English Premiership football club Tottenham Hotspur arrived in South Africa yesterday morning for the pre-season Vodacom Challenge tournament.
Spurs were set to face local giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the week-long annual competition.
Spurs captain Michael Dawson said he expected the English Premiership outfit, competing in the tournament for the third time after appearances in 2003 and 2007, to be given a good workout from their hosts before their domestic season begins.
“We know the two teams and they are good,” Dawson said.
“I was part of the 2007 squad that came here.
“It’s great to be back and the lads are looking forward to the matches.
“It’s going to be a tough week that will set us up for our league season.”
Spurs coach Harry Redknapp did not arrive with the travelling party, having remained in England because of a tax court case.
While he was due to miss his team’s tournament opener against Chiefs in Polokwane on Saturday, he was expected to link up with his squad on Sunday.
Redknapp’s deputy, Kevin Bond, would be in charge against Chiefs, the tourists said, with Redknapp expected to be on the bench for their game against Pirates in Nelspruit on Tuesday and the final against either Chiefs or Pirates in Johannesburg next weekend.
“Harry has not travelled with us, but he is expected to join us later on in the tour,” said Spurs ambassador and former player Gary Mabbutt.
Two Bafana Bafana players — star midfielder Steven Pienaar and defender Bongani Khumalo — arrived with the squad, along with the likes of English Player of the Year Gareth Bale and Luca Modric.
Modric had reportedly considered a move to big-spending Chelsea ahead of the new season, but Spurs were not willing to part with the Croatian playmaker.
Dawson remained confident that Modric would remain a part of the team in their efforts to reclaim their former glory in the new domestic campaign.
“The transfer talks happen year in and year out and rumours come and go,” Dawson said.
“All we can do is to concentrate on the job ahead and aim at getting trophies this season.”
Tournament director Jabu Mathibela said tickets for the opener at the 45 000-seater Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane were almost sold out.
“We are sitting with a figure of over 90% of purchased tickets for Peter Mokaba and about 60% in Nelspruit at the moment,” Mathibela said. —Reuters