JOHANNESBURG - Aaron Mokoena, who is Bafana Bafana’s most capped player with a 107 appearances, has weighed in on the Thulani Serero saga.
Dutch-based Serero this week told national team coach Stuart Baxter to excuse him from Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Senegal as well as future call-ups if he doesn’t give him guarantees that he would start. Mokoena was appalled.
“This is sad, to be honest with you,” he said from the Bafana hotel here, where he is part of Baxter’s support staff. “I think there is some outside influence. I know I will be criticised for saying this, but I don’t think he has done himself any favours.
"The timing is just bad. This is a World Cup qualifier and the chance to go there is in our hands. The coach is trying to call the best players in the country, and to get withdrawals of two guys who are among his best players just breaks my heart.”
Tokelo Rantie is another prima donna who recently told Baxter he was not in the right frame of mind to play for the national team. So, the coach left the striker out of his 26-man squad for the back-to-back Senegal matches when he announced the team two weeks ago.
It was then that Baxter had spoken so glowingly about Serero, who was fresh from winning the Player of the Month for August and September in the Dutch Eredivisie.
“I have been in this situation before, but I have never asked a manager to guarantee me game time. Even at club level I would knock on their door and ask for an explanation as to why I am not playing, but I never once received confirmation that I would be guaranteed to play,” said Mokoena, who captained Bafana at the 2010 World Cup.
“When I was called up, it was always a privilege. It is my country. How can I not want to play for them? If I get a chance to speak to these guys, my message would be clear and simple. They need to give this some thought. I think they have let other people influence this decision, but, and I am talking from experience, those people you won’t find them anywhere near you when your football career is over.
"They have this life of glamour right now where they earn big money as footballers, but there is a serious life after that when you are done playing. The foundation starts now, and this decision shouldn’t be part of that foundation. The next phase of life will be affected.”
While Rantie was a key figure in Baxter’s plans until recently, Serero was still yet to feature in any of the games.
“Serero is such a fantastic player, and I am a huge fan. We are talking about a player that has played for Ajax and in the Champions League. But he is at Vitesse Arnhem now and he is taking such a decision? There’s a big difference between those two clubs. There are so many players who played at Ajax that never asked for guarantees.
"I know I will be unpopular for saying this, but how can a player who is at Arnhem make such a decision? I’m going to get nailed for this, but he and Rantie should have sought better advice.”