JOHANNESBURG — The chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, says players who will not play for their country are “selfish and egotistical”.
Report by BBC Sport
Ghana’s Michael Essien and the hosts’ Steven Pienaar are two stars who will miss January’s Afcon in South Africa.
“It cannot be right for any player produced (in Africa) to say I prefer my club,” Nonkonyana, who is also a vice-president of the South Africa Football Association, told BBC Sport.
Real Madrid’s Michael Essien has asked to be excused, while Everton’s Pienaar has retired from internationals.
“That is selfishness in my view, it is very egotistical. It is time to instill in every player national pride.”
Midfielder Essien, who is at Real on loan from Chelsea, said his priority is to secure his long-term club future — although he insists he remains committed to the Black Stars.
Ex-South Africa captain Pienaar, who plays for Everton, retired from internationals in October after telling coach Gordon Igesund he was “physically struggling to balance the demands of playing in England with the number of games required by South Africa”.
While Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah told BBC Sport he understands Essien’s situation, it is a view that is not shared by Nonkonyana.
“It is time now for players to be proud of their own nations. The gentlemen we are talking about, they are megastars now as a direct result of the contribution of their national associations,” he said.
“For them to disclaim their own national associations, their own country, it is something we cannot smile about. It is a pity they have decided that way.
“I would say to (Steven Pienaar), he must remember that he came from the ghettos in South Africa and he became a national player because the South African FA identified him and developed him to be where he was. He would not have gone to England unless he had some international caps.
“I hope he is listening to me. My plea is for him to reconsider and join the national team.”
Nonkonyana believes the problem is growing and needs to be addressed by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) as well as world football’s other governing bodies.
“It is time for all of us football administrators across the world to fight and uproot this scourge, this club versus country issue — Caf, Uefa and Fifa need to raise this matter,” he said.
“Those players that are disclaiming us, they do not have a bright future because our own ancestors would not be amused about what they are doing.”