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Bafana snub needs stronger action

After featuring in 24 matches, 19 starts and five off the bench for his Swedish club, IFK Gothenburg, May Mahlangu has turned down a national team call-up, citing fatigue as his reason.

After all this hullabaloo, the South African Football Association released a statement announcing that they have banned Mahlangu from playing for Bafana. But was Safa right to ban Mahlangu, and is it enough that only the national team suffers? Should the player’s right to play club football also be compromised when making decisions like this?

Coach Mashaba, who came under scrutiny from the fans and media for leaving out Mahlangu in previous games, was particularly riled by the midfielder and even branded him as unpatriotic.

“This is not acceptable for a player to talk about fatigue when they have to represent their national team. I can only hope people will understand when these players are not called again in the national team,” said Mashaba.

“When I took up this position, I spoke a lot about patriotism, which for me is paramount. If tomorrow the player is not considered and the media asks why, here is the reason.”

This decision by the Bafana Bafana player, who is receiving his first call-up under new coach Shakes Mashaba, irked a lot of people, while some sympathised with the player. Social media went berserk, with everyone chipping in their views.

In May this year a number of players pulled out of the Bafana squad that was set for an Australasian Tour to play Australia and New Zealand. Among the players who shunned the country was Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Teko Modise, who made himself unavailable, but was spotted taking part in a friendly for Sundowns during the time Bafana was on tour.

Safa announced that players who turned down the national team would face the rap but nothing was done, at least publicly and officially. The football governing body took some flak from the media and public for failing to taking a strong stand against the perpetrators.

Safa have taken a bold stand in banning him and I must say I commend them for taking action this time around.

However, I feel banning the player from the national team doesn’t really benefit the country but rather the clubs in the long run. I mean, clubs openly dislike the international matches and now that they know Safa will ban a player from Bafana if he doesn’t honour a call-up, what do you think they will do? No prizes for guessing the answer.

Safa should have rather approached Fifa to ban the player for club matches. May Mahlangu has no current club attachment as his services have not been retained for next season, but the punishment would hurt more if he knew that whoever signs him will have to do without him for a number of matches as he serves the ban.

Franck Ribery, who missed the 2014 World Cup through injury, announced his retirement from the international scene in August, citing personal reasons. However, Uefa President Michel Platini said it was not Ribery’s decision to take and, should France call him up, he has to honour the call-up or risk a Fifa ban.

For their matches to remain competitive, Fifa and Caf should be willing to act on behalf of countries that have trouble with getting their best players released by clubs. A ban from future national team call-ups is just meaningless, and often the player is back in the fold once it blows over and the emotions settle down.

Tougher punishment is required to deter this kind of behavior.

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