COMMENT: Serero's return good for Bafana Bafana but Safa's timing is questionable

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Dennis Mumble SAFA CEO
If the midfielder can be forgiven, then shouldn't Safa lift May Mahlangu's ban and consider him for future Bafana Bafana call-ups?

Thulani Serero returned to the South Africa national team for the Nigeria clash almost a year after being banned by the South African Football Association (Safa) for protesting the coach's decision to leave him on the bench despite flying several times to honour national team call-ups.

In November 2017, quotes attributed to Serero emerged where he said the 'sofa in Arnhem is more comfortable than the South African bench', before adding that he wouldn't honour national team call-ups unless there were guarantees that he would play.

Some felt Serero was right, but others felt that he was turning his back on Bafana Bafana and that he should never be considered for future call-ups. 

Safa investigated the matter, and then decided to ban the diminutive midfielder from playing for Bafana in February 2018, which was welcomed by a section of football fans around the country, who felt that the player was being disrespectful towards the South African flag. 

At the time, Safa sounded firm on their decision to ban Serero, and Baxter was very upset with the player's comments. CEO Dennis Mumble said at the time that the association would not have players who want to influence the coach to be part of the starting line-up.   

However, the player is back in the fold and ready to compete for his place in the team - that's if he will accept the call-up and return, because the latest squad was only announced on Monday. 

Vitesse, Thulani Serero

Safa and Baxter should be commended for bringing Serero back, because Bafana need all the best players available to them, especially those playing abroad, if they are to qualify for major tournaments.

However, they have set a poor precedent. Does that mean certain players can do as they please when it comes to the national team?

If Safa and Baxter can forgive Serero, then they will certainly have to forgive any other player who disrespects the flag in future, irrespective of the charge.

Without promoting any kind of disrespect towards the national team, anyone who misbehaves in future is most likely making reference to the Serero incident to plead their case and force their way back into the side.     

Serero's return also means that Safa imposes bans on players when they don't need them, only to recall them when they desperately need them for important matches - this might not sit well with those who have been working hard whilst waiting for their chance to be in the Bafana setup. 

It is a known fact that the majority of Nigerian players ply their trade in top leagues abroad, and Baxter wants to match them by bringing in his own 'big guns' for this crucial encounter, but has he gone about it the wrong way this time around? 

Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly and Kamohelo Mokotjo, who are playing in Europe, are all injured alongside Dean Furman who spent the majority of his playing career in Europe, and Baxter was definitely cornered into making this decision to recall Serero.  

Serero PS

Could it be that there are no better players than Serero available at this stage? 

This isn't the first time that Serero would be making his return to the national team after infuriating the nation five years ago.

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In 2013, he asked to be excused from the Bafana Bafana camp after claiming to be injured, and this led to a fallout with former coach Gordon Igesund, who was in charge of the national team at the time.

Safa was quick to suspend Serero, banning him from representing Bafana, only to recall him in 2014 after a meeting between the technical team and the player involved. 

So Safa needs to improve how they apply disciplinary measures on players who disrespect the South African flag. If Serero, who has been a regular for Vitesse this season, can be forgiven, then Safa might as well lift the ban imposed on May Mahlangu four years ago, and not wait until they need his services before telling the public that they had forgiven him.