Play­ing for Bafana is bet­ter than a hol­i­day

Mid­fielder Mor­ton an­swers Bax­ter’s SOS call for CHAN qual­i­fier v Botswana

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MATSHELANE MAM­ABOLO

IN A COUN­TRY where play­ers are renowned for turn­ing down callups to the na­tional team, the story of Michael Mor­ton warms the heart.

Af­ter all lo­cal soc­cer fans are ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing that a Benni McCarthy, Tokelo Rantie or May Mahlangu has shunned Bafana Bafana, aren’t they?

It is thus pretty re­mark­able to hear that a player has cut his hol­i­day short to come rep­re­sent the coun­try. And per­haps more im­pres­sive is the fact that the match is not against renowned op­po­si­tion or for a big oc­ca­sion such as a World Cup qual­i­fier.

As it is, the match is in all re­spects noth­ing more than a no-con­test, Bafana hav­ing won the first leg pretty hand­somely.

But then again Mor­ton has al­ways de­fied the norm, his rise through the ranks see­ing him of­ten be­ing the lone white player in his teams – Or­lando Pi­rates and Maritzburg United – while his hard graft­ing at­ti­tude earned him fans’ ap­proval.

And so it was not sur­pris­ing to hear that when the call came for him to re­place his Su­per­Sport United team­mate Te­boho Mokoena in Stu­art Bax­ter’s squad for the sec­ond leg of the African Cham­pi­onship of Na­tions (CHAN) against Botswana, Mor­ton didn’t hes­i­tate to leave ex­otic Zanz­ibar for home.

That Bax­ter had ac­tu­ally said he was more in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing play­ers through this match should have made an ex­pe­ri­enced player such as the 28-year-old Mor­ton feel dis­re­spected for be­ing called up as it was.

Mor­ton though, his age not­with­stand­ing, still nurses hopes of in­creas­ing his two Bafana caps and was not go­ing to let the op­por­tu­nity pass him by.

“We were on hol­i­day in Zanz­ibar be­cause Su­per­sport United had given us only ten days hol­i­days,” Mor­ton told Safa Me­dia. “So we went down there to get some down­time. But when the call came we were quick to change flights and head back, so it’s worth it.” Like a young kid in a candy store, Mor­ton beamed as he de­scribed his ex­cite­ment at be­ing with the na­tional team. “It’s amaz­ing, it is al­ways won­der­ful to get a call up to Bafana Bafana. I am proud again to be here. It means ev­ery­thing for ev­ery player to put on the South African jer­sey. It is al­most like the high­light of your ca­reer. Ev­ery time it hap­pens, it is some­thing you re­mem­ber, it is some­thing you will keep for the rest of your life so I am ex­tremely happy,” added Mor­ton. Like ev­ery­one in the camp, he be­lieves it will be key to keep the 2-0 win from the first leg out of the mind and treat Satur­day’s clash at Moru­leng Sta­dium as if it was a new en­counter.

“The guys did very well in the first leg, we just need to wrap it up at home. We want to win the game, but pro­ceed­ing to the next round is the most im­por­tant thing,” said Mor­ton.

With Bax­ter hav­ing coached him at club level in the sea­son that’s just ended, Mor­ton found it easy to set­tle into the squad hav­ing joined on Mon­day.

“It doesn’t even feel like a former coach, be­cause he was coach­ing us about three weeks ago, so it is weird to think of it like that.

“But it’s nice to be back in the set-up, his ways are very fa­mil­iar and some­thing I should be able to take on eas­ily,” he said.

“Stu­art’s ways are al­most set in stone, you know ex­actly what you are go­ing to get and what he ex­pects from you.

“I think for the guys that have worked with him he is an easy char­ac­ter to work with, and the guys that are com­ing in will learn pretty quickly be­cause he is a very good teacher and it is easy to adapt to his meth­ods.”

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