will have recovered – mentally and physically – from the long break of not playing football. It has been a really bad experience without the game for so long, and now we edging ever so close to the resuming action.
Depending on how much time they are given to prepare for the league, it is going to be energy sapping for them as their fitness levels will be at their lowest for the type of athletes they are.
This is a horror experience for coaches and players alike not being on the field.
The reality is that when the games start, they will be playing back-to-back matches and that could be demanding on them.
With no action for the national teams, this will work in our favour, as we will have enough time to profile the players accordingly.
We will be able to get information from the GPS device, which will inform us on things like their fitness, endurance and speed, etc.
Those who were injured before will have healed and even reached their highest performance level and be ready for selection to the national team again.
THERE WILL BE FOOTBALL POST-COVID-19:
We need to stay positive and committed now, more than ever, to the sport we love.
There will be still be football post Covid-19, and we shall remain football people despite the challenges. The fact that the likes of FIFA and CAF are having conferences and discussions is a clear indication that we haven’t neglected the game.
We should see these meetings as a sign of being positive, and a question of shifting the calendar as and when a need arises.
U17 and U20 National Teams:
We have a huge challenge coming our way – and I am almost certain that FIFA and CAF are aware of it.
Having also shifted the junior tournaments becomes a huge problem for coaches because these tournaments are age-restricted.
The coaches are probably scratching their heads as to how they will move forward because the longer it takes for the professional sides to not start playing the longer it will push the national teams, in particular the junior sides, to be inactive.
The other challenge is that in South Africa not many juniors are involved in the game at professional level – which implies that even when the professional league starts they won’t be playing.
So the national team squads they had before Covid-19 may be older when international football starts and that means looking for new players to make up new squads.
The difficulty is that since they are not playing anywhere, you can’t even start scouting for that talent.
NOT IN OUR CONTROL:
The U17 level is even more difficult as the players there need to undergo mandatory age tests before they get into any CAF tournament.
So the coaches may have to come up with a proper strategy to get good young players, but eligible for competition – this may mean the players that played in the qualifiers may be outside of the age group
(When the qualifiers started, players born on or after 1 January 2003 are eligible to compete in the tournament. The South African U17 Women’s National Team was scheduled to face Morocco in the final round in May 2020 – with the U17 Women’s World Cup set for November this year, but has since being moved and will be held from 17 February to 7 March 2021 in India).
Some of those who played in the other qualifiers may not be eligible unless FIFA exempts them.
But then again, we have no control over this – and it just goes to show difficult it is for junior national teams.
But I am confident we will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel – for now we have to practice patience.