No coun­try for un­pa­tri­otic soc­cer play­ers

CityPress - - Sport - S’Bu­siso Mse­leku sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Sbu_Mse­leku

There is a fre­quently told soc­cer story of a young South African foot­baller who left his bride at the al­tar soon af­ter ex­chang­ing mar­riage vows to save his club on the field.

That young­ster was Ephraim Mat­silele Sono, who was later given the moniker Jomo, and his bride was the doe-eyed Gail Pu­leng Sono.

The young Sono was both­ered by the news com­ing in through the ra­dio that his beloved Or­lando Pi­rates were los­ing to High­lands Park in a 1979 match.

He dis­carded his wed­ding suit, drove away in a huff and en­tered the sta­dium to loud ul­u­la­tion and ex­cite­ment from the Ghosts.

The events that un­folded made the his­tory books. Sono helped to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 victory.

While his new bride was likely unim­pressed with his ac­tions, she stuck with him and they have four chil­dren – five, if you count Jomo Cos­mos!

Back to the present and coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba, whose na­tional team has been slip­ping down the Fifa rank­ings, calls up play­ers for the first step in qual­i­fy­ing for the 2017 Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con).

As an aside, Mashaba is still re­garded as one of the most suc­cess­ful cap­tains Pi­rates has had.

Among the play­ers on Mashaba’s call-up list is one Tokelo Rantie.

In case you don’t re­mem­ber him, Rantie is the bloke who missed a cru­cial penalty when Bafana were lead­ing Al­ge­ria 1-0 at the Af­con fi­nals ear­lier this year.

He’s also the bloke who got mar­ried last Satur­day. (I guess con­grat­u­la­tions are in or­der!)

So, he turns down Mashaba’s in­vi­ta­tion – make that call-up – to join the na­tional team, as he is still on hon­ey­moon.

And so it is that Rantie joins a grow­ing list of play­ers who have snubbed the na­tional team.

I am aware that ty­ing the knot is quite a big deal and takes a lot of plan­ning.

How­ever, the Af­con draw was on April 8.

So we have known that Bafana Bafana would be play­ing Gam­bia for al­most two months.

Rantie there­fore had a long time to think about this.

Fur­ther­more, it’s the off sea­son and most leagues only re­sume in Au­gust.

I be­lieve Rantie’s re­sponse shows to­tal dis­re­gard for the na­tional team. He should be wary of the le­gacy he is cre­at­ing.

As things stand, he is likely to be re­mem­bered as “that player who missed a penalty and then snubbed Bafana”.

Mashaba’s at­tempt to rope in Ker­mit Eras­mus and hav­ing to se­cure Tham­sanqa Gabuza in­stead is cer­tainly an­other story for an­other day.

A lot has been made of Eras­mus’ tweet of “Im [sic] not no [sic] backup player”.

But the big ques­tion re­mains: Why did Mashaba leave out Eras­mus in the first place?

While the na­tional coach vowed to stick to in-form play­ers when he ini­tially took over the reins, his se­lec­tion method – if that is the right word for what he is do­ing – has left much to be de­sired.

Mashaba has been com­plain­ing about South African foot­ball’s Achilles heel – scor­ing goals.

But there is cur­rently no strike force as po­tent as that of the Buc­ca­neers.

At some point, Mashaba will have to ex­plain his se­lec­tion cri­te­ria to the South African public. He needs to do some­thing about what­ever se­lec­tion process he is us­ing, as re­cent re­sults do not count in his favour.

As for play­ers, they should be ex­tremely care­ful about the man­ner in which they treat the na­tional team.

To para­phrase a late home­land leader: if Jomo Sono did it for Pi­rates, why can’t the cur­rent play­ers do it for Bafana Bafana?

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