Johannesurg – The Thulani Serero saga refuses to die down, with Gordon Igesund maintaining the Bafana Bafana door would be open for the midfielder he kicked out of camp last week if he accepts his “mistake”.
Igesund on Monday woke up to headlines branding him a “liar”, after the Ajax Amsterdam player broke his silence about claims he requested not to start the World Cup qualifier against Botswana on Saturday.
But the Bafana coach, speaking at Orlando Stadium during the team’s preparation for Tuesday night’s friendly international against Zimbabwe (8.30pm) fired back, insisting he would stick to his guns on a sorry saga that has overshadowed South Africa’s failure to make the World Cup 2014 play-offs.
“I stick by what I said,” Igesund told reporters. “I read in the papers that I’m a liar, but that means the whole team is lying then. The truth is for the entire week Serero never came to us and said he’s injured. It’s true he never faked injury, and we never said he did. What he did was to tell our doctor that he doesn’t want to play because he’s got a big match coming up.”
It is thought the “big match” the attacking midfielder was referring to was Ajax’s Uefa Champions League tie against Barcelona next week, although he was quoted as vehemently dismissing this assertion.
Igesund said he had run into Serero at the airport on Sunday, and the duo briefly spoke about the saga. “I told him this is repairable. He needs to think about it really hard and accept he made a mistake so that we can move on. As with anybody, the door is not closed, but he needs to show total commitment. He can’t pick and choose which games he wants to play for the national team. Just because there’s a game against Barcelona coming up doesn’t mean we can’t select him. I told him he won’t be victimised. He hasn’t done much for Bafana but at 22 years old, there’s a lot of potential in him.”
Igesund’s next step is to draft a report which he’ll forward to the SA Football Association for the way forward on the matter. Safa would probably stick to what their coach and his colleagues say, meaning Serero may have to apologise even as he insists he was kicked out of camp for a genuine strain on his groin.
Igesund, meanwhile, says he’s disappointed at being called a liar. “What I have said is exactly what happened. It’s not a fabrication because I have nothing to gain from fabricating this. Serero did not want to play for us and he wanted us to say he’s injured when he’s not. We won’t punish him though. He must come out and say it’s true he made a mistake; he wanted to play against Barcelona, then we can move forward.”