Stuart Baxter has held fast and proved that he will not bow to delusions of player power.
Lebogang Manyama, Keagan Dolly, Andile Jali and Dino Ndlovu were late pitching up for the Bafana training camp this week, but seemingly with good reason. The overseas-based players had been hit with the struggles of regular folk —delayed or cancelled flights.
But Thulani Serero did not possess such a reasonable excuse, however. The midfielder thought it was not worth the effort to get out of bed and make the trip unless he was guaranteed a position in the starting XI.
“Thulani gave an indication … that, if he’s not gonna play‚ he doesn’t really wanna come to camp‚” coach Baxter lamented.
“So, because this is a national team and not a club team‚ you can’t guarantee people places.”
If the Scot had sympathised with the request, we would no doubt be questioning his mettle and suitability for the national team post. For now, the big question is how Serero figured he could get away with such an outlandish ultimatum.
What was the plan here?
If it was to ignite the ire of the South African Football Association, then he certainly achieved his goal.
The body wants him to state his case and deliver his reasons in writing so they can promptly (presumably) rap him over the knuckles.
“We can prepare the charges once we have written reasons from him. We have requested that he writes to us and then we will take it from there,” Safa’s spokesperson said after the revelations came to light.
Bafana play the first of two crucial games against Senegal on Friday night. Victory in that and the return leg in Dakar will guarantee qualification for the World Cup in Russia next year — which would be a remarkable achievement, given their double flop against Cape Verde.
Baxter, for one, is not allowing any dissent to jeopardise it: “Maybe it’s a shame for his teammates who are working very hard to beat Senegal‚ so we want as little distraction as possible.”