Agreement sought to secure him for Olympics
SOUTH African Under-23 coach Owen da Gama says Keagan Dolly is the team’s “Neymar”‚ and as such has been allowed to join Mamelodi Sundowns in the Caf Champions League this month‚ hopefully in return for his participation in the Olympics in August.
Dolly has been released from the Bafana Bafana squad for this month’s Cosafa Cup in Namibia.
Da Gama said the SA U23s hoped to finalise an agreement with Sundowns that would see Dolly available for the Olympics‚ and also a friendly against Japan on June 29‚ and yet-to-be announced big name opponents on July 8.
The Olympic men’s football tournament takes place from August 3 to 20.
Da Gama‚ also assistant coach of Bafana‚ admitted of Dolly after the Downs midfielder set up two goals and scored the other two from range in the senior national team’s 4-0 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win against Gambia in Bakau on Saturday that: “He’s at a different level.”
Da Gama said Dolly would be free to play for Sundowns in their first Caf Champions League group stage match against Algerian club ES Setif on June 18.
“Sundowns are playing the Champions League and we have got to respect that.
“So Keagan will not be part of Cosafa‚” the U23 coach said. “We haven’t finalised it but we believe there’s got to be a compromise.
“We’ve got to also allow Sundowns the chance to go to the highest level.
“Then we hope to have him for the Olympics.
“We’re playing Japan on the 29th and there’s another big friendly on the eighth which has not been finalised‚ which is massive – and we hope to have him in those games.
“As Brazil respect Neymar‚ who is not part of their friendly matches‚ we respect Dolly.”
Da Gama said Dolly was South Africa’s version of Neymar – the Barcelona star who will be part of hosts Brazil’s squad as an overage player at the Olympics.
“He is the South African Neymar‚ I don’t care what anybody says. He is just absolutely fantastic‚” Da Gama said.
The U23 coach said the team would go into camp on Tuesday ahead of the Cosafa Cup in Windhoek.
South Africa have a bye into the quarterfinals where they will meet the winners of Group B (Malawi‚ Angola‚ Lesotho or Mauritius) on June 18.
Bafana’s squad at the Cosafa consists of U23 players in preparation for the Olympics‚ and is to be jointly coached by Da Gama and senior team head coach Shakes Mashaba.
“We’ve allowed people like [Bafana centre-back] Rivaldo Coetzee to come to camp on Sunday‚ just to give him a bit of a rest‚” Da Gama said.
“Rivaldo is big for us. And we are bringing in some other players like Themba Sikhakhane‚ to try to fortify the defence.
“We score goals. We score against Brazil‚ we score against anybody. But the important thing is to make sure the goalkeeping position is 100% and the defence is very strong.”
The SA U23s lost 3-1 against Brazil in a friendly in March.
Ajax Cape Town goalkeeper Jody February was the star of Young Bafana’s third-place playoff win against hosts Senegal at the Caf U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in December.