'Prodigal' Pienaar returns to South Africa
Joel Santana, the man charged with nurturing the South African national team, has extended an olive branch to the country's prodigal son, Steven Pienaar, by calling him up for the forthcoming friendly against Norway on 28 March.
Pienaar, who has received a lot of criticism from the South African media for withdrawing from previous squads, has been named in Santana's 23-man squad to face the Europeans in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge at the refurbished Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
Pienaar, together with goalkeeper, Rowen Fernandez were the two surprise inclusion in Santana's squad. Fernandez has not played for Bafana Bafana since a 2-0 defeat by the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Abuja in June last year.
However, with a goalkeeper crisis in the South African camp, Santana has shown faith in the man, expected to take over from former Bafana Bafana No1, Hans Vonk, two years ago.
Santana has told journalists that he has never closed the door on Pienaar or Fernandez, but the Brazilian is clearly putting the press's feelings to one side as he attempts to assemble the best possible squad for what many have dubbed the country's ‘redemption journey.'
"I know that some of the selections will be surprises to the media, but people must understand, we are working with a group of players and we want to come up with the best list for the Confederations Cup. There is a lot at stake, we have to remain focused," said Santana.
Santana insisted that the South African team has the potential to be ‘number one' and compete with major football countries during both the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup™ in 2010.
"We want to be the main actors, not play the supporting role. This is a big play [the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup], and our objective is to play the main role; to be the team that is not scared of competing," he added.
Santana has only one match after the Norway game to fine-tune his charges before the FIFA Confederations Cup begins. Bafana Bafana are scheduled to play Portugal, a team led by former South Africa coach, Carlos Queiroz in Switzerland three days after their encounter with Norway.
Goalkeepers: Rowen Fernandez (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany) Calvin Marlin (Mamelodi Sundowns), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Defenders: Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers, England), Nasief Morris (Recreativo Huelva, Spain), Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tsepho Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Bryce Moon (Panathinaikos, Greece), Morgan Gould (SuperSport United), Lucas Thwala (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Masilo Modubi (KVC Westerlo, Belgium), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Golden Arrows), Lance Davids (SuperSport United), McBeth Sibaya (Ruban Kazan, Russia) Surprise Moriri (Mamelodi Sundowns) Steven Pienaar (Everton, England), Siyabonga Nkosi (Maccabi Netanya, Israel), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)
Forwards: Benni McCarthy (Blackburn Rovers, England), Bernard Parker (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Mabhudi Khenyeza (Ajax Cape Town)