The Thulani Serero saga is slowly but surely taking a turn for the ridiculous. Gordon Igesund’s comments this week that the Ajax Amsterdam midfielder “must apologise” for his alleged malingering during Bafana Bafana’s camp ahead of their match against Botswana last month have only served to add fuel to fire.
Igesund has clearly found Serero guilty, and pronounced on a sentence he deems fit. This is not the way to go about addressing an issue where, clearly, both parties seem to believe they are in the right.
The Bafana coach has repeatedly stated he made the right decision when, on the eve of that World Cup qualifier against the Zebras, he ordered Serero out of the camp in Durban, after the midfielder apparently expressed fears about starting the game due to what he said was muscle pain.
Serero, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence, claiming he was not feigning injury as accused. His club also confirmed on their website, a few days after the September 7 Botswana match, that he indeed returned to Amsterdam with a mild strain, although that didn’t prevent him starting in Ajax’s next match.
In a case such as this, it would be wise to first establish the facts, and that can only mean somebody neutral in the upper echelons of the SA Football Association hearing both sides of the story.
I thought this process was under way, as Igesund had stated last month he would compile a report and hand it to Safa for further action.
Lo and behold, this week, Igesund, when queried about Serero’s exceptional performance for Ajax last weekend – when he scored and was named man-of-the-match in the 3-0 win against Utrecht – responded by acting as a complainant, prosecutor and judge in a matter where he has a vested interest.
“Serero’s (international) future is in his own hands,” Igesund told reporters. “He must just write a letter to my assistant coaches and apologise, say he made a mistake. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.”
Mind you, Serero has said he’s done nothing wrong; that he was genuinely injured, and his club backed him by confirming the said injury. Why does Igesund believe the player would now agree to incriminate himself? Who, aside from Igesund and the technical team, has established precisely what the truth is?
Having taken the right path of involving Safa, Igesund should not have commented further on the issue, other than to leave it at the hands of the administration. But Igesund has never seen reason not to comment on anything, and this is one of his main weaknesses. Safa, too, have been silent on an issue that could well be put down to lack of international experience by a coach they’ve employed, and immaturity by one of the country’s brightest sparks.
Once he had submitted his side of the story, Igesund should have been told to shut it and wait for Serero’s response. Now before the player even responds to a letter which Igesund, bizarrely, revealed had been dispatched to him, the coach has determined how he must respond, and if that response is anything but the desired apology, what sanction would be imposed. As one headline put it: “Serero must say sorry, or no Bafana.”
This is no way of dealing with such a sensitive matter, where someone can arbitrarily determine guilt and sentence. At 23, Serero possibly has a long international future and it would be sad if Safa allowed this issue to be settled in a one-sided manner.
Igesund has expressed a desire to stay on as Bafana coach up to 2018, but ostracising talent, when Bafana are so limited, will not get him there in a hurry. He needs to develop a thick skin, rather than appear as if he’s picking a petty fight with a player whom he’s – oddly – called up just twice this year. Kicking Serero out of camp last month, when he had travelled to spend a week in his first Bafana camp since February, was sufficient punishment. Talking about him, finding him guilty and passing judgment at every turn could be read as an act of self-guilt on Igesund’s part. - Saturday Star
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