Why ‘Cream’ left bitter taste for Shakes

2015-01-04 15:00

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Ajax Amsterdam ace midfielder Thulani Serero snubbed a Bafana Bafana five-day mini camp and boasted to peers that he would see them after the final announcement of the team.

This week, coach Shakes Mashaba shocked the nation when he left Serero out of the 23-man squad to represent South Africa at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Equatorial Guinea.

But when Mashaba laid out his battle plan for Afcon, his reasons for dropping Serero did not initially make sense.

City Press can today reveal Serero was already in the country when the mini camp began on December 26. But he chose not to attend the camp and was spotted at festive season soccer tournaments in Soweto. At these games, Serero allegedly boasted to other Bafana players that he was only going to see the rest of the team on January 2 – days after the squad had been announced.

Mashaba is usually an articulate man, but the argument he presented in trying to explain Serero’s omission – that other players were better than him – was not convincing.

Nevertheless, City Press can reveal ill-discipline was the main reason Serero lost his place in the team.

Serero’s axing caused a public uproar, but today we reveal the real reasons the Ajax Amsterdam midfield maestro will not travel to Equatorial Guinea:

»?The 24-year-old arrived in the country shortly after playing in Ajax’s 2-0 win over Excelsior on December?21, but he failed to report for Bafana’s mini training camp that took place in Joburg on December 26 and ended on December 30;

»?Prior to the five-day camp, Serero – known to his peers as “Cream” – was spotted with some of Bafana’s players attending festive games in Soweto;

»?Mashaba was infuriated by allegations the midfielder boasted to some of his national team-mates that he would see them on January 2 when the team reconvened, thus assuming he was an automatic choice for the Afcon squad; and

»?That Ajax had written a letter to the SA Football Association (Safa) saying the player needed a rest.

Although it could have been a case of miscommunication between the two parties, this flies in the face of Mashaba’s philosophy, which encompasses discipline, patriotism and dedication.

Even before announcing his 23-man squad, Mashaba read a long statement in which he underscored the same principles – no player would simply walk into his team, and discipline and patriotism was paramount.

City Press has learnt there was a huge debate about the merits of including Serero between the technical team members on the night before the announcement.

But it is understood that Mashaba stuck to his guns despite the pleas from his staff.

It must be pointed out that, in his previous stint with Bafana, intransigence is what cost Mashaba his job despite an impeccable record.

In 2003, the no-nonsense coach dropped the likes of Mark Fish, Benni McCarthy, Shaun Bartlett and former captain Lucas Radebe for the friendly against England, which was played to promote the 2006 World Cup bid.

But despite the huge public outcry after their exclusion, Mashaba did not budge and Safa eventually sidelined him for the game. Jomo Sono took charge of the match, which Bafana ended up losing 2-1 in Durban.

Without dwelling too much on the Serero issue this week, Mashaba said he was disappointed with the kind of behaviour shown by South African players whenever they were called up to play for the national team.

“This is a national team, not a club, and there are ways of dealing with problems which I won’t mention. We have been encountering this kind of problem – players lacking patriotism and dedication,” said Mashaba.

According to him, they had expected all the players – except Dean Furman – to report to the camp, “even if it was on the second day”.

“Andile [Jali] came [to the camp] carrying a knock, but he still made it. This is the kind of dedication we are looking for. We would have expected

people to report to camp, even if it was on the second day. The purpose of the camp is to promote comradeship.

“If I come late to camp, I don’t know what has been said about me. When you are late to a meeting, you don’t contribute because you don’t know what was said about you. You always take a back seat.”

Serero is arguably South Africa’s best European-based player available, but the former Ajax Cape Town player has had a few run-ins with Safa and was last year sent home from the Bafana camp before a World Cup qualifier against Botswana, when Gordon Igesund was still coach.

Serero’s manager Mike Ntombela declined to comment.

»?Meanwhile, Bafana take on Zambia, the 2012 Afcon champions, in their farewell match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto this afternoon.

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