South African coach warned on foreign ban

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The Independent Football

South Africa's coach, Shakes Mashaba, could lose his job over a row with the country's football association about his squad selection for this week's friendly against England. Mashaba has upset leading Safa officials by refusing to change the domestic-based squad of players he has named to play Sven Goran Eriksson's side in Durban on Thursday.

According to newspaper reports in South Africa, pressure is mounting against Mashaba, and he is due to meet with Safa today after he ignored foreign-based players for the game, which is supposed to be the springboard for the nation's bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

An emergency Safa meeting was held on Friday with the chairman, Molefi Oliphant, and his deputy, Irvin Khoza, in attendance, along with 2010 bid committee chairman Danny Jordaan. Mashaba is apparently unhappy that several overseas players have failed to turn up for previous matches and has decided to ignore them for this fixture. This means South Africa are likely to be without established foreign-based stars such as Celta Vigo's Benni McCarthy, Ajax goalkeeper Hans Vonk, Leeds defender Lucas Radebe, Charlton striker Shaun Bartlett and Manchester United's Quinton Fortune.

The Safa committee released a statement saying they will monitor developments, but officials have confirmed they have privately asked Mashaba to reconsider his decision.

"Safa and the 2010 bid committee would like to accentuate the fact that the friendly match offers the bid committee a big platform to show the European audience that the Republic has the infrastructure to host the World Cup tournament," Oliphant said in the statement.

"The game will be broadcast to Europe, a key market for football, and we have insisted that key players such as David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Emile Heskey and Rio Ferdinand must be in the England team. The English Football Association obviously expect the same from us."

Mashaba has already indicated he will not be forced to change his team, and will take his legal representatives to the meeting with Safa. England are due to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Celtic's Alan Thompson believes his chances of an England call-up may have passed him by. His manager, Martin O'Neill, is one of his biggest admirers, and has once again called on Eriksson to turn to the midfield player to help solve his long-standing problems on the left flank.

The 29-year-old Thompson is in a rich vein of form, having scored five times in his last five outings, while his goals have also been a major factor behind Celtic's march to this week's Uefa Cup final. He could end the season with championship and European medals, but feels that the possibility of playing for his country is a remote one. "I don't hold much hope really – it's just nice when people do say that. If it comes along then it will be a bonus. I wouldn't say I have given up hope, but it's not something that I consider is going to happen.

"There is no point worrying about something that might never come around. There is no point in thinking that I would be better than a certain player doing that job." He claims that if Eriksson fails to come knocking now he never will – because he is in the form of his Celtic career.

Thompson said: "I think this is as good as I have ever played in this particular position. It is the position I have played at Celtic and I have never played it anywhere else before.

"I have never done it at Newcastle, Bolton or Aston Villa, but in the time I have been at Celtic this is possibly the best I have ever played."