Gordon going grey as clubs withdraw their players

2013-08-17 00:00

SPARE a thought for Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund if you see him having grown more grey hairs, since taking up the hot seat, than in any other period of his life.

I am sure he knew that coaching the national soccer team was no child’s play, but I doubt he bargained for what he is faced with today.

Should you ask him when he last had a full-strength squad for any game, he is sure to scratch his rapidly greying head. And chances are that his answer will be preceded by an “eh ...?”.

For example, for Wednesday night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge, he had to do without eight players who were on the original list he released for the game.

This, after Orlando Pirates requested that their six players he had selected be released from national duty as the Buccaneers faced a daunting task against Egyptian giants Zamalek in the CAF Champions League.

And then, Belgian club Racing Genk refused to release Anele Ngcongca, claiming he was injured.

It does not end there. He will have to do without the overseas brigade of Dean Furman and Tokelo Rantie for the Nelson Mandela Sports and Cultural Day match, which is against Burkina Faso today, as the match “does not fall on a Fifa calendar date”.

Not so long ago, the coach had to replace 15 players on his initial list for the Cosafa Challenge Cup tournament played in Zambia.

A nice fix the coach finds himself in.

The flip side is that he is expected to deliver miracles, no matter what team he fields on the day.

Usually, national team coaches are the envy of club coaches because of the pool the national coaches have to choose from. But I doubt any local coach wishes to be Igesund at the moment. Well, except for the lucrative package that comes with being the country’s top coach.

I guess that Igesund did not anticipate that, among other things, he would have to be a suave politician in his new job. You should have heard the speech he gave when he accepted Pirates’ request, he sounded like a true, well-polished politician.

To be honest, he was caught between a rock and a hard place, and chose to play a patriot. But he did not anticipate that he was disturbing a hornet’s nest, as Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter — whose team will face the same Pirates in an MTN8 semi-final on Wednesday —

made a growl that was heard from Brixton to Britain.

His gripe was that his charges who are in the national team to face Nigeria and the Burkinabe, would be exhausted come the “derby”.

Poor Igesund! You can’t win them all now, can you?

And don’t forget that there is still that small matter of the 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifier against Botswana next month. The whole nation expects Igesund to win that match and we also hope that group leaders Ethiopia falter against the Central African Republic so that South Africa can proceed to the final round of qualifiers. What better opportunity could there have been for Igesund to have all his players available to test them against the two 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finalists?

Will Igesund ever have a full squad for an international event?

Your guess is as good as mine.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on soccer. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is the City Press sports editor.

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