Gordon Igesund called it a “vote of confidence”, but those of us who know better saw his retention as Bafana Bafana coach following Thursday’s protracted meeting at Safa House for what it was: a postponement of the inevitable.
Igesund will not be offered a renewal when his contract expires in winter and will be fortunate to even see the end of it. This is in stark contrast to a few months ago when some of his staunchest backers – including others in the media – were floating the idea that he should be handed a new deal that would keep him in the Bafana post up to 2018.
Indeed, even former SA Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani entertained this talk, once claiming there was no “other coach” who could take Bafana forward other than his highness, Igesund.
But one tournament – the recent African Nations Championship (CHAN) here – eroded almost all support Igesund had enjoyed at Safa.
Suddenly, those who defended him ran out of words. They could not explain how Bafana had failed so dismally when they had bent over backwards to ensure Igesund got the players he desired.
Danny Jordaan, Safa president, had risked it all to force Kaizer Motaung to release Kaizer Chiefs players for a tournament that fell outside the Fifa calendar.
Three matches later, the dream crashed, Bafana bundled out in the first round.
Igesund went underground until he re-emerged this week following Thursday’s appearance before the Safa international affairs and technical committees.
It would have helped him had he actually remained underground, but Igesund is never one to be silenced. “It has been a difficult period, the past four weeks. I have not been able to defend myself,” he said.
Understandably, anybody who has serious accusations thrown at him – such as claims that Igesund actively encouraged a bonus strike in the Bafana camp, and that his selection is compromised by agents – would feel the need to “defend” himself.
But Igesund went beyond that. He spoke of how he had strived to preserve his “integrity and honesty” throughout his life as a coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
It is the attempt to justify the Chan disaster that I found unacceptable.
“Let’s take the Chan completely out of it and look at my record. We made a lot of progress. We beat Spain,” he told us.
In later interviews, he went on to highlight his “achievements”, such as “winning three out of four World Cup qualifiers”, and losing to Mali “on penalties in the quarter-finals” of last year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
This flawed reasoning exposes precisely why Igesund is ill-suited to the national coaching job. He neglects to mention that he lost the World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia because he went in there not knowing that Bafana required only a draw because the Ethiopians had fielded a suspended player in their previous match. And losing on penalties still means nothing other than that you lost.
Imagine Pitso Mosimane reasoning that under his tenure Bafana accumulated the same points as Niger in the 2012 Cup of Nations qualifying. Or Carlos Alberto Parreira saying we missed out on a World Cup second round place only on goal difference. The bottom line is that we didn’t qualify.
Such shallow reasoning might get Igesund nice soundbytes, but it further exposes him as severely lacking in terms of the demands of international football. Most laughable is the statement that we should “forget about the CHAN” and look at other results, like the friendly against Spain.
Igesund should get it into his head that, as the useless Fifa rankings indicated, the win against Spain meant nothing. And in any case, in spite of their known shortcomings, Bafana have always been able to come away with such shock results. Think of the win over Egypt in March 2011 and the final group match against France at World Cup 2010 – and these were not friendlies.
As he sees out the remaining five months of his tenure, Igesund may find it hard to keep his mouth shut, but it would be best if he soldiered on and said little. The more he talks himself up as the best thing ever to happen to Bafana, the more ridiculous he sounds. -
Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng - Independent on Saturday