Nothing is lost in translation as Igesund puts it word for word and he is adamant it was not a harsh decision. Read on ...
Igesund is joined on the podium by his assistant Serame Letsoaka, goalkeeper coach Alex Heredia and team doctor, Carl Tabane and tells us the full story.
“I’m gonna tell you what went down exactly word for word, situation for situation. On Thursday I had already informed Thulani Serero that he’s been excellent at training, he’s performing well and I need him to take it to the next step. I said to him everyone in this country knows he plays in Holland and I asked him to show the people in this country what kind of a player he is. I said, ‘I’m gonna tell you right now that I’m gonna start you on Saturday (against Botswana). I want you to start expressing yourself and getting in the right frame of mind’. I know he is a type of player that I need to get into his mind and start working. He trained on Thursday and he then went to my team doctor to tell him he’s got a tight muscle in his thigh/groin area. The doctor checked him out and said he is okay - he is 100% and there is a no groin injury. The doctor had six or seven players in the team with tight muscles. He trained that session and again he was outstanding, looking very good and moving the ball around. Excellent. On Friday, which was yesterday, my assistant coach Serame came to me and he said Thulani had approached him to tell him he doesn’t want to play. Serame said Thulani felt that he might get injured and he needs to play for his team (Ajax Amsterdam). So I was quite shocked with that and I called Thulani, my doctor and my assistant coach to a meeting in my room. I asked Thulani, ‘Are you injured’? He said, ‘I have a tight muscle and I’m scared I might injure myself’. So I said, ‘Thulani, you got to work with me here son. You know I want you in the team and now you say you don’t want to play’. So I asked him, ‘What do you want me to say when people ask me why you are not playing?’ and he said if they ask him he would say no comment… The doctor was there and I asked him, ‘I want to know from you doctor, has Thulani got a slight injury?’ The doctor said he doesn’t have an injury and he’s got a tight muscle like six or seven other players. It turns out Thulani told the doctor that he doesn’t want to play because he’s got a big game in Holland next week – a UEFA Champions League match and he can’t afford to get injured. There was no patriotism there. I can’t take that, that is unacceptable. I was annoyed because why did he even come. He was even arrogant at some stage and he stood up and said, ‘If you want me to say I’m injured, then I will say I’m injured’. That really got me going… The truth of the matter is that Thulani Serero turned his back on us because he wants to play in the Champions League… That is insulting in my opinion.”
Did you make a decision to release him from camp right and then?
“No, it was not a rushed decision. I told him to go to his room and I went to mine to apply my mind. I thought about it and I made a decision that I made. I know I have done the right thing in that respect, because I didn’t want this to upset my passionate players. After three hours, I told Barney Kujane I was releasing him and he could move him to the hotel next door. We looked after him until he got on a plane to go where he wants to be desperately.”
Has he got a future with Bafana?
I’ve been very, very surprised with his attitude about certain things and the big head he seems to have developed – like he is better than the rest of the players. As for his future with the national team, I don’t like to make hasty decisions. He’s gonna be called to a hearing I suppose and I will give my report to Safa. I have done my job. I have done what’s right for the team… it was not a harsh decision. He’s a footballer and he was fit to play. His coach Frank (De Boer) was very happy he had been called up because he needs game time.”
Thulani had been out for months with injury until he returned recently, so how much do you think that contributed to him not wanting to play?
“No, no, I can see that you are trying to make an excuse okay. He flew business class that cost R60 000 to fly over here with the intention of not playing.”
What about rumours that he is considering retiring from international football after all this?
“In life, there are decisions to be made. He is 22 and playing for a very big club in Holland, and if he is talking about retirement then he has to make his choices in life. You live and die by the choices you make. I have heard nothing about him wanting to retire, but if he feels he must retire to put his club first I will never victimise him in any way. But we need to be honest. Don’t try and put a wool over someone’s face.”