Bafana stars shy away from spotlight

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Igesund_interviews Gallo Images Gordon Igesundis taking all interviews as his Bafana Bafana stars stay out of the spotlight. Picture: Duif du Toit

Johannesburg – Gordon Igesund has continued to pull down the shutters ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, imposing a media blackout on almost all his players ahead of Saturday’s tournament opener against Cape Verde.

The Bafana coach has had a bit of an obsession with keeping his players away from the spotlight since he took over as Bafana coach. And this week it has reached absurd proportions.

Aside from a brief appearance from goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, it is Igesund who has taken all interviews since the end of Saturday’s dour draw with Algeria. Captain Bongani Khumalo will address the nation, along with his coach, on Thursday, but Igesund is otherwise imposing tight restrictions.

The Bafana coach claimed o Wednesday that it was actually the players who had requested not to talk to the media as they build up to Saturday’s massive game.

“They said for the next two days they want to focus on the game, and please, we don’t need to talk,” said Igesund.

Igesund has also been riled by a barrage of criticism that he and his side have faced since Saturday’s dull draw with Algeria, noticeably curt with the press when he spoke on Tuesday, following a meeting with President Jacob Zuma.

He was, however, on Wedensday more forthcoming on his side’s preparations. “I feel very proud, coaching this team,” he said.

“We want to do well for the country, I feel humbled and privileged and if I have to have a heart attack for this team, I will have a heart attack. I want the players to go out and fight for every ball and represent the country with pride and passion. If we do that I hope the result will come our way.”

These are tense times indeed for Bafana, with the moment just a couple of days away now when they can start to demonstrate whether or not they can match their coach’s belief that they can repeat the feat of 1996 and go all the way on home soil.

Igesund has been mandated to reach at least the semi-finals, but the immediate objective is a first win in an Afcon finals since 2004, against Nations Cup newbies Cape Verde.

Bafana’s main issue is their usual malaise in front of goal, though they at least got some scoring practice when they beat Moroka Swallows 6-1 in a friendly behind closed doors on Tuesday evening. Lehlohonolo Majoro scored twice, with additional goals from May Mahlangu, Bernard Parker, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Katlego Mphela.

“It was a good session for Bafana, a worthy one, they wanted to work on certain tactical aspects of their game, and we went there to try and help them with their final preparation,” said Swallows coach Zeca Marques on Wednesday.

Cape Verde have improved vastly since they last played Bafana, losing 2-1 in Praia in a World Cup qualifier in 2005. They almost made it to the 2012 Afcon, before taking down Cameroon in a play-off, as they qualified for South Africa.

Luis Antunes’ side do not seem to travel particularly well, with a poor record away from Praia, but on the flipside, they, unlike Bafana and their coach, have nothing to lose. – The Star

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