Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund has announced a 28-man squad that will play in the Nelson Mandela Challenge clash against reigning African champions Nigeria.
The match is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and kicks off at 20h15.
After the match, nine players will be released from the squad. Six Orlando Pirates players and three overseas-based will not be available for the second match against Burkina Faso in the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day on Saturday, 17 November at FNB Stadium.
Pirates has a CAF Champions League fixture on the same day that Bafana Bafana will play Burkina Faso, while the overseas-based players will return to their clubs since the match against AFCON runners up does not fall under the FIFA calendar.
“There is not much we can do, that is why we called a bloated squad as cover when certain players depart from camp. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are playing this match for the greatest statesman that has ever lived, Madiba. Moreover, these are two formidable teams we are going to face,” said the Bafana Bafana mentor.
“If you look at Nigeria, they have very good players and most of them play overseas, which shows this is not going to be an easy match. But at the same time it is a good challenge for our players having to face the two sides. It gives us great preparation for our crucial Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Botswana next month.”
Igesund has given first time call-ups to Luyolo Nomandela (Free State Stars) and Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns).
Goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who was also at the COSAFA CUP tournament where he was captain, has also been included alongside Itumeleng Khune and Senzo Meyiwa.
Andile Jali (Orlando Pirates) and Innocent Mdledle (Supersport United) make a return after long absence from the national team, while Tshepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs) and Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates) have recovered from their injuries.
The Bafana Bafana head has also rewarded some of the players who did duty in the 2013 COSAFA Cup tournament in Zambia where Bafana Bafana finished a credible third with mostly unrecognised players.
The five are defenders Tshepo Gumede (Platinum Stars), Buhle Mkhwanazi (Tuks), Thulani Hlatshwayo (Ajax Cape Town), midfield strongman Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), and striker Lebogang Manyama (Ajax Cape Town).
“It’s a good opportunity to have another look at them in a different environment. I said when we returned from Zambia that some of the players raised their hands and could be rewarded with a call-up and I feel this is a good opportunity to have them in squad. They deserve to be called up because they did well,” said Igesund.
“We have more local-based players which stands us in good stead for the upcoming Chan tournament that we are hosting.”
The squad will assemble on Sunday, 11 August in the evening and will depart for Durban on Monday, 12 August.
The first training session will be held in the afternoon at People’s Park, with the second and last one at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday, 13 August.
Bafana Bafana leave Durban on Thursday, 15 August to prepare for the second match in Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, tickets for the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge clash are already on sale.