SAFA fully supports Lyle Foster's request to sit out Bafana Bafana’s AFCON

SAFA fully supports Lyle Foster's request to sit out Bafana Bafana’s AFCON

SAFA CEO Lydia Monyepao says they have accepted Bafana Bafana and Burnley striker Lyle Foster’s request to be excused from the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament next month.

While announcing the final 23-man squad to play in Ivory Coast on Thursday, Bafana coach Hugo Broos revealed Foster had sent a letter to Monyepao indicating he would not be in a good state to play at the AFCON amid his mental health issues. 

READ: Full 23-man Bafana squad for 2023 AFCON

Monyepao, speaking exclusively to SABC Sport, says they have accepted his request because they know the importance of dealing with issues of mental health.

"He gave us his reasons, and I think you will remember that he had a mental problem when we had those friendlies against Eswatini and Ivory Coast," recalled Monyepao.

"I think when he was coming back [to playing for Burnley], that's when he wrote us a letter to say he won't be available for selection for the AFCON, and we gave him our blessings.

"With mental health, a lot of players have been having challenges, so we gave him our blessings."

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Foster was sidelined in October as Burnely coach Vincent Kompany revealed the player had experienced severe mental health challenges that required him to step away from football for a while.

The 23-year-old is now back in action and has played in three consecutive matches for the 19th-placed Premier League side, and after his inclusion in Broos’ 50-man preliminary squad comments from Kompany indicated the player would not be able to play in the continental tournament and the best thing for his current condition would be to remain in his normal club environment.

Monyepao says medical experts from SAFA and Burnley have dealt with the matter, as she also shared details of the contents of the letter she received.

"The two doctors – our chief medical officer Dr. Thulani Ngwenya and their medical officer [at Burnley] – discussed this thing at length, and they gave him time off, even the club gave him time off," she added.

"He asked us if he can not be considered for the national team for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, and he's formally declaring himself unavailable because he's been dealing with mental health issues.

"As much as he is passionate about representing the country, he would like to dedicate the upcoming weeks and months to improving his mental health and focussing on playing for his club, which is of utmost importance.

"So, you can see he wants to play for his club, but he feels maybe playing for the national team is going to add more pressure for him. He didn't say he's not going to play for his club, he's just excusing himself from the national team."

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