at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg – Gordon Igesund’s first Bafana Bafana squad should serve as testimony that, while many of us may have varying views about who should be selected, no national coach could ever pick a team to the satisfaction of all of us.
No sooner had Igesund named the 25-man squad that leaves for Brazil on Monday than we had heard stories about who should have been there and who should not, a very familiar debate on these shores.
There’s no doubt that some of Igesund’s picks and omissions in a squad he named on Thursday raise genuine questions. For instance, the inclusion of Thamsanqa Gabuza, the Golden Arrows striker, makes a mockery of the national coach’s assertion that he has “chosen the best available squad on current form and fitness”. It is fallacious of any coach to make such an impractical claim.
Another sore point for many has been the omission of Mamelodi Sundowns captain Teko Modise, and even SuperSport United’s George Maluleka.
Igesund explained he could only find places in the team for so many “number 10s”, with Steven Pienaar, May Mahlangu, Thulani Serero and Lerato Chabangu all set to fight for one or two starting places as attacking midfielders.
But you do get a sense that, in Modise’s case, reasons other than purely “form and fitness” may have persuaded Igesund otherwise. For some time, Modise had been one of the players accused of not meriting his presence in the national side, with allegations he was being unfairly favoured by former national coach Pitso Mosimane.
Although most will agree that some of Modise’s international caps came at a time when he was not performing at club level, there can’t really be sufficient basis for dropping him now when he’s played so admirably for Sundowns thus far this season.
A few weeks ago, this column bemoaned Igesund’s tendency of shooting from the hip, of contradictions which could be used against him in future. Upon naming his squad on Thursday, Igesund stated, among many things, that he would engage club coaches before selecting players, finding out if a particular player had pitched for training, how his attitude had been, if he’s fit, and so on.
This approach sounds all in good intent, except that it is known that on the training field, as in any workplace, there might be disagreements. A club coach could easily use a minor tiff with a player to block his selection, bad-mouthing him to the national coach, who really ought to choose his team without any prejudice.
In time, Igesund will realise that he won’t be able to please everybody all the time, and that the very people who sing your praises today can, with just one bad result, turn against you.
I refuse absolutely to judge any coach solely on the basis of team selection, nor on whether they say the things we all want to hear. Only results, ultimately, will determine whether Igesund has what it takes to turn a Bafana situation which in the last few years has admittedly become demoralising into a positive.
If Igesund returns good results in the friendlies against Brazil and Mozambique, he’s sure to endear himself to the Bafana faithful. By “good results”, I don’t mean I expect Bafana to go to Sao Paulo and trounce the five-time world champions. For the record, all Bafana’s previous three fixtures against the Selecao ended in defeat – and all three were played in Johannesburg. But not one of them had a hint of embarrassment, with scores of 3-2 in 1996, 2-1 (1997) and 1-0 (2009) in favour of the Brazilians.
Should Igesund’s Bafana return with a scoreline similar to those seen previously, they would no doubt have won over many hearts, but a hammering in Sao Paulo might turn out to be a nightmare for the national coach, not least when his selection policy seems so muddled.
Until his men have played a handful of games, it would be unfair to denounce Igesund’s squad, let alone blindly sing his praises without having them seen action. No international game has ever been won through catchy soundbytes. – Saturday Star
*Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng