Thulani Serero’s Return to the Bafana Squad. Hit or Miss?

Context

Call it confidence or knowing your worth. Thulani Serero was quoted saying, “The sofa in Arnhem[city in Netherlands] is more comfortable than the South African bench”. This was when the player was making it quite clear that he would not avail himself for training unless he is guaranteed game time. Because of that stance, the South African Football Association (SAFA) then posed a ban on the player. However, Serero has had the ban lifted and is being recalled to the South African national team set up. Does this set good precedence for other players? Even before we decide on that, let us look on who exactly Thulani Serero is.

For them to be told that they could only interact with the player at training, if they would only step aside and let him shine on the field of play suggests that he considered himself far more important than they are.
— Simiso Shabangu, FirstTouch Africa

Player

Thulani Serero (#25) of Ajax in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona at Amsterdam Arena on November 26, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Nov. 25, 2013 - Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe)

Thulani Serero (#25) of Ajax in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona at Amsterdam Arena on November 26, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

(Nov. 25, 2013 - Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe)

Thulani Serero is a midfielder who plays for Vitesse (a Dutch professional football team) and of course the same position for the South African national team. Prior to this, he was gracing the pitch with an Ajax Cape Town jersey in the South African Premier Soccer League. During the 2010-2011 season, he carried his team to the the finals of the Telkom Knockout tournament. In the same year, he was awarded PSL Footballer of the Year, PSL Player of the Season, PSL Players' Player of the Season and the ABSA Premiership Red Hot Young Player award. Sounds familiar right? Yes, Tau recently had some sort of similar accolades before moving to Brighton in the English Premier League.


Apology

Some South Africans believe that what the player did was disrespectful and he owes the nation an apology. They believe that the comments undermined the authority of the coach also proving Serero’s arrogance towards his teammates and the nation. Most importantly, further comments about his Bafana teammates aggravated the situation. For them to be told that they could only interact with the player at training, if they would only step aside and let him shine on the field of play suggests that he considered himself far more important than they are. How easy is it going to be for the Dutch based player to integrate into the team after he previously exalted himself to that extent? The move to have Thulani player back on the field in South African colors in the absence of a formal apology could be a definite miss.


Desperate times

Thulani Serero of South Africa controls the ball during the International Friendly match between South Africa and Brazil at FNB Stadium on March 05, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (March 4, 2014 - Source: Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

Thulani Serero of South Africa controls the ball during the International Friendly match between South Africa and Brazil at FNB Stadium on March 05, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

(March 4, 2014 - Source: Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe)

Looking at the time at which the 28-year-old is being called up makes one realize that having him back might be the best move because a lot is at stake. The country is going into matchday 5 of the 6 qualifiers that determine who lands a finals spot at the 2019 AFCON in Cameroon. They are set to face the Super Eagles (Nigerian national team) in a top of the table group E clash. Looking at the track record of the Super Eagles who have have 9 points (1 point ahead of South Africa), Bafana Bafana cannot afford to hold back from having some of its superstars on the pitch due to a misunderstanding. For the sake of having the country participate in the AFCON, it is quite important for this move to be considered not as the best hit, but as a necessary hit. Talk about the end justifying the means.

Conclusion

We can never fully emphasise that soccer is really beyond the game itself, but about how it influences other aspects of life like our personality. One thing for sure that Thulani could have done was to demonstrate a bit of respect for his teammates and country, even when he was not afforded any game time. Being on the bench does not make anyone less of a player, but it can be considered as a time to learn. However, past mistakes should not deter us from seeing the good in our teammates so perhaps its in order for Bafana to shout Siyakwamukela (welcome) Thulani!