S'Busiso Mseleku

Bafana trip pear-shaped!

2014-05-21 11:19
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Bafana Bafana’s trip to Australia and New Zealand this week is becoming more and more pear-shaped.

There were always question marks around the timing of the trip as well as the quality of the opposition.

Many pundits pointed out that Australia and New Zealand were no world-beaters when it came to football as well as the fact that many nations were winding up their preparations for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

But a new twist has emerged as coach Gordon Igesund has had to replace 11 of the 18 players he had initially earmarked for the tour. The players have pulled out of the squad for several reasons, including injuries.

But what got my goat was that some players had cited fatigue, saying they had just been through a long season, as their reason for pulling out.

Wow! There was a time when playing for the national team was a big thing. Is this an indication of how much the value of playing for Bafana Bafana has dropped?

I still remember how players were falling over themselves to wear the national team jersey when South Africa came out of isolation in 1992.

The competition was so stiff that I remember after Jeff Butler had announced his first team, Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala was asked to select a B Team to play against the select squad.

The B Team was filled with star players like Doctor “16-V” Khumalo and Zane Moosa, who went on to be elevated to the first team after showing Butler’s boys a thing or two and running circles around them.

Such was the competition for places back then!

And now, as a colleague quipped when the names of the players who had withdrawn were rattled out - Oupa Manyisa, Thabo Matlaba, Itumeleng Khune, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Andile Jali, Siyanda Xulu and Sibusiso Vilakazi - they could easily have been the starting line-up.

Igesund announced on Tuesday that he has replaced them with Hlompho Kekana, Thuso Phala, Thato Mokeke, Kermit Erasmus and Eric Mathoho.

The latter group are no slouches but they remain replacements and how they would feel about the fact that they were not the coach’s first choice, remains to be seen.

Well, just this past Sunday, Vilakazi walked away with the Absa Premiership Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Nedbank Player of the Tournament awards, while Khune won the Goalkeeper of the Season accolade and Parker collected R25 000 for his feat of scoring 10 goals that earned him the Top Goal Scorer prize.

Some will argue that Kekana got recognition for the Absa Premiership Absa-lutely Awesome Goal of the Season but it is obvious that the quality of the squad is no longer what Igesund had envisaged.

And who is to blame for this?

Your guess is as good as mine...

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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