AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy has explained the reasons behind the decision to release veteran Siphiwe Tshabalala from the Durban side.
The 36-year-old Tshabalala, the former Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder, joined AmaZulu at the beginning of last season on a one-year contract with the option to extend his stay.
However, after featuring in only one game in the team that finished second in the DStv Premiership last season it was always going to be a tough call for Usuthu to retain his services.
While praising Tshabalala for his dedication to the game and being a good influence on the young players in the team, McCarthy said he had no option but to release the player who scored a memorable opening goal in the 2010 Fifa World Cup hosted by SA.
“It’s football, my friend. Life happened,” McCarthy said of the decision he had to make on the future of Tshabalala at the Durban club.
“I got a group of young talented players who won’t come through if we keep holding onto the senior players.
“I think ‘Shabba’ has been a fantastic player to have and he’s given the knowledge he had. He passed it to the team and he might feel that he could still give more, and I definitely think so.
“But for me, the way the game has evolved and how fast the game is now, you see these young boys, they run for fun.
“It’s about speed and the way we play. We play a very high pressing game and I like my front men to work really hard.
“If you don’t have that then you’ll find yourself struggling to get into the team. I think at times the pace of the game was ahead of us because Shabba is from my generation.”
McCarthy paid tribute to Tshabalala, adding that he was more than just a player at AmaZulu.
“He’s given us unbelievable quality, he’s a brilliant football player and he’s a super-nice guy and very good with the youngsters around him.
“He’s always helpful and he’s been phenomenal, but I think having a Shabba there [in the team] then you lose the potential of a Tshepang [Moremi] and a [Lindani] Shange. We’ve got a lot of youngsters coming through and if you hold onto the senior players the young players will not get their time.
“If the youngsters are close to the level of the senior players then you have to throw them in. I don’t want to be that guy who says, ‘I have this kid, he’s 18 or 19 years old, but because I was holding on for dear life I only release him when he’s 23’.
“How can you say he’s younger when he’s growing and yet he can have kids and be married? He’s not a young player anymore and 18, 19, that’s also no more young.
“You should be in your prime. Kylian Mbappe [22, of France and PSG] is doing that. He’s young but he’s like a veteran in the game.
“We hold on [to older players] for dear life but for me it was time to make a decision [to release Tshabalala], and it’s a tough decision.
“You lose an icon of the game but you’re going to gain a superstar and another icon in a few years’ time. While they’re 19 give them the opportunity and that’s what I’m about.
“I’m not afraid to make those decisions. Some people like it and some people don’t and I know he was a legend, but time comes for everyone.
“I thought it was the right decision to have the young players brought in from the MDC [reserve] ranks and getting into the senior team.
“We had to make those decisions and that’s what happened to Shabba.”
By Sazi Hadebe – TimesLIVE