Gordon Igesund was yesterday unfazed by Steven Pienaar’s dramatic resignation from Bafana Bafana duties, maintaining the team needed to soldier on without their talismanic captain as they eye next year’s African Nations Cup.
Naming his squad for this month’s friendlies against Poland and Kenya, Bafana coach Igesund first produced a letter from Pienaar, in which the Everton midfielder confirmed he was quitting the national side with immediate effect, citing fatigue as his main reason.
At first, Igesund seemed to intimate he would engage the midfielder to try and persuade him to rethink his retirement from national duty, but he later took a hardline stance.
“We have to move on,” Igesund stressed. “I have not spoken to him but I have accepted (his retirement). He’s far from our thoughts now.
“We have to give him space and respect his decision. He says his body is tired and there’s little we can do about that. We wish him all the best. He gave Bafana 10 years of good service. Good luck to him, good luck to Everton. But this situation does not affect Bafana.”
Earlier, Igesund had hinted he would talk to Pienaar when the coach travels to the United Kingdom sometime this month, stating he would invite the player “for a cup of coffee and a chat”. Then he seemed to backtrack.
Pienaar’s decision came as surprise to Igesund, who, after taking over as national coach in the winter, took the trouble of phoning the midfielder to assure him he would remain Bafana captain in spite of speculation that he would be dumped.
“There was never an issue regarding the captaincy,” Igesund responded when asked if his mutterings about Pienaar being affected by captaining Bafana may have led the player to mistrust his regime.
“I spoke to him and made it clear that he was the captain. This issue (captaincy) was only an issue for the media. I told Pienaar there was no need to change the captain.”
Pienaar, 30, missed Igesund’s first camp last month, citing a mysterious injury reported to the SA Football Association a day after he had played a full game for Everton and on the eve of SA’s departure for Brazil, but Igesund still defended him, reasoning he had seen “scans” which confirmed the curious “injury”.
Capped 57 times, Pienaar made his Bafana debut on the eve of World Cup 2002, and was elevated to captain by former coach Pitso Mosimane following the 2010 World Cup. Igesund confirmed Bongani Khumalo would now wear the armband on a full-time basis.
While the Pienaar issue dominated yesterday’s press conference, Igesund’s squad also had some glaring additions and omissions.
He recalled Teko Modise – who has not played for Mamelodi Sundowns in their last two games due to injury – after ignoring him while he was on top form last month. There was also no place for Kgosi Ntlhe, Thamsanqa Gabuza and Thabo Matlaba, while veteran Delron Buckley makes way back into the side for the first time in four years.
According to Igesund, Modise should be fit to travel to Poland.
Kaizer Chiefs midfielder George Lebese and Orlando Pirates’ Sifiso Myeni also got call-ups, as did little known Ricardo Nunes, who plays in Slovakia.
Bafana face Poland in Warsaw next Friday, and then travel to Nairobi for an October 16 friendly with Kenya.
Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Moeneeb Josephs; Bevan Fransman, Bongani Khumalo, Punch Masenamela, Eric Mathoho, Luvhengo Mungomeni, Thabo Nthethe, Ricardo Nunes, Siyabonga Sangweni; Delron Buckley, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Dean Furman, George Lebese, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Katlego Mashego, Oupa Manyisa, May Mahlangu, Teko Modise, Sifiso Myeni, Siphiwe Tshabalala; Lerato Chabangu, Dino Ndlovu, Tokelo Rantie, Bernard Parker