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Igesund must be his own man

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Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund.

It is now becoming customary to look forward to a shock or two every time Gordon Igesund names his Bafana Bafana squad and, while this is not bad at all, there’s cause to raise alarm about the frequency with which his team changes.

We expected to see new faces in Igesund’s first squad since the Africa Cup of Nations this week, the team that will take on the Central African Republic in Cape Town a week today in a World Cup qualifier.

Many in the media, including this column, had suggested that Bongani Khumalo should be stripped of the captaincy as his leadership qualities were almost non-existent during the Cup of Nations.

Not only did Igesund succumb to this suggestion; he also, much to the surprise of many, completely left Khumalo out of his squad, reasoning he hadn’t played sufficiently for his Greek club PAOK.

Igesund’s decision was met with unbridled joy on social networks, with others screaming “about time”, hailing the absence of Khumalo from the squad.

I hold no brief for Khumalo and, as mentioned before, he should never have been rewarded with the captaincy when his performances did not merit a place in the starting XI. But it is dangerous to embrace every decision, whether we agree with it or not, with ululations without analysing it.

We should be asking ourselves what changed so much from the moment when, after Igesund embarked on his first camp in Brazil last September and handed Khumalo the armband, to now completely chucking him out of the team?

Khumalo played every minute of the four Cup of Nations games and, in fact, missed just one match – against Malawi in December – of Igesund’s rein.

What could really have prompted Igesund to dump his captain, the man he defended so fiercely? The national coach reasoned that Khumalo lost his place at PAOK, but was it not a direct result of him being away for almost a month playing in the Cup of Nations? What about Siyabonga Sangweni, who has been selected on the basis of playing just one game for Orlando Pirates?

Igesund is a man of contradictions, many of which have been highlighted by this column. But his populism, where he bases some of his decisions on the public mood, is bordering on the ridiculous.

The sooner Igesund realises he won’t please everyone, the better. He has to stop bowing to the never-satisfied public and believe in his selections. He chose Khumalo as captain, and just because the Twitter masses and callers to talkshows, and the media, point out the player’s flaws, he’s changed his mind.

This is flip-flopping of the highest order and, while he’ll be pleased to hear his praises being sung, it doesn’t do any good to his decision-making skills.

A coach has to live or die by his choices and worry less about what people say. In any case, some of the comments on social media or talkshows are so banal, you would have to be insane to accord them any significance.

Igesund had better fast develop a thicker skin, a backbone. One day he was hailing Ricardo Nunes as the best left-back Bafana have ever had; the next he was dropping him from the Cup of Nations squad. The same applies to Thulani Serero, lauded as our Lionel Messi by our coach, but now unable to make the cut for such a crucial qualifier.

And now Khumalo finds himself not only without the armband, but completely out of a team he captained in all but one game under Igesund. Talk about a fall from grace!

Anybody celebrating Khumalo’s exclusion this week clearly cannot see it for what it is: a result of a coach pandering to the pressure of public opinion and himself filled with self-doubt.

Sadly, there’s nothing to celebrate here because heading a national team requires of a coach to be his own man; to believe in his own vision. Even Joel Santana, dunderheaded as he was, was not as malleable as this.Follow Matshe on Twitter @Nkareng - The Star


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