Maybe he is genuinely tired, after a long season in Sweden, maybe he does need some rest.
But you would think a player could put that ‘rest’ off until after a couple of international games, that he would care enough about representing his nation. It should be an honour to play for Bafana, enough to motivate a player to give those legs one last run out, to go beyond the call of duty. There was an opportunity here to be part of a side on the verge of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mahlangu has instead given the impression that he couldn’t give a toss about Bafana. He must know that under Shakes Mashaba, a man who preaches patriotism until he is blue in the face, he won’t play for Bafana again. He must know and he can’t care, or he would have got on the plane and he would be in Durban.
Mahlangu is not the first overseas-based players to give a Bafana coach trouble of course. Ayanda Patosi missed his flight to Bafana’s first AFCON 2015 camp in September, and he hasn’t played for Bafana since. Thulani Serero gave Gordon Igesund troubles during the World Cup qualifiers, and found himself on a plane home.
Serero, to his credit, is back, and is here in Durban, arriving despite carrying an injury, showing the necessary patriotism, as Mashaba might put it.
But there is a deeper problem here, and it is not new. Back in 2003, Mashaba was stood down from the Bafana job, because he refused to call-up certain overseas-based players for a friendly against England.
He came back in after the England game, but more problems arose over the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations squad, and eventually he lost his job. Mashaba was widely criticised for his stance back then, but when I see the behaviour of the likes of Mahlangu I am more and more inclined to think he has a point.
Yes, the clubs pay players’ wages, but playing for your country should be a priority, a necessity, a call-up should swell a player with pride. Mahlangu, frankly, unless he has a better excuse than this, should never play for Bafana again.