Johannesburg – Gordon Igesund is known to occasionally go back on his word, but his flip-flopping on when exactly to start Bafana Bafana’s rebuilding process bordered on the ridiculous following Tuesday’s defeat to Zimbabwe.
Igesund had, on the eve of the match, stated he would use the friendly international to move South Africa – after years of decline – into a new era, with younger players being the feature of the national team.
But it took a splendid display from Zimbabwe’s Warriors, who won 2-1 at Orlando Stadium, for Igesund to change his mind, in what was another display of lack of decisiveness by a coach who too often promises to do something, and then does the opposite.
“From now on, I’m going to select my strongest possible squad,” he said, lamenting the fact that he had allowed his overseas-based players to miss Tuesday’s match, after they had contributed immensely in the resounding 4-1 win over Botswana in Bafana’s final World Cup qualifier. “I won’t mind if, by 2018, we still have 34-year-old players in the squad.”
This was in absolute contrast to what Igesund said on Monday. Then, sounding bullish as usual, he had promised that Tuesday’s match would mark the beginning of a new era, and some players who have been in the national set-up for longer may have feared it was their swansong.
But they will have been relieved to hear Igesund state he would, from now on, slowly integrate younger players into the side rather than risk defeat.
“I don’t think this thing works, where you throw in a bunch of young players at once. I threw them in the deep end. I will now do it slowly, two or three players at a time. If I had the likes of Dean Furman, KG (Kagisho Dikgacoi) and Anele Ngcongca, it would have helped the young guys like (Bongani) Zungu. He would aspire to be at their level. But (against Zimbabwe) he couldn’t come right because he wasn’t playing with the players at a high level.”
It is true that Igesund threw in a relatively new squad on Tuesday night, but the fact that only Darren Keet and Siphelele Mthembu were debutants makes a mockery of his reasoning.
For starters, he had Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Hlompho Kekana as his central midfielders, while three other regulars, Tsepo Masilela, Erick Mathoho and Bernard Parker, all started. Thus Bafana had from the beginning of the match over 100 caps worth of experience, yet could barely string together two passes against a Zimbabwean side who, too, were littered with young faces in preparation for next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN).
Igesund went on to make it clear that some players were simply “not good enough” and will almost certainly not be considered for selection again in future.
“This game did help me to realise that there are players who may be good at their club, but won’t make it at this level,” he said, without naming names, although the likes of Mthembu, of Platinum Stars, and Bloemfontein Celtic’s Ruzaigh Gamildien evidently didn’t do much to raise their hands.
Interestingly, Igesund did not once mention the CHAN, which South Africa hosts from January 11 to February 3, and that he will have to rely exclusively on the domestic players he deemed “not good enough” seemed to have eluded him.
While Zimbabwe won’t be able to use the likes of Tuesday’s scorers Knowledge Musona and Cuthbert Malajila, and Khama Billiat, Washington Arubi and Willard Katsande in that tournament, their coach, Ian Gorowa, was pleased that their win over Bafana was a positive step.
Igesund, meanwhile, said the SA Football Association are still trying to line up a friendly for next month’s Fifa dates, when African teams that made it to the knockout stage of World Cup qualification will be playing first-leg games.