Give Shakes A Break!
Compliments of the New Year to all our readers and football lovers in general! I hope you guys had a fantastic festive season with your families and that 2015 will bring you closer to your hearts’ desires. A special word of congratulations to the Class of 2014 who passed matric last year. You’ve now reached an important stage in your lives. Unlucky to those who didn’t make it, but give it another shot. But back to the business of the day…
The biggest South African football news in the past week was Thulani Serero’s omission from Shakes Mashaba’s 23-man Bafana Bafana squad to do duty in the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea. There have been mixed reactions to this decision, with some labelling it ‘unfortunate’ and others believing it was ‘the best decision’.
In an ideal world, Serero’s name should be one of the first on the national team coach’s list, after all he is arguably our best player at the moment! He is enjoying regular game-time at Ajax Amsterdam, which is one of the best teams in one of the best leagues in the world. At face value, Serero should have easily walked into bra Shakes’ squad but, like any other coach, Shakes has his own way of doing things. Before his first match, after taking over the reins as the Bafana coach, Shakes had one of his players, Ayanda Patosi, miss a flight from Belgium to Sudan, thus resulting in him failing to report for camp. A few days later, an emotional Mashaba told Soccer Laduma TV, “You see, I’m talking about changing. People must change. I did indicate (that) anyone who is going to play in the team, like everybody, deserves a chance as long as you’re a football player, but (there are) three things that you’ve got to display: passion, commitment and patriotism. You’re not doing anyone a favour… all players need to change their attitude. That is all we are asking for.”
For years now, the pride in wearing the Bafana Bafana jersey has been absent. The passion in the players’ faces and body language has been non-existent, and any coach looking to restore that pride and passion deserves all the support they can get.
When you look at players like Darren Keet, for instance, who, until recently, received numerous call-ups all the way from Belgium, only to either be benched or to sit on the stands, without complaining, then you start to understand what Shakes is talking about. Now, because of his patriotism, commitment and passion, Keet will miss the birth of his son, as his eight-months-pregnant wife in Belgium is expected to give birth during the tournament. Now that’s passion, commitment and patriotism on another level! Andile Jali, too, showed real commitment when he reported for camp carrying a knee injury.
One would think that Mashaba had put his cards on the table by his statement that, regardless of who you are or where you ply your trade, the team’s principles come first. Whoever fails to toe the line will be removed from the team because, after all, it is about the team and not individuals. So, unlike millions of South African football lovers, I wasn’t shocked, but rather surprised, that Serero didn’t make the final cut. I was not shocked because I know that Shakes stands up for what he believes in. He is an unassuming disciplinarian who isn’t scared to lose his job if it is what it takes to protect his reputation. Look no further than how his last Bafana stint ended to see what I’m talking about. I was also not shocked because Serero had only played a few games for Mashaba in the qualifying campaign. I was surprised because of the way Serero brought life into the team in the penultimate AFCON qualifier against Sudan in Durban. ‘Cream’ brought a lot of creativity, flair and energy to the team. It wasn’t surprising to see him finally score his first official goal for Bafana Bafana in that match. He also picked up an assist for Tokelo Rantie’s goal and earned himself a Man of the Match award in the process.
It was on the back of this performance that I thought he had done enough to prove his worth, but individual performances come after teamwork. It is because of this teamwork that I believe Bafana can’t be held at ransom just because of one player’s stature. We can’t sacrifice team principles, lest we set a precedent. Whatever led to Serero’s omission from the team, as a number of theories have been bandied about, it is better for all of us to leave it to Shakes, Serero and SAFA to sort out. Bafana needs Serero’s qualities just as Serero needs the national team. No coach would leave a player of Serero’s calibre out of his team for no reason.
Let’s support Shakes and stop questioning his selections because every one of us would have a different 23-man squad if we were in his shoes, so there is no way to please everyone. Let’s give the man a break and rally behind him and his team. We all know what he has achieved in the short space of time that he’s been in charge of the team, so why question him? What more do we need to make us realise that Shakes knows what he’s doing? We qualified for this tournament without a defeat, a tournament he wasn’t even mandated to qualify for… surely this guy and his technical team are up to something, and the sooner we fully support them, the better.
On a different note, this is going to be a big year for the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club, so I’d like to invite all of you who have not yet signed up to please get in contact with our office by either calling or sending a ‘please call me’ to 082 563 0104, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org