JOHANNESBURG (AP) -South Africa lined up a friendly against Norway in January before the African Cup of Nations, with coach Gordon Igesund hoping to negotiate the early release of his players from their European clubs for the awkwardly placed tournament.
Bafana Bafana will play Norway at the rarely used Cape Town World Cup stadium on Jan. 8, just under two weeks before the start of the African championship, the South African Football Association said.
The national team would then have one more warm-up game before facing Cape Verde in the African Cup opener on Jan. 19 in Johannesburg.
Igesund was in England this week hoping to bargain for the early release of players from their clubs for the tournament, which traditionally falls in a busy and important period for European leagues and is bound to again spark the club vs. country row that surrounds Africa's championship.
Players should be released two weeks before the tournament according to FIFA rules, but South Africa wanted its players at least three weeks ahead, Igesund said.
Other top African teams were also set to ask for their European-based players to be allowed to leave their clubs early.
Igesund was hoping to meet with managers at Crystal Palace and Oldham, where South Africa midfield pair Kagisho Dikgacoi and Dean Furman play their club football. He would then travel to Greece, Belgium and Netherlands at the end of next week following South Africa's friendly with African champion Zambia.
"We are playing a very important tournament for the country and it is for this reason that we have to engage the managers to see if those players that we would have selected can be available when we start our camp," Igesund said. "South Africa will reciprocate by not calling up some of those players when their clubs have important fixtures in future."
Igesund and his assistant coach would try and meet with Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar after the former South Africa captain's surprise retirement from international football last month to concentrate on club duty. Igesund would also see if Norwich City's Andrew Surman, an England Under-21 international who was born in South Africa, was interested in playing for his country of birth.
The African Cup almost always leads to a tug-of-war between players' clubs and countries, with the likes of Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria also set to negotiate for their many European-based players.
Next year's Cup of Nations is further complicated as it will be the second in successive years following the moving of the tournament to odd years, meaning African players will be missing for over a month from their clubs for two straight seasons.
South Africa's game with Norway in January will be just the second international at Cape Town Stadium since the World Cup in 2010. South Africa won 2-1 in the last meeting between the teams in 2009.