local soccer 19.4.2016 12:00 pm

Over-age players selection headache for Da Gama

Over-age players selection headache for Da Gama

National U23 team coach Owen da Gama has some very difficult decisions to make with regards as to which three over-age players he decides to take to this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

Each country is allowed to take three players over the age of 23 as part of their squad for the tournament. And while Barcelona forward Neymar has been confirmed for Brazil and Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao is a possibility for Columbia, South Africa’s current list of possible over-age players, uncovered by the Times, has some rather unexpected names on it.

The list is currently made up entirely of domestic-based players, and does contain some stellar options, such as Thulani Hlathswayo (Bidvest Wits), Mulomowandau Mathoho (Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba (Pirates), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Prince Nxumalo (Ajax Cape Town), Ndumiso Mabena (Platinum Stars), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United) and Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs).

But is also contains several very left-field options, including Surprise Moriri (Sundowns), Solomon Mathe (Platinum Stars) and Tlou Segolela (also Platinum Stars). Moriri is 36-years-old and has played in only two league matches this season. The former Silver Stars forward can at least lay claim to having been a regular in the Bafana side in years gone by; 35-year-old Dikwena midfielder Mathe, can’t.

The likes of Segolela and yet another player from Da Gama’s former Stars side, Isaac Nhlapo, have hardly set the domestic scene alight this season, while Free State Stars striker Moekesti Sekola may have been the league’s top scorer last season, but has only managed two goals in the current campaign. Siyabonga Mpontshane, another former Platinum Stars player, has barely featured in goal for Orlando Pirates.

Da Gama meanwhile admitted to giving preference to players he has personally worked with at club level before:

“I can take only three players and you never know who will be available in terms of fitness and injury,” he told Times Live.

“So I have added the names of players like Surprise and Mathe. I’ve got to work with players I know. I saw Surprise play the other day and I could not believe he hasn’t had more opportunity this season, he’s such a clever player.”

Da Gama has however not ruled out the possibility of casting his net further, and will be hoping to lure some of South Africa’s overseas-based stars into the picture, which could open the door for the likes of Andile Jali, Kermit Erasmus, Mandla Masango, Daylon Claasen, Ayanda Patosi and Thulani Serero, many of whom are in their mid-20’s and have represented either or both junior and senior national teams in the last few years.

“I will be meeting with the Safa CEO (Dennis Mumble) this week and will try to see what we can do in order to try to persuade foreign clubs to release players like Andile Jali,” said da Gama.

“I mean they should be keen because the Belgian league is a selling league and for Jali to play at the Olympics is for him to be in the shop window.”

The full list, as reportedly obtained by the Times, is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Jackson Mabokgwane (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Siyabonga Mpontshane (Orlando Pirates), Reyaad Pieterse (Chiefs) and Ronwen Williams (Supersport)

Defenders: Thulani Hlathswayo (Wits), Mulomowandau Mathoho (Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba (Pirates) and Isaac Nhlapo (Platinum Stars)

Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Solomon Mathe (Stars), Surprise Moriri, Asavela Mbekile (both Sundowns), Thabo Rakhale (Pirates) and Tlou Segolela (Stars)

Strikers: Ndumiso Mabena (Stars), Thabo Mnyamane (University of Pretoria), Prince Nxumalo (Ajax Cape Town) and Moeketsi Sekola (Free State Stars).

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