Heading home … Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones.JOHANNESBURG: FIFA has granted the Australian team dispensation on humanitarian grounds to replace reserve keeper Brad Jones. Jones has left the team’s training camp in South Africa for London due to a health issue involving a family member.
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While Australian officials declined to elaborate on the exact details of his situation, it is understood Jones’s young son is seriously ill.

Under normal circumstances no player can be replaced in the 23-man World Cup squad other than for medical reasons but FIFA has relented on this occasion.

Jones is Australia’s third-choice keeper and, while he was unlikely to figure in the tournament, coach Pim Verbeek did not want to leave himself shorthanded.

At this stage, Jones has not officially withdrawn from the World Cup but FIFA has given him the option to make that decision after discussions with his family.

Verbeek said the 28-year-old West Australian would be given time to make up his mind whether to compete or officially withdraw before any final decision was made to ask for a replacement.

“We expect him not to come back – that says enough about the seriousness of the matter,” Verbeek said.

“The FFA is in contact with FIFA … at this stage we cannot 100 per cent say Brad is not coming back.

“We have decided he needs to be with (his family), as long as he needs to be there.

“It is a very serious matter and we wish him strength and luck and everything that is necessary for him to be with his family and support his family.”

Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill said the close-knit squad had been deeply affected by Jones’s news – relayed to the players before their 3-1 friendly defeat by the United States on Saturday.

“We consider ourselves a family, and the news we heard … it was devastating. It hit all the boys for six,” Neill said.

“We wish Brad and his family all the strength and the luck they’re going to need.

“I’m sure the character that he is, he’ll be big and strong for his family. He has our support.”

If Jones withdraws, he will be replaced by Adelaide United keeper Eugene Galekovic, who is in South Africa as back-up.

Galekovic was regarded by many as unfortunate not to have been in the official squad after starring for the Reds in the Asian Champions League, and is a worthy replacement.

Feelings within the Socceroos squad about Jones’s personal drama were evident when they scored the goal against the US in Saturday night’s warm-up match at Roodepoort. Tim Cahill and Luke Wilkshire both paid tribute to Jones after Cahill’s first half goal.

Meanwhile, team officials have sought to alleviate any concerns over Cahill, who was forced to leave the field at half-time in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the USA after injuring his neck.

”Scans have cleared him of any serious injuries,” an FFA spokesman said yesterday. Staff will continue to monitor him.

– with AAP