Johannesburg – If Thulani Serero runs out to play for Ajax Amsterdam at home to PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Eredivisie on Saturday. I expect a fly on the wall in Gordon Igesund’s house could well be eradicated by the jets of steam flying from the Bafana coach’s ears.
Serero was booted out of the Bafana Bafana camp on Friday, according to Igesund, because he was not willing to play in Saturday’s World Cup 2014 qualifier against Botswana, concerned about aggravating an injury ahead of Ajax Amsterdam’s Uefa Champions League game against Barcelona on September 18.
The Bafana team doctor has backed up Igesund’s claim that Serero was not injured, and Igesund has questioned Serero’s attitude and patriotism, brandishing his behaviour “insulting”.
Serero has hit back at Igesund, claiming he was genuinely injured (a long-standing groin problem), querying how he could possibly know if he was going to be selected for the Barcelona game.
I have sympathy with both parties here, frankly, whoever is telling the truth. Serero has had an injury-ravaged time at Ajax Amsterdam, failing to nail down a regular place in the first team.
The sale of Christian Eriksen to Tottenham in the transfer window has opened up a noticeable spot in the Ajax first XI this season, and Serero made his first Eredivisie start of the campaign for the Dutch side at FC Groningen on August 31.
I suspect Serero may have come into the Bafana camp with his club situation firmly on his mind.
At 23, the time is ripe for him to really make an impact on the European scene. As much as we might like to deny it, it is the club that butters a player’s bread, and patriotism tends to hide behind the payroll.
Whether Serero was injured or not, he cannot be blamed, in my mind, for not wanting to play Botswana.
As for Igesund, he has every right to be upset that a player, who in his mind was fit and raring to go, and who turned up in South Africa, suddenly pronounced himself unfit to play Botswana.
Let’s say, for example, that Igesund now sees Serero play on Saturday against Zwolle, ahead of the Barcelona game. Is there not also the same risk of injury there, that there might be in an international?
Whatever happens, my hope is that Serero’s club career takes off this season, and that he and Igesund can put aside any differences, and he can become a regular Bafana international.
He is just too good a player to be left on the sidelines.