Mokoena lashes coach over snub

2011-03-26 19:00

Teboho Aaron “Mbazo” Mokoena has thrown down the gauntlet to Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane after being dropped for last night’s ­crucial Africa Cup of Nations ­qualifier against Egypt.

The sturdy defender, who stands 1.85m tall and turns 31 on ­November 25, said he was disappointed at the “cowardly way” Mosimane handled his exclusion from the team, which led to a huge brouhaha in the country.

“I would have expected the coach to at least notify me before announcing the team,” an ­obviously peeved Mokoena told a packed media conference he had called to clear the air.

“It is not my exclusion from the team that I am disappointed over, but how it was done.”

Speaking for the first time since Mosimane announced his team last Tuesday, Mokoena hissed: “I am not bitter nor angry, but disappointed. I respect the coach’s decision and I know it is final as he is the boss.

“It is not about me or individuals but about the country and what he thinks is right for him and the nation,” said Mokoena.

Saying he was heartened by the messages of support from former players and even ex-Bafana captain Lucas Radebe, who this week came out in support of Mokoena, saying the team needed his experience, Mokoena had a strong ­message for Mosimane.

“I will not be coerced into early retirement,” said the player who made his debut for Bafana Bafana against Botwana in 1999 at the tender age of 19.

“I believe I still have a contribution to make to the team and as a result will always avail myself for the country as and when it needs me. I am experienced enough to know that I won’t be there forever, but for now I am available.”

Popularly known as “Mbazo” [The Axe], Mokoena, who cut his professional soccer teeth with ­Jomo Cosmos, played for South Africa at the 2000 Olympic Games and captained Bafana at the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Africa Cup of Nations as well as at the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup hosted in South Africa.

He won his 100th cap against Guatemala on May 3 last year, which he celebrated by taking to the field wearing the number 100 on the back of his shirt.

On Wednesday, November 10 last year, he became only the second South African to be awarded the Freedom of the City of ­London after former ­president Nelson Mandela, who received the honour in 1996 while he was on a state visit to Britain.

The Portsmouth defender was quick, though, to add that his relationship with Mosimane had been a healthy one, saying the coach had explained to him the reasoning behind not fielding him against Kenya last month.

“Before the US game we did speak on the phone, and even when he didn’t play me against Kenya, he explained the situation to me and I had no problem with that. But I don’t need favours from anyone.”

He said he knew that his time would eventually come.

“I have been in the game for a long time to understand you can be dropped or sit it out on the bench. It is part of the game.

In football, players come and go and I know my time will come one day.”

However, the most capped ­Bafana player with 107 matches ­insisted that his omission would not make him reconsider his ­international career.

“I am not about to hang up my boots,” he said firmly.

Before Mokoena’s conference, Mosimane insisted that the hard-tackling defender was still part of his plans.

“The decision taken was not personal, it was merely tactical,” Mosimane said on Friday.

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