Not even a holiday in Zanzibar will stop Michael Morton playing for his country
IN A COUNTRY where players are renowned for turning down call-ups to the national team, the story of Michael Morton warms the heart.
After all, local soccer fans are accustomed to hearing that a Benni McCarthy, Tokelo Rantie or May Mahlangu has shunned Bafana Bafana, aren’t they?
It is thus pretty remarkable to hear that a player has cut his holiday short to come represent the country. And perhaps more impressive is the fact that the match is not against renowned opposition or for a big occasion such as a World Cup qualifier.
As it is, the match is in all respects nothing more than a no-contest, Bafana having won the first leg pretty handsomely.
But then again Morton has always defied the norm, his rise through the ranks seeing him often being the lone white player in his teams – Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg United – while his hard grafting attitude earned him fans’ approval.
And so it was not surprising to hear that when the call came for him to replace his SuperSport United teammate Teboho Mokoena in Stuart Baxter’s squad for the second leg of the African Championship of Nations (Chan) against Botswana, Morton didn’t hesitate to leave exotic Zanzibar for home.
That Baxter had actually said he was more interested in developing players through this match should have made an experienced player such as the 28-year-old Morton feel disrespected for being called up as it was. Morton though, his age notwithstanding, still nurses hopes of increasing his two Bafana caps and was not going to let the opportunity pass him by.
“We were on holiday in Zanzibar because Supersport United had given us only 10 days holidays,” Morton told Safa Media. “So we went down there to get some downtime. But when the call came we were quick to change flights and head back, so it’s worth it.”
Like a young kid in a candy store, Morton beamed as he described his excitement at being with the national team.
“It’s amazing, it is always wonderful to get a call up to Bafana Bafana. I am proud again to be here. It means everything for every player to put on the South African jersey. It is almost like the highlight of your career. Every time it happens, it is something you remember, it is something you will keep for the rest of your life so I am extremely happy,” added Morton.
Like everyone in the camp, he believes it will be key to keep the 2-0 win from the first leg out of the mind and treat Saturday’s clash at Moruleng Stadium as if it was a new encounter.
“The guys did very well in the first leg, we just need to wrap it up at home. We want to win the game, but proceeding to the next round is the most important thing,” said Morton.
With Baxter having coached him at club level in the season that’s just ended, Morton found it easy to settle into the squad having joined on Monday.
“It doesn’t even feel like a former coach, because he was coaching us about three weeks ago, so it is weird to think of it like that.
“But it’s nice to be back in the set-up, his ways are very familiar and something I should be able to take on easily,” he said.
“Stuart’s ways are almost set in stone, you know exactly what you are going to get and what he expects from you.
“I think for the guys that have worked with him he is an easy character to work with, and the guys that are coming in will learn pretty quickly because he is a very good teacher and it is easy to adapt to his methods.”