Newsmaker Gordon Igesund: God is my goalie

2013-01-27 10:00

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Bafana coach Igesund is a man with strongly held beliefs

Gordon Igesund is an open book.

Walking into his Durban hotel room this week, I see his two guiding lights – the Holy Bible and DVDs of his matches.

The Bible is his inspiration and it gives him the light to plot success for Bafana Bafana, he says.

Igesund’s faith also helped him keep calm when the nation was calling for his head as Bafana lurched from one disappointing result to another during his short tenure as head coach.

But his faith in his players and his ability are starting to reap dividends, with Bafana close to qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

A win or a draw against Morocco this evening will be enough to book them a place in the quarterfinals.

After losing his friend and assistant coach Thomas Madigage in a car accident late last year, Igesund doesn’t believe football is a matter of life or death.

He says he would trade all his successes to have Madigage back.

Igesund (56) dismisses as rubbish the old adage preached by former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly that “football is not a matter of life and death ... it’s more important than that”.

“Football is a game and that hit home with the death of Tommy. I realised life is much more important than football.”

Igesund, who is unequalled as a PSL club coach, winning four titles with as many clubs – Manning Rangers, Orlando Pirates, Santos and Mamelodi Sundowns – could be on the verge of his greatest triumph, guiding Bafana into the quarterfinals and, hopefully, the Afcon final in weeks to come.

He played soccer towards the end of the apartheid era with the best all-white team, Highlands Park, before going to Austria and making his name as an international player.

His coaching break came when he signed with Witbank Black Aces as a player and a coach in 1985 and he never looked back.

Had he not become a football coach, he would have become a lawyer.

Another fact many don’t know about him is that he is superstitious.

“If I win a game, I wear the same clothes until I lose. I even make sure I get my clothes to dry cleaners to make sure they are clean for the next game, and I will wear the same socks, underpants and tie.

“If I buy a suit and lose I won’t wear it again.”

The former Moroka Swallows coach also believes in not judging a person by reputation, which was brought home to him earlier this month when he met President Jacob Zuma, who gave Bafana a pep talk ahead of their opening Afcon match.

“I had a different impression of him as a person because of what I have read about him, but when I met him face-to-face he came across as a warm, intelligent human being.

“It taught me a big lesson – never to judge people without meeting them. I know a lot of people judge me and criticise me without having met me but I can live with that because I am passionate about what I do and I always work in the best interests of any team I coach.

“I always want to get the best out of my players because I am a motivator and know that I can succeed,” says Igesund.

“I love my job and I am honoured to be a Bafana coach and it is my greatest achievement.”

His passion and love of football is evident in the way he treats his players.

He also treats his kit managers with the same respect as his biggest stars.

“All the backroom boys have an important job to do and we would not be here without them. Their job is as important as mine.”

Such is his passion for the game that he nearly missed his daughter’s wedding because his club, then Pirates, were playing in a cup final in Johannesburg.

The divorced father of three ended up hiring a helicopter to fly him from the stadium to the church in Durban.

But he does have another passion which he indulges and that is horse racing.

“I used to own a couple of horses and I still love watching the sport.”

Family is very important to him. His father, who is in his 80s and lives in Durban, is his biggest fan – and critic.

“My dad is the first to criticise and tell me I made wrong subs or picked the wrong team. But I love him and I am blessed (my parents) are still alive and healthy and were able to see me achieve my biggest ambition – to become the national coach.”

Igesund is convinced he is the right person for the job.

“I am a positive person and I like positive people around me. I am a simple person but I believe in myself and have faith in those around me.”

He does not beat himself up or become too stressed if things don’t go according to plan.

“Life can be a battle but I always strive to do my best.

“I tell myself that if I do my best I can sleep easy because that’s all anybody can ask of himself.”

His motto? “No matter what you do in life, whether you sweep the streets or are the president of the country, you must do the best you can.”

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