Game over for Gordon Igesund?

2014-01-26 14:00

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Coach faces the chop if claims over bonuses are proven to be true

Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund faces the axe if allegations that he tried to improperly influence players over bonuses for the African Nations Championship are proven to be true.

City Press has learnt from four reliable sources within the SA Football Association (Safa) that the governing body is investigating allegations of behind-the-scenes shenanigans at the tournament.

The allegations include that Igesund:

»?Tried to influence players to demand higher bonuses for the tournament;

»?Asked for bonuses for himself and his technical staff;

»?Told players to cast him in a positive light whenever they did interviews; and

»?Left goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune out of the crucial game against Nigeria when the player had declared himself available.

Yesterday, a peeved Igesund denied the claims.

A senior Safa national executive committee (NEC) member told City Press that a decision to fire Igesund had already been taken and was expected to be ratified at a meeting scheduled for February 5-6.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when, because a decision has already been taken that he must go. We didn’t want to cloud the tournament, hence the meeting is only after the event where the decision will be ratified.”

According to sources, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was briefed by the Safa top brass about the claims and the parties agreed in principle that Igesund should be shown the door if the allegations were true.

Mbalula was caught in the fray after calling the players a “bunch of losers” at a press conference on Monday after they lost 3-1 to Nigeria, bombing out of the tournament.

City Press learnt that some senior players called Mbalula after his tirade and apologised before informing him that he was pointing his accusing finger at the wrong people. They put the blame squarely on the coach.

Mbalula’s spokesperson Paena Galane said: “The minister is aware of all these claims but we unfortunately will not be commenting. We will be having a strategic planning meeting with Safa in a few weeks’ time and we will get the report and a way forward. We owe that to the country.”

Safa president Danny Jordaan said yesterday they were still awaiting reports from everyone who was involved with the team in the tournament.

He said they had asked the head of the team’s delegation, the team manager and the technical team to expedite the process and would raise questions if there were any issues contained in their reports.

“If there is any basis to these allegations, players must submit a report because we cannot deal with the matter if they whisper. We will call them to find out if indeed it happened,” said Jordaan.

The Safa NEC will meet next week to table reports. Indications are that this is where the decision to fire Igesund will be endorsed. The senior Safa NEC member also said: “The association takes the allegations in a very serious light and we will go to any lengths to get to the bottom of them.

“We cannot have a situation where one man can hold the association to ransom because of his selfish needs.

“The association’s stance has always been that it only gives bonuses for the Nations Cup and the World Cup and not any other event, but he made them believe this was not the case and raised their expectations.

“We had to run around negotiating with the players to manage their expectations and fortunately we had some money and gave them something even though they were not reasonable in their demands.”

In dismissing the allegations against him, Igesund said: “It’s not my business to get involved. The players came to me before the tournament and asked me about their bonus structure and asked me to set up a meeting with [Safa CEO] Dennis [Mumble], which I did. It is nonsense and ridiculous that I influenced them to ask for those bonuses because I don’t get involved in players’ issues,” said an angry Igesund.

He said it was the same with the Africa Cup of Nations, when players approached him and asked about the same issue.

“I have no interest in what they get and I was not even part of that meeting because I didn’t want to be involved. “The only thing that concerns me as a head coach is to have a happy camp. Hence I made sure they had a meeting before the tournament started,” said Igesund.

He added he did not even know what other members of his technical team were getting as it was also not his business.

On the issue of him telling players to only talk positively about him, he said he had never heard such a stupid thing before.

“I have coached many players and no one can claim I have told them to say good things about me. I am not going to be liked by all the players,” said Igesund.

Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune refused to comment on the matter. “With due respect, I can’t comment,” he said.

The coach said he had relied on a medical report regarding Khune that indicated the goalkeeper’s injury would take three to four days to heal.

“I don’t know where this Khune thing comes from because he said to me himself that he was not ready. The medical report said he wouldn’t be ready and we could not risk him,” said Igesund.

Talk in soccer circles is that even if the allegations cannot be proven, Igesund will still be fired as he has not met any of his mandates

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