Nkosingiphile Ngcobo has been named in the much-awaited final men’s football squad for the Tokyo Olympics despite SA Under-23 coach David Notoane having earlier said Kaizer Chiefs would not release the player.
Notoane confirmed to TimesLIVE on Saturday that a compromise was reached for Ngcobo to join the Olympic squad after being part of Kaizer Chiefs’ travelling squad to the Caf Champions League final against Al Ahly in Morocco on July 17. SA’s first match at the Olympics is against hosts Japan at Tokyo Stadium on July 22.
Sascoc (the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) released the names of the 20-man squad on Saturday and in an about-turn Ngcobo was included, despite Notoane saying this week the creative midfielder, along with right-back Reeve Frosler, would be withheld by Chiefs.
Notoane said that the duo were being kept by Chiefs to take part in the club’s historic first Champions League final. The coach had said he had opted not to let the duo join the squad late as he was concerned about not having enough outfield players against Japan, but in a reversal Ngcobo will welcome Ngcobo in camp after July 17.
The creative midfielder will not be part of the U-23s’ current build-up in their camp in Mpumalanga.
“Initially it was a squad of 18 plus four, but the extra players now are allowed to be on the team sheet,” Notoane said, explaining the size of the 20-man squad.
“Initially the extra players would not be allowed to play, but because of injuries and [the challenges of] Covid-19 they relaxed the rules.
“So some teams will have 22 players. We have opted for 20.”
The SA Football Association apparently opted for a squad of 20 for cost reasons.
Notoane said a compromise was reached with Chiefs, where Frosler would still not be part of the SA Olympic squad, but Ngcobo will arrive late.
“He [Ngcobo] is joining after the [Champions League] final,” Notoane said.
Cape Town City utility player Abbubaker Mobara, 27, has been included as a utility player and to provide an experienced replacement for key performer Frosler at right-back.
Mobara famously marked Neymar out of the game when Owen Da Gama’s SA U-23s drew 0-0 with hosts Brazil at the 2016 Olympics.
Bafana Bafana captain Ronwen Williams, 29, is the only other overage player, among fellow goalkeepers Mondli Mpoto and Sifiso Mlungwana.
Notoane’s squad has had havoc wreaked upon it by the affects of Covid-19, with several warm-up friendlies and tournaments cancelled, and withdrawals of players.
Percy Tau, Gift Links, Thibang Phete, Siphephelo Sithole, Thapelo Morena and Siyabonga Dube are among overage and under-24 players who were declared unavailable for the tournament, which does not feature on a Fifa date.
But there is some notable talent included, including the SuperSport United midfield pairing of Teboho Mokoena and Sipho Mbule, and AmaZulu left-back Sibusiso Mabiliso.
Portugal-based Luther Singh and Kobamelo Kodisang (both SC Braga) and Baroka FC’s Evidence Makgopa, who scored a brace on his senior Bafana Bafana debut in last month’s 3-2 friendly win against Uganda at FNB Stadium, make for an exciting forward trio.
The squad is in reality an U-24 squad, as that is the age cut-off given the 2020 Olympics’ postponement by a year due to Covid-19.
After Japan, SA meet France (July 25) then Mexico (July 28) in Group A. They meet Australia in a final warm-up game on July 16.
Men’s football Olympic squad:
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United, 29), Mondli Mpoto (Bloemfontein Celtic, 22), Sifiso Mlungwana (Lamontville Golden Arrows, 24)
Defenders: Tercious Malepe (FC Minaj, Ukraine, 24), Luke Fleurs (SuperSport United, 21), Sibusiso Mabiliso (AmaZulu, 22), Abbubaker Mobara (Cape Town City, 27), Thabiso Monyane (Orlando Pirates, 21), Katlego Mohamme (University of Pretoria FC, 23)
Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United, 24), Thabo Cele (CD Cova Piedade, Portugal, 24), Nkosingiphile Ngcobo (Kaizer Chiefs, 21), Sipho Mbule (SuperSport United, 23), Goodman Mosele, (Baroka FC, 21), Kamohelo Mahlatsi, (Swallows FC, 22), Fagrie Lakay (Cape Town City, 24)
Forwards: Luther Singh (SC Braga, Portugal, 23), Evidence Makgopa (Baroka FC, 21), Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal, 20), Kobamelo Kodisang (SC Braga, Portugal, 21)
Coach: David Notoane
Assistant coach: Kwanele Kopo
Team manager: Mxolisi Sibam
Goalkeeper coach: Wendell Robinson
Kit manager: Nomthandazo Ncube