Innocent Maela still hopeful of AFCON selection

Innocent Maela is hopeful of returning from injury in time to make the final Bafana Bafana Africa Cup of Nations squad.

The 31-year-old Orlando Pirates is recovering from surgery he underwent in September on his groin.

Bafana Bafana boss Hugo Broos admits it is unlikely the player will be fit in time for selection, with AFCON starting in January.

While Maela is expected to make a return to training with Pirates in the coming days, he hasn’t played a competitive match since the 1-0 defeat to Jwaneng Galaxy in the first leg of their CAF Champions League second preliminary round tie.

He said in the Sowetan: “Injuries are never a good thing. It was disappointing for me to go through what I’ve been going through but it’s an opportunity for me to come back stronger and make sure when I come back that I perform at a level that I am known for.

“I have missed a lot of action in the national team as well… considering that AFCON is around the corner, this isn’t nice but I am confident that I will be back and earn a spot in the national side for AFCON.”

After announcing his squad for the recent World Cup qualifiers with Benin and Rwanda, Broos said: “As Maela is still injured, I’m afraid he will not be there for AFCON. So, we need someone there. Therefore, we have Bradley (Cross) now and let’s hope that he can satisfy us.”