So the powers that be at Safa, the ‘Brains Trust’ - if such a thing exists at Safa House – have decided in all their wisdom that the best thing to do as we look to forge a way forward is to ‘ban’ the country’s most exciting talent. Thulani Serero is on the ‘bad boy’ list and Safa wants answers or at least a written apology.
The reason seemingly is that Serero allegedly faked an injury so as to ensure his health ahead of a massive club encounter against Barcelona in a Champions League game.
Safa interpreted this as the player putting his own personal agenda and his own selfish needs before the needs of his country – a big no-no in their eyes. This in isolation is good. The country demands dedication to its cause. However, the irony of Safa officials being unhappy with someone who represents the country in football, yet puts their own needs before that of the country is not lost on me.
In my opinion, I would argue that the same thing has been happening for years at Safa, considering the way certain Safa officials have behaved. Yet nobody was banned at the time. As we slipped down the world rankings from being number 16 in the world to outside the top 20, 30, 40, 50, 60... as national youth teams became defunct, as Olympic qualifying teams time and again failed despite huge amounts of money pouring in, as Bafana failed to qualify for tournaments unless we hosted them. Yet there was no question of blame and no letter of apology required. If anything, it seemed that the most important aim at Safa was getting to be president and then holding onto that cash cow with your fellow cowboys for as long as you possibly could.
Not qualifying for a World Cup? No problem. Failing time and again to qualify for the African Cup of Nations and having little to no success at junior national level? No problem.
But woe betide a talented youngster like Thulani Serero allegedly faking an injury that prevents him from playing against the mighty Botswana, those African powerhouses. This is serious stuff and requires Safa to take a stand. When a young man who has been plagued by constant injury in Europe is nervous that he may miss out on the opportunity to play against what is widely regarded as the best club side in the history of football, against Messi, a player who will more than likely go down as the greatest to have played the game since Maradona and Pele... that requires action from Safa.
Come on, guys, you’ve got bigger fish to fry… the bribery scandal, sponsors running away left, right and centre, school football still non-existent. Igesund just needs to get on a plane and jet off to Holland and have some coffee with this young man. We need to sort this out. None of this letter-writing nonsense! Did Safa ask Santana to write a letter when he failed so miserably before leaving South Africa a rich man? Did Safa demand a letter from Carlos Alberto Parreira when he failed to deliver on the mandate of getting South Africa out of the group stages of our own World Cup, setting an embarrassing record of being the only ever host nation to achieve this feat?
Bafana can’t afford to have Thulani Serero declare that he is retiring from international football for his country. We need to build around him. For the next few years he needs to be the player we celebrate, the one we elevate, not the one we castigate. Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Paul Gascoigne, Benni McCarthy - all players who gave their associations problems of some sort, all players who were difficult to man manage for various reasons, but their countries were better when they were on the field, and Bafana Bafana is a better team with Thulani Serero.
In the meantime, perhaps Safa can begin penning their apology letter to the country. I suggest the following opening line, “Dear South African football lovers, we apologise for letting the country down, again, by not qualifying for the World Cup. But this is our plan to get us back to where we belong...”
Follow me on Twitter: @SoccaClint