S'Busiso Mseleku

Soccer bosses must resolve club v country conundrum

2017-08-31 14:24
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

This club v country nonsense needs to come to a stop and the only people who can do so are the soccer bosses.

It is becoming annoying that every time there are international fixtures this nonsense rears its ugly head.

The most recent incident was between Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter - and by extension the South African Football Association (SAFA) - and Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem over midfielder Thulani Serero.

The club claimed that the player with 36 international caps had an injury and hence they left him out of their match over the weekend.

However, Baxter lamented the fact that the club said they did not have any scans to back up their claims.

This is an age old problem.

In the early 1990s when South Africa had just been accepted into the global football family, this county was always accused by European clubs of failing to plan properly.

However, this is not a uniquely South African problem.

Over the years it has been proven that some European clubs don’t take Africa seriously and this has for some time affected the quality of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) adversely.

Many a European club would resist releasing players for the biennial Africa Cup of the Nations.

This to many seemed like Europeans just treating anything African with disdain.

However, the problem exists even within South Africa.

While the Premier Soccer League (PSL) - which is a special member of the South African Football Association (SAFA) - fully understands that the football governing body is an affiliate of FIFA, CAF and COSAFA (the council of Southern Africa Football Associations), there is always tension when tournaments under the jurisdiction of these organisations come about.

Clubs seem very reluctant and at times appear arrogant in their refusal to release players unless the tournaments fall on “FIFA dates”.

As Africans, we owe our allegiance to the continent. It is really unacceptable for South African clubs to turn their noses up at CAF and COSAFA tournaments just because they do not “fall under the FIFA calendar”.

There is a reason for such tournaments. The main reason is for development purposes. Hence the CHAN - African Nations Championship - was CAF’s idea of giving locally-based players an opportunity to compete against each other at international level.

The rule of thumb - for obvious reasons - is for national teams to use mostly European-based players in international matches. But this in turn left out those players plying their trade in domestic leagues.

Even without popularity, the CHAN tournament has in the past exposed and elevated talented players into becoming fully-fledged internationals.

This actually led to Bafana Bafana assistant coach Thabo Senong - who is also the SA Under-20 coach - moaning a fortnight ago that coaches have a tendency of refusing to release players once they perform well at these tournaments.

It is easier for clubs to release those players who are constantly on the bench, but once they become exposed after performing well at CHAN or the regional COSAFA Cup, some coaches promote them to being regulars and then refuse to release them for these tournaments, he said.

Now that the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Thulas Nxesi, has asked SAFA and the PSL, one hopes there will be progress.

He has appealed for the Joint Liaison Committee between the two organisations to be effective and to go through the international and domestic calendars at the beginning of every year.

He opines - and I agree - that doing so, will highlight dates that might lead to clashes and come up with a compromise that would suit all concerned parties.

I say, this is the way to. This club v country saga must come to an end and the time is NOW!

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 over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: 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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