It seems a long time ago when South Africans were united in their jubilation at the news that Gordon Igesund had edged Steve Komphela for the Bafana Bafana coaching post.
For once singing from the same hymnbook, Bafana fans expressed confidence that Igesund would turn the team’s fortunes around, correctly citing his record at his last club, Moroka Swallows, whom he had transformed from relegation candidates to championship contenders in a year.
Barely five matches into his Bafana tenure, some of those who had been Igesund’s most vocal supporters have started to take a dim view of his regime, Wednesday night’s loss to Zambia at Soccer City heightening criticism.
So fierce was some of the rebuke that an uninformed observer would have wondered if this is the selfsame Igesund who had been catapulted to the high post of Bafana coach a few months ago amid pomp and ceremony, with expectations that a team who had regressed in the last four years had finally found the desired leadership.
But frankly, it has not been a smooth ride for Igesund, whose very first match was a trip to Brazil. His subsequent matches included away clashes in Poland and Kenya, and a home tie against a very weak Mozambique, before the real test arrived in the form of African champions Zambia this week.
I have had the privilege of watching all five games that Igesund took charge of, four of them on duty having been pitch-side for training sessions, and in the pressroom on matchday. I do not doubt Igesund’s ability, but even he would acknowledge the task of coaching Bafana is more enormous than any other he has held in his illustrious career.
All national coaches are confronted with several challenges, including those cited by Igesund this week as he provided reasons for Bafana’s latest failure, such as limited training time. But making the Bafana hot-seat more difficult to occupy is the wave of expectation that comes with the job.
You’re usually hired on the back of a frustrating period, with fans fed-up with the person you’re replacing. These fans celebrate no end at the confirmation that you’ve taken over from a coach they hated, and then expect you to do better, in spite of being restricted to the same resources as your predecessor. An impression is created, falsely, that Bafana’s sole problem lies in coaching, even when experienced men such as Carlos Alberto Parreira failed before you. Under Igesund, Bafana have scored in just two matches – against Kenya and Mozambique – and when faced with tougher opposition, they have not come even close to winning.
Following poor results, a coach is then forced to explain himself, and when he does he’s accused of offering empty excuses. Igesund has reached this stage now, where whatever he says is sounding more like an attempt to hide his own failings.
He initially gave an impression of a miracle man, someone who would fix the supposed mess which Pitso Mosimane left behind. Now he’s talking about the team being ready only on January 19, when the Africa Cup of Nations starts.
Until then, we are expected to play blind to Bafana’s many shortcomings, and the fact that they have not become any better under Igesund, in spite of his band of loyalists proclaiming him as a messiah when he was hired. It is difficult to understand Igesund when he states he doesn’t yet have a team when, for instance, eight of his starting XI in Wednesday’s game against Zambia have been part of the Bafana set up for some time.
It would similarly be difficult to empathise with him should things go awry in January – for it is he who marketed himself as a miracle worker in spite of Bafana’s known limitations. – Saturday Star
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