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Thursday, January 3, 2008
Pienaar hopes to delay African Nations departure

Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar hopes to be given special permission to play against Chelsea in the Carling Cup before linking up with South Africa for the African Nations Cup.

The 25-year-old is one of a host of Premier League stars forced to leave their clubs behind to take part in the competition in Ghana but he wants to delay his departure until the last possible moment.

The South African squad come together on January 5 but, with the semi-final clash occurring three days later, Pienaar hopes a compromise can be reached.

He told Everton's website: 'I'm supposed to be going on January 5 but we are trying our best so that I can stay for a bit longer.

'I hope we can agree on it because I am in-between at the minute and there is nothing I can do.

'I am like any other player and I want to be involved in the big games. The semi-final with Chelsea is so important and I want to be a part of the team that goes to Stamford Bridge. You always want to play for your country but you also always want to play for your club.'

Bafana Bafana do not start their campaign until January 23 against Angola, raising hopes that a deal can be struck.

'I'm stuck in the middle but I hope the association gives me a day free because they know how important this game is for me,' he added.

'It will be sad going away for so long especially when the team is doing so well. The spirit here is tremendous.'

Pienaar's availability would be a huge boost to Toffees boss David Moyes, who currently has injury doubts over midfielders Leon Osman, Thomas Gravesen and Tim Cahill, while Mikel Arteta has two more games of a three-match ban to serve.

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