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Time to cut serial offender Thulani Serero loose

It is always sad when players lose respect for the game that changed their lives and the country that provided them with the opportunity to chase their dreams.

But Thulani Serero's decision to not travel to South Africa for their key 2018 World Cup qualifiers home and away to Senegal is not a surprise, if one is perfectly honest.

He has always been a prickly character who has shown before that he looks after his own interests rather than those of the team -- and the country -- he plays for.

It is by no means the first time he has been in trouble with the national association, but it should be the last given that a player with such a poor attitude has no place in a team environment.

Serero has reportedly told Bafana Bafana, through team manager Barney Kujane, that he would not travel to the games if he could not be guaranteed game-time.

"He gave the indication to Bra Barney that if he is not going to play, he does not want to come to camp," South Africa coach Stuart Baxter told reporters.

"Because this is a national team and not a club, this is not a place where we can guarantee people places. If he does not feel that it's an honour enough to be called to the national team camp, then he may as well stay where he is. Whether that's permanent I don't know.

"It's a shame for his teammates who are working hard to try and beat Senegal, but that's the way it is and it's everybody's right to say 'I am okay to be in the squad, I am okay to come sit in the stand and I am okay to be on the bench'.

"He told Bra B that he should cancel the flight. He did not get in touch with me at all. When I came to camp Bra B flagged it to me and said 'Listen we have an issue with Serero'. He has to put it in writing so that we don't look stupid with 'he said, she said'."

Serero has not featured under Baxter since the latter took the helm in June this year, despite a number of call-ups. He tried to pull out of the matches against Cape Verde in September after his club claimed he had a hamstring complaint, but travelled with the team in the end.

He had a number of run-ins with former coach Shakes Mashaba too, leading to him being left out of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations squad after failing to report for a pre-tournament camp.

Mashaba, and a number of other coaches, also bemoaned the fact he would drift in and out of games and questioned his work-rate, especially on defence.

To be brutally honest, his attitude towards the national team stinks and we are now at the stage where perhaps Bafana are best without him.

There is no doubting Serero's quality: on his day he can be devastatingly effective with his ability to pick the right pass and unlock defences.

But as any coach will tell you, successful teams are those where the environment is right, where everybody is pulling in the right direction, and where players put the needs of the team ahead of their own.

Serero is obviously not up for the travel to South Africa and Senegal, rather wishing to spend the international break in the comfort of his Netherlands home.

He has been in superb form for Vitesse this season and could have offered Baxter a good, experienced option in the attacking third. But the coach cannot be held to ransom by players and dictated too. What does that say to the others?

Many players use national team football to qualify for work permits in Europe, but having been in the Netherlands since 2011, that is no longer a problem for Serero. Perhaps that has dimmed his hunger to compete in a Bafana shirt, or perhaps he just feels he is entitled to wear the jersey ahead of others who have shown more commitment down the years.

Whatever the case, it appears there can be no way back for Serero now. Having turned down his country in their hour of need, it is difficult to see on what basis he can be selected in the future.

It is a sad end to what should have been a stellar international career that looks destined to end with 37 caps and two goals -- the last against Senegal when the teams met in their controversial qualifier in November 2016.

But when a player puts his personal interests ahead of the national team at a crucial juncture in their history, there is a lack of respect for the badge that you can no longer ignore.

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