Bafana Bafana leave for Australia today (May 22nd) to play against the Down Under Tour host nation on the 26th of May as part of Australia’s World Cup preparations. They will later travel to compete against New Zealand on the 30th. A total of 15 changes have been made in the past week to the original 18-man squad Gordon Igesund selected . This has sparked a debate on whether our players do consider a national call-up an honour or just another game to play.
With the recent decline in performance, the exit from CHAN and AFCON competitions without any silverware, criticism has been knocking on National Head Coach, Gordon Igesund’s door. Despite the missiles aimed at the Bafana Bafana coach, statistics show that he has actually improved the national setup since being appointed two years ago. Team selection, lack of youth development, injuries, player egos, money and feuds have been the many speculated reasons of why Bafana is performing the way it has for the past decade.
The recent debacle on players turning down national team call-ups has fans and the media asking whether our players respect the nation in honouring the selection or are they content with playing club football. Or maybe they just don’t want to play for a nation that didn’t qualify for the World Cup and has been booted out from recent competitions. This raises the question of who is to blame for the current situation at Bafana. The coach? The players? The disgruntled fans? Or the board at SAFA?
A number of PSL clubs and players have turned down national call-ups due to exhaustion, injuries, holidays or other prior commitments.
Players who apply their trade in European leagues and competitions are still playing despite coming from gruelling season competitions and have accepted national call-ups not only because they want to compete in the WC, but also they deem playing for their national colours the highest honour they could achieve in their careers. My question is what will it take for our own players to honour national call-ups over match-status and rating?
Players who have turned down Bafana call-ups:
Itumeleng Khune, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Andile Jali, Siyanda Xulu, Oupa Manyisa, Teko Modise, Thabo Matlaba, Kermit Erasmus and Sibusiso Vilakazi
We as a nation need to hold our players accountable for the current state our national team is in instead of always blaming the coach, when we have our top players placing national call-ups as second priority at a time when we are all calling for a better and performing Bafana. Where are they? Where will we get them?
Coach Gordon Igesund has addressed the recent re-shuffling at a press conference by saying, that the players he has called as replacements are very capable players.
He then added: “It has been a long season for most of these players and there is little I can do about injuries. Injuries are part of the game of football and there is no one to be blamed for this.”
We also should not take away the spotlight from the players who have accepted their national duties and will be flying our flag high during the Down Under Tour which kicks off with Bafana playing against the Socceroos (Australia) on May 26th, 11:30 am (CAT) and travel to New Zealand to face the All-Whites on the 30th at 9:30 am (CAT).
This is the final squad leaving today for the tour:
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams, Senzo Meyiwa.
Defenders: Thabo Nthethe, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thato Mokeke, Anele Ngcongca, Sibusiso Khumalo, Mulomowandau Mathoho.
Midfielders: Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siyabonga Nhlapo, Bongani Zungu, Thulani Serero, Thuso Phala, Hlompho Kekana, Ayanda Patosi, Themba Zwane.
Strikers: Siphelele Mthembu, Tokelo Rantie.
All the best to our boys. Make us proud.