Thursday, 12 July 2012

From Pienaar's armband to Madigage's hat: Gordon Igesund's masterplan to restore South Africa's pride

He's the boss: Gordon Igesund and I in Sandton this morning

FROM Steven Pienaar’s armband to Thomas Madigage’s hat, Gordon Igesund laid bare his Bafana Bafana master plan yesterday.
And there is every suggestion central defender Morgan Gould, who moved from SuperSport United to Kaizer Chiefs at the end of last season, could Gordon’s guiding light.
In a series of conversations before, during and after The New Age’s Business Briefing at the Sandton Convention Centre, the 58-year-old revealed how he plans to raise South Africa’s national football team from the depths of despair to the heights where they belong.
Igesund, a winner of four PSL titles with a record four different clubs, got the nod as Bafana coach ahead of Steve Komphela less than a fraught fortnight ago.
But the man who should have been appointed national boss ahead of Trott Moloto 10 years ago has his plans in place. Quiet excitement and huge enthusiasm underpin his every sentence.
The central plank in the Igesund philosophy will be communication as the once-prolific striker attempts to make every PSL coach in the country feel like stakeholders in Bafana’s brave new future.
Giving me the steely-eyed stare which scares middle-aged journalists as effectively as it will under-performing footballers, Igesund growls: “In 10 years, I have never been contacted by a Bafana manager. The last one to actually call me and ask about my players was Stuart Baxter, when I was in charge at Ajax in Cape Town.
“As an example, when Pitso Mosimane called up Siyabonga Nomvethe for the Ethiopia game, nobody called me. I could have told them Siya is a quiet, Zulu lad, he does whatever you ask him but he doesn’t like being the centre of attention at Moroka Swallows. I could have told them not to play him on the right up front, he’s a central strike, a goal-sniffer. He was the PSL’s top scorer last season for God’s sake.
“Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to visit every Premier League club in South Africa. I will discuss their feelings about national call-ups, their views on the players they deal with day-in, day-out.
“In the end, I want them to feel they are part of the Bafana project. They can call me any time, they get to participate in the national team.”
As Igesund was daubed in make-up before his appearance in front of 120 amateur and professional football exports live on SABC2, he showed a surprisingly bashful side, bouncing ideas for his speech off me.
“Neal, do you think they’ll laugh at this? I’ve got Brazil in my first game on September 7. Still… at least it’s not Ethiopia! Or Botswana! Is that too much?
“How do you say Maracana? Let me write that down. What’s the capacity there now? Have they rebuilt the stadium – it’s in Rio de Janeiro isn’t it?
“And I’ll have four days to prepare for my first game. Against Brazil. Sheez. And two of those days will be spent travelling. I guess I’ll have to get around to all the clubs before that to give the players an idea of what I expect from them.
“If everyone gets  behind us, we can to this. We fulfil the two objectives I’ve been set: to reach the semi-finals of AFCON13 here in February – and then to qualify for Brazil 2014. We can top the group, then we have to take our chances in the play-off.
“My job is to help players remember what they are. Footballers. Forget all the other stuff. And I don’t for a moment think Bafana players lack passion. When you pull on that national jersey, how can you not want to do your best?”
While SAFA CEO Robin Petersen outlined a further objective – a rise from 15th to “consistently top 3” in Africa and a place in the world’s top 20, Igesund shows no fear. He may shy away from the public speaking (“I’d much rather be out on the training pitch”) but he insists: “Look, in 2009 we took that great Spain team with all their stars to 2-2 in the Confederations Cup. We were only beaten in extra-time. Those players haven’t disappeared. They haven’t become bad players overnight.
“I will instill a new confidence in my squad. They’re tired of being told they’re rubbish. They aren’t. We will play attacking football, use wide players… with African flair… and it’s a style we must stick with for 20 years, long after I’m gone.
“South Africa has players who can do more with the ball than so many other countries. We need to build on that. And we will, believe me.”
In the complex area of leadership, changes are also afoot. SuperSport United No2 Thomas Madigage has been wrenched away from Gavin Hunt and Igesund grins: “Gavin’s an old friend. He knew I would come after Thomas. He’s the most successful assistant coach in the country, he’s used to working with winners.
“The day I got the job I told three people I wanted Madigage. And we got him. Nobody knew. They were all talking about my supposed technical team, Fani Madida, Doc Khumalo, but I knew who I wanted.
“And I’ve told Thomas, he has to ditch the hat. I know it’s his lucky hat, but I’ve made it clear, Bafana is inclusive, we represent all religions, not just the ZCC. I love the hat, I love the Zionists… but Thomas and I have agreed: No hat on the bench for international games.
“I’ve also put together a panel of advisors – Clive Barker, Shakes Mashaba and Jomo Sono – great men who I have so much respect for. When difficult decisions need to be taken, I’ll be able to turn to them. And Lucas Radebe? I know he’s interested in getting back into football, he’s spoken to Robin – but we’ll have to see what happens there.
“On the field we have so many leaders in this country. Steve Pienaar was made captain, but I have to sit him down and ask him if he wants the captaincy. Perhaps he’s one of those lads who doesn’t need the captain’s armband to know he’s the best player in the side.
“I’ve got Morgan Gould, who’s just moved to Kaizer Chiefs, and Siya Sangweni at Orlando Pirates. They are leaders too. Morgan is just one of those pillars, it’s natural for people to follow him.
“But nothing is decided on the captaincy yet. I know people will talk. They will say things. There is a long time to go before Brazil in September. I know what I want. I know, with everybody’s backing, we can do this.
“If I thought guiding Bafana to their rightful place in world football was an impossible task, I would never have taken the job.”
Given what happened at Dobsonville last season – Igesund lifted Swallows from relegation fodder to title contenders in barely a year – no mission appears to be impossible. South Africa’s footballing future is in safe hands.
And as he left the building yesterday, a final word: “I know exactly what I’ve taken on here. And I’m ready for it.”


  1. Nice article which certainly inspires cnfidence in Bafana. Would have been nice if the first match was sooner. Would like to see who gets the call up. The first call ups will make or break us. Some common call ups must be disgarded an only deserving inform players required.
    Not i will select teko even if he is not at his best and stick with him rubbish.
    Good luck Gordon, got my support.

  2. The last blog of yours to evoke such emotions and response as this one did was the one on Woy. I'm lloking forward to getting my BB shirt in time for the game against Brazil. Igesund makes one believe in the cause. I know he'll hoist us out of the doldrums. I just hope whoever he selects for the frontlines share the same beliefs. Here's to a successful Afcon2013!