To patriot or to couch?

Maybe I should start this piece with a little disclaimer or warning, wherever the chips may fall, as the Sports Commentator of Lerabele, I am heavily obsessed with the beautiful game, ke bua ka kgwele ya dinao or football in this foreign language that came on a ship, or did it? Let’s talk about that some other time, shall we? I digress. My point is, there are going to be a lot of football pieces from me, and no, it’s not soccer, it’s football, or at least that’s what the football purists will have you believe but ga re kowa gompieno.

Over the last few weeks I have been upset over the level of patriotism showed by our so called “stars” when called up for the national team, maybe let’s not mention the team by name, some of us are not over the “andizi” they pulled on us with the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. We have had incidents in the past where players have refused to honour call-ups to represent the country and we have heard a million reasons or should I rather say excuses, as to why they did not show up. We’ve heard them say things like “I don’t want to jeopardize my place in the team”, “I am no back up”, or “the Coach called me fat”, the list goes on. Really?!

This trend does not seem to end as Thulani Serero and Tokelo Rantie have so eloquently shown. Rantie snubbed the national team because he was dropped for the WC Qualifier against Burkina Faso. The reason he was dropped? He was serving a three-match suspension, so match fitness was a bit of an issue plus other players were performing well for their clubs; sound reason, right? Turns out no, Rantie apparently does not think so. So naturally, the right thing to do is to give the nation the middle finger. Patriotic much?

Thulani Serero, “Cream” as he is known in football circles is another one who felt the need to “flex” when called up to play in the qualifiers against Senegal. Now see, the Serero story is quite interesting, he was deemed surplus to requirements at Ajax and barely kicked a football for them in his last two seasons there. It got so bad that he wasn’t even assigned a squad number in his last season, but you know who he did kick a football for? Yep, our beloved national team that shall not be named, and this is despite the fact that he had snubbed the national team once before to play a Champions League match against Barcelona. We welcomed him back regardless. Fast forward to 2017 and “Cream” has changed teams and he is finally getting some game time so of course that means he has to waltz straight into the team, right? In his recent snub, he said he would rather sit on his couch than come and sit on the bench for the national team. I imagine it must be some special couch.

Now, armed with this little piece of information, one has to ask, who is being disrespected here? Firstly, these guys can never say they travelled for nothing. I say this because they literally do not travel for nothing. Their flights are paid for, their accommodation is paid for and to top it off, they get appearance fees which means a 90-minute game can be the difference between getting R30 000 or R60 000. That is travelling for nothing, right? The ordinary South African, despite the fact that we have not qualified for a World Cup since 2002 or the fact we have played for one AFCON in so long, still buys tickets to see their favourite players. They travel at their own expense and pay for their own accommodation and this is how they get thanked? Are you even respecting your own country by pulling stunts like this? Do these players realize that they are not playing for themselves? We haven’t even complained about the fact that they get paid to subject us to mediocrity, but this is how our faith in them repaid? That makes perfect sense right? Banana country tendencies are rife!

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