Serero’s clean sweep

2011-06-04 00:00

WHILE Orlando Pirates players, staff and supporters might only now be recovering from the hangover that followed winning an impressive treble this season, the hottest man in South African football right now is somebody who didn’t win a thing with his club.

Fortunately for Thulani Serero, the disappointment of missing out on a first league title with Ajax was softened by a clean sweep at this week’s PSL Awards ceremony.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder walked away with no fewer than four awards — and four hefty cheques — in the categories of PSL Footballer of the Year, Absa Premiership Player of the Season, Absa Premiership Players’ Player of the Season and Absa Premiership Red Hot Young Player. In total, Serero walked away with R600 000 in prize money.

Nobody can argue with the amount of money granted to the winners on the night. It was actually encouraging for South African football to see some valuable cheques floating around the Lyric Theatre on Sunday. It certainly made a change from those oversized cardboard man-of-the-match cheques at post-match PSL interviews worth R1 000 and put things into perspective when one thinks of how far our club structure still has to go.

After all, Serero’s winnings on Sunday were the product of a season of hard work and enterprising play. For his efforts he was rewarded with roughly the same amount of money that a top European footballer would earn in a week.

Serero is well on his way to becoming one of those European footballers, though, as he has been rewarded with a four-year contract at mother club Ajax Amsterdam. Serero will arrive in Holland later this month to have his medicals in what has been confirmed as the biggest transfer between a South African club and an overseas club in the sport’s history. Ajax, the Dutch one, has just celebrated its 30th league triumph in Holland and will be taking part in next season’s Uefa Champions League. Serero certainly has made it.

There was, however, controversy that arose from Serero’s claiming Sunday night’s main award — the PSL Footballer of the Year. The criteria for the award were read out as being “a player who has performed well in all competitions throughout the season”. This includes all of South Africa’s knockout competitions.

While Ajax, the local one, may have been dominant throughout most of the league season, their performances in the cups were less impressive. In fact, a semi-final appearance in the MTN8 was as close as Ajax came to winning a cup this season.

This is precisely why Pirates coach Ruud Krol believes the award should have gone to his own Andile Jali — a player who was instrumental in all three of the Buccaneers’ competition victories.

While Krol’s assessment may have merit, it is not without a small hindrance. The award in question was decided by a vote that saw all 16 PSL coaches vote for the player who they felt impressed most throughout the season. It has since been suggested that there was an element of miscommunication in the voting process — coaches were under the impression that they were voting for a player who had excelled in the league only. If this is indeed the case, then the PSL is at fault and needs to do better.

The award was the most coveted on the night and came with a R250 000 accessory. Surely the process of deciding on the winner of the most important prize at a ceremony should be watertight.

Either way, it was Serero who walked away with top honours and one would be foolish to argue that he didn’t deserve absolutely everything that was bestowed upon him. In an attacking role sitting just behind the strikers, Serero was instrumental in many an Ajax Cape Town attack that led to a goal. He managed to score 10 goals himself in the process, but his contribution to the Urban Warriors this season cannot be judged on this alone. It was his ability to release the ball at precisely the right moment and provide goals on a plate for his strikers that has caught European eyes.

It remains to be seen how Serero will fit into Ajax Amsterdam’s setup. He is still young and all too often we see our South African players being snapped up by European clubs only to get the odd kick-around in the reserves.

But there is something about Serero that seems to separate him from the others. And if his form in the PSL this season was anything to go by, then it won’t be long before Serero is looking back at that massive R600 000 payday with disbelief and a faint smile.

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