Spare a thought for Igesund

Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
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 always knew that coaching the national soccer team was no child's play. But I doubt he had fully bargained for what he is faced with.

Should you ask him today, when was the last time he had a full-strength squad for any outing, he'll be sure to scratch his rapidly graying head.

And chances are that his answer will be preceded by an, "Eh...?"

Just for Wednesday night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge, he had to do with eight players missing from the original list he had released. 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 that 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 against Burkina Faso on Saturday as the match “does not fall on a FIFA calendar date”.

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

Hmm... some nice fix the coach finds himself in.

The flipside 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 their peers who still coach clubs because of the pool they always 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 your country’s No 1 coach.

I also guess little did Igesund 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 hard place and chose to play a patriot. But lo and behold, he did not anticipate that he was touching a hornets’ 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 in the national team to face the two grueling matches against 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 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 then it would it not have been for Igesund to have all his players available and 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 football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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